Book Review, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Christian Yoga

Christian Yoga sat on my shelves for over a year before I picked it up to read it after I ran out of fiction and memoirs to read.  It turned out to be an amazing book, filling in the gaps in my understanding of yoga, Christianity and more.

I bought my copy of this hard cover volume at the local public library book sale.  The copyright date was in the 1950s, but I understand that it is still in print, and for good reason. It is a “must read” if you are a Roman Catholic or Christian of any denomination who wants to participate in yoga, but is afraid of all the hoopla around it being an esoteric, “Eastern” tradition. DeChanet, the author, is a Benedictine monk, a deeply spiritual man who begins his yoga practice in an attempt to quiet his own senses so that he can deepen his prayer life. He explains clearly and concisely his own yogic practices, which include pranayama (breath control), mantra (mantram), and hatha yoga postures.

DeChanet demonstrates and explains clearly the dividing line between traditional Indian yoga and its religious underpinnings and how to gently tease apart the technique from the philosophy, so that the techniques can then be fused with Christian thought for a disciplined approach to one’s prayer life.

I absolutely loved this book.  I began my own yoga journey when I was 20.  I started studying the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda and the Self Realization Fellowship lessons in meditation.  My friend Sue and I would also walk around the corner from our houses to the local karate studio, where a woman named Phyllis taught yoga on  Wednesday nights.  I learned the postures from Phyllis, and eventually I stumbled across yoga journal and Kripualu yoga. Stephen Cope’s Kripalu Yoga tape remains my all time favorite yoga instruction tape, and although it hasn’t been transferred to DVD (to my knowledge) it is a great instructional tape if you can get your hands on a copy.

I returned to the church many years ago and my yoga practice since then has been hit or miss. To tell you the truth, I was confused about whether or not I could or even should continue with some of what I learned. Was mantram okay? Hatha yoga seemed okay for a Christian to do…it can be just exercises, after all, and we are to keep our bodies as healthy as our minds and spirits…but what about meditation?

It was all so confusing. But DeChanet helped me understand how as a Christian, I could safely and even eagerly participate in yoga once again in all of its beautiful practice, not just for my own peace but to quiet my mind so that as a Christian, I could receive God’s grace and deepen my prayer life.

This is an excellent book, still accessible and relevant after 60 years. Get a copy today if you are a Catholic/Christian who feels guilty about practicing yoga or who wonders how a Christian can safely practice yoga. After reading this book, you won’t feel bad anymore, and in fact you will understand a whole lot better how yoga can help you with your own prayer life.

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