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Why these Kerala nuns are saying amen to yoga 

Jaikrishnan Nair
The nuns in their starched sky-blue habits are a picture of concentration, sitting cross-legged in the open courtyard of St Joseph’s Convent at Kunnamthanam village in Kerala.

They are warming up for their daily yoga session, getting their breathing into a rhythm before they launch into more demanding asanas. Their instructor is Lincy Varghese, who has already taught 40 nuns in another convent. “Last week, I started instructing at this convent. The elderly ones have also shown interest, and I have asked them to sit on chairs and practise,” she says.

Kunnamthanam is a small, sylvan village in a remote corner of Pathanamthitta district near Tiruvalla town. It is Christian dominated though its panchayat is led by the Left. Kunnamthanam recently became Kerala’s first ‘complete yoga village’, meaning almost its entire population of 20,600 practises yoga.

Of course, this didn’t happen overnight, and not without some resistance. It was a priest who helped win converts to yoga. Father C K Kurien, the vicar of St Mary’s Sehion Orthodox Church in the village, first learnt yoga before he started preaching its benefits to others. When the panchayat hall was not available, he offered the church auditorium plus complimentary coffee and refreshments to participants. He even urged his flock to take to yoga during Sunday sermons.

“Because of the vicar, people from the church started joining the yoga classes. The number is increasing even now,” says Jibin Thomas, laity secretary of the church.

Earlier this week, a report of the Syro-Malabar church branded yoga as anti-Christian. Fr Kurien is aware of the latest diktat but says: “Please don’t give the tag of any religion to yoga. I am witnessing such a change among the residents here. Yoga is more than just a physical exercise, it is mental,” he says.

In fact, the classes have helped improve communal harmony with Hindus now coming freely to the church, he adds.

Instructor Lincy Varghese says several working women, especially from Christian families, have approached her for special sessions in the evenings. M G Dileep, a government employee and yoga teacher who designed the yoga course for villagers, says he conducts four sessions on all days except Sunday. The first session begins at 4.30am. “Children to 85-year-olds attend the classes,” he says.

Another priest who swears by yoga is Fr Varghese Thomas, vicar of St Mary’s Orthodox Church in Manthanam, also in the panchayat. He says it has helped him get relief from headaches and joint pain.

From June 1, all panchayat schools and institutions will have half an hour of yoga before classes and office hours. The village is also conducting classes for migrant workers.

Panchayat president K K Radhakrishna Kurup of the CPM says they want to take the project to the next level. “‘Patient-free Kunnamthanam’ is our aim,” he says.

(Times of India)

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3 Responses to Why these Kerala nuns are saying amen to yoga

  1. JOHN JOSE C

    India is a secular country where one can practice whatever the individual like and believe. But question is whether it is proper for Christian to practice Yoga even it is for health ground ? The answer is a firm NO. Why ?
    Till the birth of Jesus Christ who came to this world for taking the sins of all people viz Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and all irrespective of their sex, nationality no body knew God . All religions recognize Sin in different form and in various degrees. Taking the sins of the world make Jesus the son of God in a unique ( No other equals) position which no other can claim. With the birth of Jesus and his final crucification and his resurrection he paid price of sin in his body for all irrespective of their religion. Through Jesus the Father God in Heaven revealed himself to the world and those believed in his salvation mission for all became his believers and are supposed to follow Jesus Christ and his perfect sacrifice (It is to be noted that at the time of birth of Jesus Christ there were not a single christian in this world !) .God adopted people who believed Jesus Christ who is only Saviour (for the unique reason mentioned above) as his sons daughters . Then how can Christian practice Yoga which is a spiritual exercise . Yoga is not a exercise like walking, running, cycling . If you consult a Dictionery one can see the definition of Yoga which is nothing but a spiritual exercise on the basis of Hindu Philosophy which is done to make union with Universe . For Christians Universe, which is revered by other faith especially Hindu religion as god it is nothing but a creature and not the creator ) The Catholic Church while recognizing other religion’s faith categorically warn the faithful from practicing Yoga even on health grounds (Please refer Joint Document Issued form Pontifical council for interreligious dialogue and culture Viz JESUS CHRIST THE BEARER OF WATER OF LIFE and Youth Catechism (YOUCAT- para 356) issued on the basis of Catechism of Catholic Church (CCI) as it is against christian faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour of all people irrespective of their religion.) So in my opinion it is better for the Nuns who practice Yoga (first step is breathing which is nothing but taking the spirit of Universe ) to officially disown the faith in Jesus Christ and practice Yoga (in fact they are unknowingly doing that while claiming to be brides of Jesus Christ !) . No believers in Jesus Christ are bound to follow any priest, Bishops who advocate for Yoga as the official Church has warned faithful from practicing Yoga even for Health Ground.

     
  2. C.Amirtha Raj

    The move of the Syro Malabar synod is a retrograde step. They should realize a bit what incarnation is. Is the faith of Christians so fragile as to be lost through the process of incarnation. How can you bear witness to the Good News without incarnation. When you incarnate you find not only inadequacies and weaknesses. You also find great treasures, the fruits of the Spirit. Let not the Bishops fight against the Spirit and misguide simple people.

     
  3. Thomas K C

    The Catholic bishops have to explain why yoga as an exercise is termed unchristian. We Christians do not meditate in the name of any God or recite any objectionable prayer. So how suddenly the opinion of the bishops is against Yoga. Any practice or custom we follow , if it is not against our Faith. In this case if there is anything against faith, it should be correctly elaborated for the knowledge of the faithful. If it is not doe, people will follow what they find convenient.