I have always instinctively been very wary of the various new age practices that promise to teach us how to “center” ourselves by using various forms of “prayer” or “meditation”. Personal research has confirmed for me that these new age practices are definitely not Catholic and neither are they compatible with Catholicism.
Imagine my horror then when I downloaded this week’s copy of The Southern Cross from their website and found a whole page in this Catholic Newspaper devoted entirely to the subject of “Catholic Yoga”.
I was immediately taken to writing about the reasons why Catholic readers should steer well clear of these new age practices. It however dawned on me that others have already written much about the subject and have done a very good job of it. Therefore, instead of me doing so let me instead point to them. I recommend these articles below. Just click on the title to get to the article :
• The Danger of Centering Prayer by Rev. John D. Dreher
• Why is Yoga incompatible with Catholicism by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.
Do not be fooled for a moment by the alluring promises that this article in The Southern Cross makes about helping you to achieve “a deep connection to the reality of Jesus Christ that’s with me in my body.” [Sic] I have done some research on Fr. Thomas Ryan, including looking at his book “Prayer of Heart and Body”, which is quoted in The Southern Cross. Here are some words quoted directly from Fr. Thomas Ryan’s book:
“In concentrative meditation you focus on a single object to the exclusion of everything else. As soon as you become aware that you are thinking, you bring your attention back to the single object. The particular type of meditation set forth in these pages is concentrative.”
Now compare these words of Fr. Thomas Ryan to the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ. Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him.” (CCC 2708)
Meditation, the Catechism says, “engages thought…” which is vastly different to “As soon as you become aware that you are thinking, you bring your attention back to the single object”, which is what Fr. Thomas Ryan advocates in his book?
Remember the words of Rev. John Dreher when he describes this form of meditation:
“The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli...”
There is little doubt in my mind that the exercises promoted by Fr. Thomas Ryan are not acceptable Catholic practices. So regardless of the fact that the article in The Southern Cross may recommend "Catholic Yoga" I would brush it aside as total nonsense.