Recommended Reading for Christian's Practicing Yoga
What follows is a list of books and articles which may be of interest to Christian’s practicing — or considering practicing - yoga. The editors of this blog will also post additional book reviews and resources for practitioners as they become available.
Beatitudes, Christ and the Practice of Yoga, by Fr. Anthony Randazzo and Madelana Ferrar-Mattheis. (Resurrection Press, 2006.)
Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga in Christian Spiritual Practice, by Thomas Ryan, CSP. (Paulist Press, 1995.)
Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality. Ed. Thomas Ryan, CSP. (Paulist Press, 2005.)
Yoga for Christians. By Susan Bordenkircher. (W Publishing, 2006.)
I. WORKS ON YOGA AND CHRISTIANITY
Yoga and Contemplation, by Swami Amaldas. Foreword by Bede Griffiths. (New York: Crossroad, 1982.)
The author, a Frenchman by birth and a priest of the Benedictine order, lived as a holy man in a hermitage at Gyansu in the Himalayas, taking an Indian name which means “Bliss of the Anointed One.” The book combines treasures of Indian spiritual heritage with a profound and satisfying Christian teaching. Amaldas was an Indian Christian and a member of Bede Griffiths’ ashram at Shantivanam. The book provides an excellent overview of hatha yoga, with instruction on asana, pranayama, and meditation from the experience of a Christian practitioner.
Christian Yogic Meditation, by Swami Amaldas. (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983.)
Continues the work he began in his earlier book with greater emphasis and detail on meditation as growth in Christ consciousness.
Holy Yoga: Exercise for the Christian Body and Soul. By Brooke Boon. (FaithWords, 2007).
Yoga et Christianisme: Quelles convergences? by Henri Bourgeois, Michel Alibert, Beatrice Viard.(Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1998.)
The account of a year-long dialogue between a Catholic theologian in Lyons and two Yoga teachers there. Sets forth the dynamics and emphases of yoga as taught by Pantajali with its anthropological and spiritual implications. Then examines points of contact with Christian spirituality, and relates perceptions and discoveries of Christians practicing yoga. Highly recommended.
Christian Meditation Through Yoga. By Gilbert Carlo SVD. (Pune, India: Ishvani Publications, 1999.)
An overview of yoga, with an emphasis falling on yoga for prayer. Includes some description of asana with photographs of acceptable quality. The author, a Roman Catholic priest from India, includes some mantras and chants in Sanskrit with Christian content. Apparently there is a tape with the music for these. He has also produced a couple of videos.
The Keys to Thy Kingdom. By Caesar Augustus Davila, trans. from the Spanish by Monica Reynoso-Gauta. Quito, Ecuador (?): The Center for Yoga and Christianity.
The late Fr. Davila, a diocesan priest in Quito, established centres for the practice of Christianity and Yoga in a number of Ecuadoran cities under the title of Asociacion-Escuela de Auto-Realizacion. More emphasis on concentration and meditation than on asana.
Christian Yoga, by J.-M. Déchanet. (Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Search Press, Ltd., first published 1960, eighth impression 1984.) [Originally published as La Voie de Silence, 3rd edition, translated by Roland Hindmarsh. First French edition, 1956]
Perhaps the first published appreciation of Yoga from a Christian perspective, the author, a French Benedictine, presents Yoga as a means to encourage contemplation in the tension of the modern world.
Yoga and God (St Meinrad, Indiana: Abbey Press, 1975).
Proposes yoga as a way of harmonizing all one's human desires--physical, psychic, intellectual, and spiritual--to move forward as a whole human being and become what one is: a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Yoga for Integral Health and Growth. by Swami Devaprasad. (Bangalore: NBCLC, 1998)
The author, a Roman Catholic priest from Kerala (and now living in Northern Manitoba!), writes from years of experience as a practitioner of yoga and a member, from time to time, in ashrams. A good introduction to the various limbs of yoga, with a fair amount of detail, including photos, of asana. Valuable for any beginner; useful for more experienced practitioners.
Pathways to Liberation: An Essay on Yoga-Christian Dialogue. By Pearl Drego. (New Delhi: The Grail, 1974.)
A lovely book by a Christian Indian woman, exploring asana, psychology, philosophy, and Scripture. A dialogue between Christianity and Yoga. Out of print, but if you can track down a copy, it is a gem.
Yoga in Christianity. By Albrecht Frenz. (Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1986)
A short pamphlet by a Lutheran pastor. A sympathetic, constructive introduction to complementary insights in Christianity and yoga. Includes a brief review of a number of German mystics, including Eckehart, whose insights are similar to the cosmic spirituality of India.
Body, Mind, and Spirit: to Harmony through Meditation. by Louis Hughes. (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1991).
Focuses on 8 keys to Christian meditation: rest, breath, body, place, sound, rhythm, simplicity, wholeness. The chapter on body presents yoga postures. Also includes short presentations on breathing methods and chakras.
Yoga and Christian Thought. By B.C.M. Mascharenas. Bombay: Society of Saint Paul, 1973.
A good introduction to yoga that locates it within the larger context of Hindu thought and practice. The author considers points of convergence and divergence between Christianity and yoga. Less emphasis on asana than on philosophical matters and meditation practice.
Yoga and the Jesus Prayer Tradition: An Experiment in Faith. By Thomas Matus, Preface by Bede Griffiths. Ramsey, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1984.
Matus, a Camaldolese Monk, examines the relation between tantric yoga and hesychasm by comparing the experiences of St. Symeon the New Theologian and Abhinavagupta. A remarkable blend of scholarship and personal experience.
Yoga and Prayer. By Michaëlle. (London: Search Press, 1980.) [First published in French, Les Editions du Cerf, 1977.]
Michaëlle, a disciple of Jean Déchanet, provides an overview of Yoga asanas, pranayama, diet, etc. She offers a series of prayers and meditations that may be linked to asanas. Attractive line drawings by a Poor Clare.
Hatha Yoga et Croissance de l’homme en occident (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1979)
Christianity and Yoga. A Meeting of Mystical Paths. By Justin O'Brien. London & New York: Penguin Books, Arkana, 1989.
Many fine insights into connections between the yoga tradition(s) and Christianity, including a chapter on the Beatitudes. His musings on gnostic Christianity and his possibly adoptionist Christology will mitigate the book’s value to more traditional Christians.
An Invitation to Christian Yoga. By Nancy Roth. (Seabury Books, 2005.) [Originally published as A New Christian Yoga. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 1989.]
Written by an Episcopal priest, this is a gentle introduction to the use of hatha yoga linked to prayer.
Prayer of Heart and Body: Meditation and Yoga as Christian Spiritual Practice. By Thomas Ryan. (New York: Paulist Press, 1995.)
The first part of the book is an introduction and guide to meditation; the second explores how Yoga can help a Christian to pray. Probably the most complete and accessible Christian introduction now available. The author, a Roman Catholic priest, is a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher.
Reclaiming the Body in Christian Spirituality. Ed. by Thomas Ryan. (New York: Paulist Press, 2004.)
Continues the work of Prayer of Heart and Body with contributions by a number of other Christian practitioners of yoga. Wide-ranging discussion of the implications of an embodied spirituality.
Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality. By Philip St. Romain. Originally published by The Crossroad Publishing Co., NYC, 1991. (Wichita, KS: Contemplative Ministries, Inc. 2004.)
The author writes out of his experience of the rise of kundalini energy over the course of several years while deeply engaged in Christian prayer and worship. Provides a good orientation for Christians, including some reference to the prayer experiences of some Christian saints, to this experience which is widely known and discussed in a number of Yoga traditions but not so in Christianity.
Le Yoga et Saint Jean de la Croix. Pensée indienne et mystique carmélitaine. By Swami Siddheswarananda. (Paris: Éditions Albin Michel SA, 1996.)
A reprint of lectures given by Swami Siddheswarananda between 1949 and 1953. The author founded a vedantic centre in Graz, France following World War II in the spirit of Ramakrishna. Based on the author’s experience, this treatise speaks of the “life which slowly unfolds at the deepest part of ourselves and which is indefinable since it is being forever renewed.”
Yoga of Spirituality. Christian Initiation into Indian Spiritual Traditions. By V.F. Vineeth. (Bangalore: Vidya Vanam Publications, 1995)
Attempts a synthesis between Christian spiritual traditions, both Western and Eastern, and Indian traditions. A rich reflection on points of convergence and divergence between Christianity and yoga. Each chapter includes material drawn from Fr. Vineeth’s retreats and conferences which can be used as a guide for meditation. The section on asana could not be recommended as sufficient for beginners owing to lack of detail and illustration. The text is unfortunately marred by typos.
Christian Yoga: Restoration for Body and Soul. By Jennifer Zach with DeAnna Smothers and Courtney Kutta. (Hudson House, 2007)
II. WORKS ON PRAYER AND MEDITATION
Prayer. By Swami Abhishiktanananda (Henri Le Saux, O.S.B.). (London: SPCK, 1967, revised edition 1972.)
The author, a Frenchman by birth and a priest of the Benedictine order, lived as a holy man in a hermitage at Gyansu in the Himalayas, taking an Indian name which means “Bliss of the Anointed One.” The book combines treasures of Indian spiritual heritage with a profound and satisfying Christian teaching.
Silent Music: The Science of Meditation. By William Johnston. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974.
One of many works by this author, this is a synthesis of insights from modern science and time-honoured wisdom from Eastern and Western religious traditions. Having taught for many years at Sophia University in Tokyo, the author is especially conversant with Zen meditation.
“Arise My Love...” Mysticism for a New Era. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2000.
While not dealing exclusively with Yoga, this book reflects positively and constructively on the interface between especially the magesterial teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and the mystical insights of Christianity and other world religions.
Prayer of the Heart. By George A. Maloney, S.J. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1981.
A guide to contemplative prayer with particular emphasis on the Jesus Prayer tradition. The author is helpful in bridging the cultural gap between the desert Fathers and possible contemporary applications of their teachings.
Living the Jesus Prayer. By Irma Zaleski. Ottawa: Novalis, 1997.
Beautifully written introduction to the technique of the prayer and a meditation on its import.
Jain, Andrea R. (2012) "The Malleability of Yoga: A Response to Christian and Hindu Opponents of the Popularization of Yoga." Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies: Vol. 25, Article 4.