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Diocese of Waterford & Lismore
World News

Bishop urges Irish schools to ban yoga

by Tola Mbakwe

In a letter addressed to teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County in Ireland last month, Most Rev Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore described yoga as un-Christian and not suitable for students.

He wrote: "I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, 'Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?'

"Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time."

Bishop Alphonsus referenced a sermon by Pope Francis in 2015 that said practices like yoga do not allow people to open their hearts out to God.

The bishop also talked about mindfulness, saying that Christian mindfulness is "not mindlessness" but "mediations based on Christ, emptying the mind of everything unnecessary so that we become more aware of the prescence and love of Christ."

Bishop Alphonsus also let the teachers know many people were praying for them and also encouraged them to help children to spend time with Jesus.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) has responded, saying the primary school curriculum allows schools some flexibility with regard to how it's implemented.

It said in a statement to the Irish Times: "The INTO believes that schools are best placed to make decisions about how they implement the curriculum, taking into account their school culture and ethos and the needs of their pupils."

A yoga instructor in Waterford said yoga and mindfulness helps school-age children with "physical and mental health".

"Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children," he told the Irish Times.

"They offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance and classroom behaviour, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children."

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