I realized I may have already upset many of you, and I realize that this can be a hotly discussed topic. And yes, I have ready many of the articles you may be inclined to post in the comment section (but somehow I doubt that you will prevent you from posting them anyway :)).
All joking and kidding aside, I do believe that there is fruit to be found in a creative dialogue with the genuine insights that are influencing our culture through yoga, martial arts, and other contemporary trends. As I have stated before, there are many elements in East Asian thought that are incompatible with Christianity, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from a sober and robust dialogue.
In fact, I am convinced that a robust dialogue with current trends can help us start to investigate a very serious issue among Catholic priests and religious. Very simply, many Catholic priests and religious, both men and women, are sadly overweight and out of shape.
Instead of simply stating they need to exercise more and watch their diet, there are genuine pieces of wisdom that can come from East Asian religions that can help us within the Church to foster a holistic approach, one in which spirituality is interwoven through all aspects of our daily life.
If we understand exercise as intimately connected with spirituality, then we start to see physical discipline as a means of preparing the heart for prayer and meditation. This is largely the role that asana based yoga takes within Hindu mysticism and even in some schools of Buddhism. East Asian monks, both Hindu and Buddhist, found that they needed a robust regiment of exercise in order to have a strong enough body in order to engage in the more contemplative side of their profession (which involves hours of sitting still).
This led to whole schools of basically exercise routines, ranging from everything from Shoalin Monks to Hindu and Tibetan Yogis. In all of these systems, the physical side was simply a preparation for the more mystical and spiritual.
Simply put, we can do the same. Unlike our East Asian friends (and let us not forget we can still be friends with those whom we wish to bring to Christ), our physical discipline must be a preparation for our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Through stretching, mastering the breath, endurance training, and a whole host of exercises, we are able to build the stamina to engage in the other dimensions of Christian discipleship.
Really, instead of saying Christian Yoga, we should say Christian asceticism, but a renewed asceticism that works into the spiritual life modern advances in exercise science.
I plan on writing more on this…