'Yoga can be integrated into any faith': Fr Joseph Pereira

Yoga has nothing to do with any sect or denomination, says Fr Pereira

93-Fr-Joseph-Pereira Catch me if you can: Fr Joseph Pereira practising yoga at the Willis Tower skydeck in Chicago.

YOGA HAS BENEFITED me not only physically but also in all dimensions of my life. At 81, I still teach Iyengar Yoga all over the world. Yoga has played a big role in my spiritual life as a brahmachari priest. I have been practising yoga since 1968. It has played a big role in my mid-age crises. It has been a major anti-ageing tool that makes me do postures that younger students are unable to do.

The yoga taught by Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar is a science and an art for all ages. It has nothing to do with any sect or denomination. It is purely the spirituality of the body. It can be integrated into any faith or expression. This was done by the Catholic church at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). It explicitly recommended integrating spiritual teachings of other faiths into the Catholic faith. Though fundamentalist Christians object to my teaching yoga, I have no problem [as I am following] the official teaching of the church. I have been teaching yoga to priests, nuns, bishops and cardinals.

The best care after recovery from addiction comes from self-help programmes like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It came from the west. So there is much of psycho-spirituality and psychosocial teaching, but the body is missing. Hence, Guruji [Iyengar] taught me the way to include the body in the treatment model. We call the inclusion psychosomatic, which makes the Kripa Foundation Iyengar Yoga [that I teach] a special component of addiction recovery. It is called the Kripa Model.

Kripa Foundation’s teachings are spread in more than 40 countries. At present, I am doing yoga workshops in seven countries in Europe. In August, I will cover four cities in Australia. In September and October I will teach yoga in North America and South America. In Goa, we have a yoga sanctuary that attracts people from numerous countries, including China. I have personally trained more than 500 students from China.

Pereira is founder-trustee of Kripa Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO that works for the rehabilitation of people affected with substance abuse. He was conferred the Padma Shri in 2009.

As told to Anirudha Karindalam