Millions of people worldwide practice yoga for a variety of reasons ranging from achieving physical health goals to attaining spiritual wellness. A Catholic priest in Northern Ireland, however, has warned that engaging in the ancient practice could lead to Satanism.
Father Roland Colhoun said that practicing yoga and receiving Indian head messages have spiritual risks in that those who do open themselves up to "Satan and the fallen angels." He cautioned that those who engage in yoga may be led into the "Kingdom of darkness."
Citing that Pope Francis does not seek spiritual answer from yoga classes, Colhoun said that engaging in the practice poses risks to spiritual health. He said that people do not know what they are opening themselves up to when they take up such practices from other cultures that are outside the bounds of the Christian faith.
"I'm not saying everyone gets it, or that it happens every time, and people may well be doing yoga harmlessly," Colhoun said. "But there's always a risk and that's why the Pope mentioned it and that's why we talk about that in terms of the danger of the new age movement and the danger of the occult today. That's the fear."
Some Catholics, however, are rejecting the priest's warning. Evelyn Donnelly, who describes herself as a good practicing Catholic, has taught yoga for more than 15 years. She said that most of the individuals who attend her classes learn good posture and breathing to alleviate the tension in the bodies and calm their busy minds. She said that throughout the time she has been teaching yoga, there is none who expressed an interest to go deeper into the spiritual elements of the practice.
Although Colhoun's claims may sound outrageous, it is not the first time that Catholic Church leaders cautioned about yoga. In 2011, Gabriele Amorth, chief exorcist of the Vatican, said that yoga paves way to belief in Hinduism.
In an interview, he said that practicing it is Satanic and leads to evil just like reading J.K Rowling's Harry Potter book. The late Pope Benedict XVI has also warned Christians about engaging in yoga and other forms of meditation.
Yoga became popular as a form of physical exercise in the Western world in the 1980's but in Indian traditions, the practice involves meditative and spiritual core. Although yoga is being used as a complementary intervention for certain illnesses including heart disease, asthma, schizophrenia and cancer, studies that sought to determine yoga's effectiveness on these have mixed and inconclusive results.