When Yoga and Ignatian Spirituality Meet

Bobby Karle, SJ leading a yoga session. Photo Courtesy Ken Homan, SJ
Bobby Karle, SJ leading a yoga session. Photo Courtesy Ken Homan, SJ

I had recently come back from two-years in Belize as a Jesuit Volunteer and was discerning entering the Jesuits when yoga and Ignatian spirituality proved to be valuable resources in my life. They gave me direction and clarity during my most significant life decision to date: enter religious life in preparation for the priesthood or not. Since that time, they have increasingly affected how I approach life and have helped me grow into my Jesuit vocation, now halfway into the eleven-year formation process of Jesuit priests.

Although Ignatian spirituality and Yoga developed out of different contexts, cultures, and time periods, they have a similar goal: union with God and living life fully alive.

I practice yoga (on the mat), most simply, because it makes me feel good. I feel calmer, healthier, happier, and most of all, it draws me closer to God. I also practice yoga (off the mat) in my everyday life by living out the teachings of the Yoga tradition, for example, striving to be fully present to each moment, acting according to my true self, and clearly seeing reality. But, alas, it’s yoga practice, not yoga perfect!

I practice Ignatian spirituality because it is a spirituality that works well with my way of being and living. I am a very active person, yet also inclined towards a contemplative way of life. I feel called to be active and engaged in worldly affairs and yet guided by the assertion that there is the One who transcends material reality and is also present within the ever-evolving stuff of creation.

Most of us are searching for meaning, for something beyond the everyday hustle, bustle, and stress of life. As human progress speeds up the pace of life,  it can be exceedingly difficult to make time and space for intentional, uninterrupted spiritual practice. Yoga is one such context and teaching that can help us do that. It promotes self-care, connection, and offers a space for people to discover deeper meaning and peace.

St. Ignatius states in the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises, use what helps reach your goal and avoid what doesn’t. Yoga for me has been one such practice that helps me move towards my goal – life fully alive and in relationship with God. Moreover, teaching yoga allows me to invite others, especially many who may not otherwise be inclined towards entering a Christian space, to this relationship in a fun, accessible, and popular way. Yoga in the chapel has been a new way to pray, exercise, and relax – all in one!

Chapel Yoga – Bobby Karle, SJ from Gabriela Dematteis on Vimeo.

I invite you to consider creative ways that can help you and others live more fully alive and in greater union with God. I’ve shared one creative expression of mine. What is yours?

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