Benedictine College to do away with academic and recreational yoga

Men and women practice yoga together at a local gym.  Photo by www.localfitness.com.au.

By Ellen Petersen, The Circuit.

Benedictine College Administration just announced that campus is no longer offering academic or recreational yoga classes after spring semester 2017.

The decision was made in response to a growing number of concerns from students, alumni and faculty and by the request of Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Abbot James Albers.

“Yoga as created has some potential for eastern mysticism which has caused concern among members of the Catholic Church,” said Stephen Minnis, president of the college.  “[Archbishop Naumann] has expressed his concerns and the issues surrounding that. We asked ourselves if there was a way to bring those yoga benefits to our students and faculty without the possible effects of eastern mysticism and are currently investigating other alternatives.”

Starting in fall 2017, the college will be offering a “stretching and breathing” class called “Liftestyle Fitness” in replacement of what is traditionally called yoga. Minnis believes students are still hoping to reap the physical benefits of yoga and is currently searching for close alternatives.

“My personal belief is that yoga has become like Kleenex- a generic term for stretching and breathing,” Minnis said.  “I’m not sure the spiritual harm of yoga could come to our campus but I believe it is better to be safe than sorry. I don’t care what it is called, so long as it is only physical.”

One thing Minnis wants to stress is that he has the utmost confidence and faith in the instructors who were on board to teach these academic and recreational classes.

Coordinator for Disability Services, Julie Romano, is one of the women originally set to instruct the recreational classes.  Romano has been practicing yoga for over ten years and feels it has been beneficial to every aspect of her life.

“When I was in college, I had a lot of anxiety and still do,” Romano said. “I know the sort of person and mother I am and I know I wouldn’t be able to do that without yoga. I don’t want to be anxious [around my daughter] and I’d like to think I am better because of yoga. The mental benefits is absolutely what separates it from other things like cycling or spin classes.”

As part of her job, Romano helps refer freshman and students with disabilities to classes.  Romano recounted how students would frequently seek her help in managing their mental health and minimizing symptoms, some of whom had psychologists and therapists recommend yoga for management.

“Throughout the country there is a huge increase in mental illness, anxiety and depression and Benedictine is not immune to that,” Romano said. “There are students who suffer from things that yoga could help with.  I think it would have been beneficial to our students to have someone teach them these things [to help manage their mental health].”

As for the Lifestyle Fitness class being offered next semester, Romano is unsure whether she will be taking part.

“I have a moral objection to taking something that people spent thousands of years working on and calling it something else,” she said. “I don’t see a conflict in yoga and Catholicism and I don’t see why we should call it something else to appease others.”

Romano suggests that people are intelligent enough to make the decision for themselves whether or not yoga is a good fit.  For her, yoga is here to stay.

Similar to Romano, junior Josh Olson is disappointed in the removal. Olson has been practicing yoga since his junior year of high school and claims it has benefited him greatly.

“I like yoga because it gives people a way to exercise in ways they wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” he said.  “It strengthens your muscles, increases flexibility, prevents injury, and benefits my mental strength and decreases stress.”

He began the practice yoga as a way to diminishing the stress that comes with being a student and found that he quickly began to focus better in school and raise his grades.

I also found that yoga is great for team building and camaraderie, Olson said.

His biggest complaint is in the lack of communication.

“No one has bothered to explain to us the reason why yoga was cancelled,” Olson said.  “Especially on this campus, people should be confident [in their faith] enough to know that a pose isn’t going to open you up in any way to other powers.“

Current yoga classes are finishing out until summer and more decisions made with regards to classes replacing yoga are yet to be announced.