Ignatian yoga!

ignatian yoga

Ignatian yoga, a new entity that is drawing enthusiastic crowds to retreats and workshops across the country, sounds like a gimmick.

People love yoga.

People love the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola.

Mash the two together, and you have created a nice, marketable concept that can sweep a bundle of folks into the arms of the Lord and/or the Society of Jesus.

A Jesuit yoga teacher in a cobalt blue T-shirt (“IHS” nestled in the middle of a lotus flower) guides students through Christian spirituality and then mesmerizes them with yoga poses.

They do this in a church sanctuary, rubber mats spread on marble floors.

It seems perfect for a world in which anything can become anything, in which all spiritualities and traditions are completely fluid and can bleed into each other with little self-awareness or sense of fundamental boundaries.

It seems perfect because the Catholic faith is spiritual and yoga is spiritual.

Both have to do with people and people are good and they have souls and a corner of a good person’s soul touches Jesus and another corner of the soul brushes against yoga because yoga exists, and thus Jesus and Patanjali, Francis Xavier and Swami Vivekananda, Rome and Delhi, the empty tomb and the emptying of desire are essentially in some broader cosmic sense part of, if not the same thing.

Why make distinctions between the two when to distinguish is to deny, to exclude, to create harsh boundaries?

And so yoga and Christian spirituality can be in some ways two co-equal wings of the same Creator and his entire recommended path of living, and so it all works out.

It all works out. Time for final savasana.

The practice of Ignatian yoga in the United States began in 2013 at Fordham University with a Jesuit scholastic named Bobby Karle.

Karle, a certified yoga instructor, Karle began offering sessions in yoga framed by Jesuit principles before weeknight liturgies at the campus church.

By 2017, Ignatian yoga had taken shape as an established organization.

Karle and his teaching partner, Alan Haras, have held workshops and retreats in Hollywood, Detroit, Milford, Ohio, Worcester, Mass., Boston, New York, Cleveland and even Australia.

Last year, I gave a talk and led a chapel meditation at one of these Ignatian yoga retreats.

It took place at a retreat center about an hour north of Manhattan.

I had never attended an Ignatian yoga event, and I admit, even though I was one of the speakers, I was a bit skeptical of the whole thing.

In contradistinction to the above litany of modern spirituality, it seemed that with “Ignatian yoga” you could end up with either a corruption of yoga or a corruption of Catholic spirituality. Continue reading

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