St. Therese of Lisieux and Why Yoga is Really Kind of a Catholic Thing to Do

March 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm (Faith) (, , , , , )

First, a couple of disclaimers.

One, I have no evidence that Saint Therese of Lisieux ever practiced yoga. In fact, I highly doubt that, growing up as she did in late nineteenth century France, Saint Therese had ever even heard of yoga, let alone extolled its benefits.

Two, until quite recently, I was not the biggest fan of the “Little Flower” as she is known. She seemed to me to be a little bit of a goody-two shoes, frankly (which admittedly is a funny thing to think about a saint) and a little too sweet and too holy for real life.

I’m kind of coming around on Saint Therese though, and yoga is partially responsible. Saint Therese is probably best known for her “little way,” a path to holiness through the ordinariness of daily life. Everything Saint Therese did, she offered up to God not just in prayer, but as prayer. This has real resonance for me, as I go through my day, putting away dishes, washing bathrooms, making the school run, etc. How beautiful to give meaning and heft to those mundane activities, to say to God as I vacuum, “Dear Lord, I am doing this in loving prayer for Henry – please heal his pulled groin.” What a better use for my energy than, “Ugh, I can’t believe I’m doing laundry AGAIN.” So lately I’ve been giving Saint Therese a second look. (She’s one of only three female “Doctors of the Church” – I don’t know, it might come up on Jeopardy.)

Now check out this program I heard on the radio about yogi Sean Corne. (There’s a video too, of her demonstrating “body prayer” which is incredible – her breath sounds like the ocean tides.) In the yoga classes I’ve attended I’ve heard any number of philosophies of yoga but I hadn’t ever heard anyone mention offering up one’s yoga practice for a specific intention before, as Sean does here, talking about offering up her practice for her dad who was battling cancer, or for a broader petition like healing the environment. I totally love the idea. It’s so Catholic and it makes such sense – it reminds me of Saint Therese and her little way.

So there you have it – yoga as prayer, scrubbing toilets as prayer. Prayers, prayers everywhere. Not a bad way to start Lent. Happy Ash Wednesday.


1 Comment

  1. Beadgirl said,

    You know, given that my mom is a 3rd Order Carmelite and that she is always telling me to offer things up, I should have made the connection between St. Therese and this form of prayer long ago.

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