April 15, 2017

"Many people do not realize that yoga... is intended to be more than a series of exercises coupled with deliberative breathing and meditation."

"It is a mind and body practice developed under Hinduism, the goal of which is spiritual purification that will lead to a higher level of understanding and eventually union with the divine. Although the Catholic Church teaches that much good can be found in other religions, Catholics believe it is only brought to fullness in Christ... It is for these reasons that Catholics are alerted to the dangers of the practice of yoga and are encouraged to look for other exercise alternatives that do not incorporate a spiritual dimension."

Said Rev. John Riley, chancellor of Benedictine College, in Atchison, Kansas, explaining the new policy removing the word "yoga" from the names of classes that teach yoga or I guess one should say yoga-based exercises. The term "lifestyle fitness" is the replacement.

This makes me wonder where a Catholic analysis of the idea "lifestyle" would go. I actually agree with Riley that "yoga" is a Hindu practice that someone who wants to be strictly Christian ought to think carefully about, and I would add that there is a problem of cultural appropriation, especially when you take the part you like and strip away the deeper part. What if nonChristians wanted to use some of the mannerisms of communion in serving wine and bread?

But the new term "lifestyle" is a word I avoid using. I asked out loud to Meade "What do you think of the word 'lifestyle'?" and he said "I try to avoid it."

Some elitists look down on those who use it. It's one of those words that those who eschew them claim are not a word. But the OED has it, dating back to 1915. The definition is: "A style or way of living (associated with an individual person, a society, etc.); esp. the characteristic manner in which a person lives (or chooses to live) his or her life." (I'd like to hear a Catholic analysis of whether a Catholic college should be teaching an individual style or way of living other than a Catholic way.)

The OED's 1915 example of "lifestyle" is "This spirit of expediency..excludes any possibility of peace or rest in unity with the universe. The author applies to it, as the ‘life-style’ of our age, the term Impressionism." Those quotes give a sense that people were saying "life-style" back then.

I searched the NYT archive and saw that the word really took off in 1968 and 1969, which corresponds to my perception that it's a Baby-Boomer/ counterculture/ hippie word. Here's Ada Louise Huxtable writing about architecture in 1969 in "The Case for Chaos":

I don't think I've ever used the word "lifestyle" on this blog except in a quote. (And I'm not using the word in this post (if you observe the use/mention distinction). Oh, no, wait. I did use it once. I'm checking again with a hyphen, and found this from 2008:
Can singlehood be portrayed as good but only good enough to reduce the number of bad marriages and not good enough to attract the kind of staunch adherents who advocate marriage as a way of life? Is DePaulo's book a nice, reassuring middle-of-the road sort of a thing, designed to take the edge off the predicament of not having a spouse? Or is she really promoting singlehood at the expense of marriage? If she is, you see the problem. That's the basis of my punchline: "The pleasures of singlehood must be kept hush-hush. It's not a legitimate life style, you hear?" I want to be single, and maybe so does DePaulo, but we might live to regret promoting this simple, free, self-indulgent life-style.
Whoa! That's really funny, considering the absolutely direct connection between Bella DePaulo's book and my marriage to Meade in the following year.

So funny the things that crash and connect when you're living the blogging lifestyle.

ADDED: In the blog archive,  I see that "lifestyle" is a word for which Dan Quayle and Valerie Jarrett caught grief.

Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong... Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong. We must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice.
"These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay; they embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice. But when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates."


madAsHell said...

Many people do not realize that yoga... is intended to be more than a series of exercises coupled with deliberative breathing and meditation.

I thought it was an excuse to buy tightly cropped clothing that show off your lady parts. I gotta get out more.

Achilles said...

My wife grew up in a Buddhist family and is Christian. I hear all about the things they gloss over. My dad started taking and teaching yoga 20ish years ago.

Apparently Vinyasa is Yoga with all of the poses that are hard for westerners taken out. They all laugh at hot yoga.

Same old thing. It is as serious as you want it to be.

Big Mike said...

I am so fed up with the entire "cultural appropriation" shtick. This is the United States of America. We appropriate everything and anything. Deal with it.

Paco Wové said...

I wonder what the chancellor thinks about tai chi.

Sebastian said...

"But the OED has it, dating back to 1915." Does the OED refer to foreign sources? I'm pretty sure the same term was used in other languages before 1915.

Fernandinande said...

Effete Silly Snits = anagram("lifestyle fitness");

Fernandinande said...

Paco Wové said...
I wonder what the chancellor thinks about tai chi.

Tai chi goes well with chai tea.

Gahrie said...

I am so fed up with the entire "cultural appropriation" shtick. This is the United States of America. We appropriate everything and anything. Deal with it.

I just laugh at the idiots. The hypocrisy of most of them is glaring.

Saint Croix said...

After four yoga classes, I can honestly say that "going Hindu" has never really been an issue.



Wrong pants.

I am the only man in here.

Oh my God her legs are behind her head

Boner, boner alert, oh shit

I think I might be doing a Plumber Expose back there. Feeling a draft.

Definitely the wrong pants


Very relaxed

The instructor is grabbing my toe, why is she grabbing my toe?

oh shit I must have fallen asleep

hope I didn't snore

Fernandinande said...

But the OED has it, dating back to 1915.

ngram has it back to 1804.

Jupiter said...

"I would add that there is a problem of cultural appropriation"

Althouse, just because some silly twat on a college campus says that adopting practices from other cultures is immoral "cultural appropriation" and should be avoided, that doesn't make it so. In fact, that makes it not so. Don't repeat their twaddle, it encourages the stupid little shits.

traditionalguy said...

He seems to be saying Christianlty is a lifestyle. Which is 100% correct. And is the best life
To live.

But Yoga Saves you from stress. So assume the position and breath right.

mockturtle said...

'Cultural appropriation' is just one of those overused left-speak terms.

Bob Boyd said...

Yoga-based pants don't lie.

veni vidi vici said...

I always suspected (and read somewhere a few times) that yoga has a sex-cult dimension in its backstory.

On another note, this guy talking about the "danger" of yoga made me laugh out loud. The danger of yoga? Seriously? Why, because it discourages abstinence?

No wonder the conversation turns to silly frivolities like the verbally onanistic "cultural appropriation" discussion. The entire "issue" is like a fart in a windstorm.

Amexpat said...

Since when is the Catholic Church worried about cultural or religious appropriation? How uncatholic of the chancellor.

Fernandinande said...

Big Mike said...
I am so fed up with the entire "cultural appropriation" shtick. This is the United States of America. We appropriate everything and anything.

I don't think so - because 'They' purposely and dishonestly misuse the word "appropriate":

"To take possession of or make use of exclusively for oneself, often without permission." (freedictionary)

I can't think of any cases of supposed "cultural appropriation" where the word was used correctly, i.e. something was taken "exclusively for oneself".

Using an idea, making some type of food, wearing certain clothing or using certain words, etc., doesn't prevent anyone else from doing the same. Nothing is "taken"; nothing is "appropriated".

buwaya said...

Catholicism is catholic for a reason. There is a great deal of flex to it, in spite of its structure and philosophical rigor. The good Rev. may want to ease up a bit.
Out in the Far East for instance Catholicism is a somewhat different beast than in, say, County Cork.

As for "cultural appropriation" - those idiots need to travel a bit, so as to let the hammers of experience work on their concrete skulls. My whole native culture is composed of "cultural appropriation", to the extent that it is a total amalgamation.

hombre said...

The unfortunate preoccupation with PC words derives from the limitation of the modern left. They are all about blather and calumny. Hence, words are everything.

Boxty said...

I think the Apostle Paul covers this in one of his epistles where he writes that it's okay to eat food dedicated to foreign idols, just think twice if it causes your brother to sin. It seems to me practicing yoga for flexibility falls under this category.

Rae said...

Calling the normal traffic of ideas through the globe "Cultural Appropriation" is just another way the left tries to control thought and throw up barriers between people.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
traditionalguy said...

The danger zone warned about in Catholic religion is breathing in unclean spirits. If unclean spirits do not exist, then all is safe.

mockturtle said...

Unclean spirits, unclean sports...it's all good, trad-guy. ;-)

YoungHegelian said...

It is for these reasons that Catholics are alerted to the dangers of the practice of yoga

Far better, then, to switch over to the aerobics routines contained within St Ignatius Loyola's Spiritual Exercises.

And, no matter what you hear, Bench Presses for Jesus is not accepted as a canonical work by Luis de Molina.

urpower said...

The origin of yoga is heavily Christian. https://uddari.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/the-real-roots-of-yoga-by-wendy-doniger/

tcrosse said...

The people who complain of Cultural Appropriation are just worried that we will do whatever it is we appropriate better than they can.

Ann Althouse said...

"'But the OED has it, dating back to 1915.' "ngram has it back to 1804.'"

Well, you can't take that at face value!

I found the 1804 book and the word is in a foreword that was written in 1930 or something. It's not in the 1804 part of the book. I'm not going to check everything out that went into that ngram, but ngram can only be the start of your research. I think the OED has some methods that go quite beyond searching with a computer.

Roughcoat said...

Modern yoga, i.e. the yoga Westerners practice, was invented by Prussian bodybuilder Eugen Sandow (1867-1925). It was connected only tangentially to Hindu religion and spiritualism. See this fascinating article:


Unknown said...

Well, this is how some of us Jews feel about White House Seders. Obama's or Trump's.

MayBee said...

What if nonChristians wanted to use some of the mannerisms of communion in serving wine and bread?

Yeah. What if?

MayBee said...

Many of the postures used in the physical practice of yoga were inspired by the British soldiers who had come into India Look at a Sun Salutation A, and you'll see a slow motion Burpee.

The more ancient part got a lot right, just from years and years and years of internal observation as people sat quietly with their breath. Now we can do brain and body scans to see just how good for us it is to peacefully focus our minds either while meditating, doing yoga (really just challenging your body as you challenge yourself to focus on your breath rather than your posture), or being more buddhist and raking or doing something artistic.

It's really good for you. But it's only religious if you believe it's religious. Just like singing doesn't make you a Franciscan monk. Put any thought you want in your head, and practice away.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

I long ago gave up on trying to get my mind into a meditative state, on trying to focus my thoughts. I just can't do it. My mind is a monkey.

MayBee said...

Roughcoat- that's why I like a really strong, physical yoga practice. It gets me too challenged to try to think anymore.

Roughcoat said...


I like weight training for the same reason. Lifting weights does for me what yoga was supposed to do but never did. I'll lay odds that there's some sort of neuro-chemical reward involved.

Oh, well, to each his own.

Roughcoat said...

When I lived in Boulder Colorado in the 70s doing yoga and meditation and affecting a serene meditative demeanor (sporting enigmatic Buddha smiles) was very much the thing to do. Contact sports were to be eschewed and God forbid that you found out to be a weightlifter. I tried and tried to be a good Boulder yoga serene meditation guy with an enigmatic smile but I just couldn't cut it. I lift weights and I like roughhousing. So sue me, Boulder groovy people.

Finally after 18 years I moved back to sweet home Chicago. Never looked back.

MayBee said...

Roughcoat- to each his own indeed. My husband gets it from cycling. Some people get it from knitting.

cf said...

the Priest should instruct all who take the course to begin by imaging a brilliant shining cross high above and in front of them, protecting all that they do, and call on Christ that nothing that does not belong to Him will enter into their practice of yoga. And then do the yoga.

Yoga Is a practice for the soul indeed, but it is indigenously generous and open, and the activation it generates can inform a Christian's mindfulness as well as anyones.

My Presbyterian lady friends allowed me to experiment on them at one of our retreats. I led them in a morning "body/mind/spirit praying" that was mostly gentle breathing and stretching poses that they understood came from the yoga traditions. We observed and practiced quietly with our own praises and prayer that sprung from the movements themselves. It was quite fine. they found it fruitful and was indeed an enhancement for their morning practice. ( But I did begin by instructing them to visualize their own image of Their Lord's protection over them, so they could be at ease and fearless in the experiment. )

Brain science shows how profound prayer can be molecularly and how profound yoga can be in its dynamic ways. I use yoga to inform all of my understanding. My relationship to Most High through Presbyterian practice is enhanced by the yoga amplification of incorporating ones body into one's prayer practice. it's kind of a big long term theme of mine.

[Grateful to testify & witness this glorious moment, may catholics thrive, may yogis thrive, may all thrive in perfect prosperous peace.]

MayBee said...

cf- beautiful

Daniel Jackson said...

Yoga derives, in Sanskrit, from yuj, the act of union, as in the union of the body, spirit, and existence. The techniques are mental and physical. There are many sources of the techniques and most of them seem to originate from the South Asia. They are universal and really have little to do with gods, goddesses, or theology.

The traditional source of yoga is ascribed to the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali whose dates range from the fifth century BCE to the fifth century CE (probably closer to the latter than the former). There is very little about deities in the sutras although the good father may be upset that the text ascribes Unity as the ultimate reality instead of a Trinity.

What is interesting is that Muslim scholars began to incorporate the technology of the Yoga Sutras into their various philosophical explorations about the tenth to eleventh centuries. For example, Al-Biruni (973-c.1050) translated the Yoga Sutras into Arabic after living in India for about 16 years publishing them in Europe towards the end of his life. http://www.jstor.org/stable/611180?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

It is interesting to note that Moses Maimonides, the Jewish medieval polyglot and the author of The Guide Of The Perplexed, appears to have read Al Biruni (or Muslim philosophers he read who had read Al Biruni) since there are several places in this largely mystical work that are virtual quotes from the Yoga Sutras.

Let's get real here. Does the good father use Roman numerals or the ones appropriated by Arab traders from South Asia? How about Zero? Another innovation from South Asia.

It's a tool, yoga is. If it makes you move easier, great. If it clears the mind of stress, superb. If it brings you closer to God, what is the PROBLEM? Could it be that an individual might consider switching to another theology that better suits that person's perception of reality?

Isn't that what all those Christians in Asia did--culturally appropriate a Western theology?

In fact, is not cultural appropriation the very basis of the Church?

sean said...

My understanding is that many Japanese have Christian (or Christian-inspired) weddings, although they are not Christian. Christians don't complain about this cultural appropriation, because we are not insecure and constantly seeking imaginary grievances the way Prof. Althouse and her friends are.

Alcibiades said...

My sister wrote that Quayle quotation.

Peter said...

All successful cultures take what's useful to them from surrounding cultures, and (of course) then adapt what's been taken to suit themselves.

This always seemed unremarkable and obvious, yet now it's to be forbidden?

Yes, so, Americans took a Hindu practice and turned into a method of exercise and (sometimes) meditation.

And not only that, but, didn't Christians steal/modify/adapt/appropriate assorted Pagan Spring Rites into their very most important religious holiday?

And what is Yoga without breath control? How do those with such exquisite sensitivities even survive, aren't they at least a little bit afraid they may be appropriating some other culture's sacred practices just by breathing?