The Syro Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, India has asked believers to stop practicing yoga saying it is part of an alien religion. The South Indian church also claimed that Christian beliefs cannot go along with yoga, as practicing this ancient type of meditation and exercise for spiritual benefits is against their religious teachings.
According to the church, yoga cannot be considered a way to get closer to God. However, the church added that Christians can practice yoga for its physical benefits, and not for spiritual awakening.
"The theology of yoga does not go along with the beliefs of Christianity. Yoga believes in oneness and as a result, it cannot differentiate between creator and creation like in Christianity. There is nothing wrong in taking yoga as an exercise but it is not a way to get salvation or spiritual experience," wrote the church in a recent report handed over to believers, The Sun reports.
The Syro Malabar Church argues that yoga is a form of spiritual exercise interwoven with Hindu religion. The instruction from the south Indian church came just a few days after the Narendra Modi-led central government of India announced plans to make yoga compulsory in school as it is crucial to Indian culture.
This is not the first time that the decision of the central government to practise yoga is receiving negative reviews from religious groups in India. In 2017 annual yoga day, extreme Islamic groups asked Muslims in the country not to practise this ancient form of meditation.
The new diktat from Syro Malabar Church is now receiving criticism from all corners. Critics point out that yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism, and practising it will bring about health benefits. Critics also claimed that the Syro Malabar Church is trying to create disputes in society.
The practice of yoga dates back to the 5th century, and after the successful campaign by Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century, it became a popular art of physical and spiritual exercise in the western countries too.