An Irish Catholic bishop has said that yoga is not suitable for Catholics and also warned against mindfulness.

According to The Irish Times, Alphonsus Cullinan, the bishop of Waterford and Lismore, sent a letter to the schools in his diocese on October 10th, saying yoga is not suitable for a parish school because it is “not of Christian origin” and “especially not during religious education time."

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In the letter, he told the schools that mindfulness has been practiced in the Christian tradition “in a sense,” but went on to say: “But Christian mindfulness is not mindlessness but is meditation based on Christ, emptying the mind of everything unnecessary so that we become aware of the presence and love of Christ.”

Bishop Cullinane referred to a 2015 homily from Pope Francis in which the pope said “practices like Yoga are not capable of opening our hearts up to God.”

“You can take a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things but all of this will never be able to give you freedom.”

The bishop ended the letter by asking schools to encourage students to “pray the Rosary” and help them spend time with Jesus in “adoration or in quiet meditation” in the classroom.

Waterford yoga instructor John Stokes told the Waterford News & Star that yoga and mindfulness has been shown to improve “physical and mental health” in school-age children.

“Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children,” he said.

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“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.”

He said in “an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress we should embrace practices like yoga, meditation and mindfulness.”