Are breathing exercises in martial arts compatible with Catholicism?

When I did martial arts, we would start and end our classes with a couple minutes of meditation. The way we meditated involved sitting cross-legged with our back straight (good posture) and our hands resting loosely on our knees. Then we would close our eyes and breathe deeply for a minute or two. While we were breathing, I would focus on my breathing and try to take long inhales and exhales. We weren’t told to do anything spiritual. Just to imagine the air going in and out of our lungs. I always figured that this type of meditation was ok because we weren’t doing anything spiritual, or chanting, or anything like that. Is this ok for me to do as a Catholic?

There is nothing in breathing exercises per se that is incompatible with Catholicism. It does seem, however, that by calling it meditation they were pushing the limits of eastern spirituality, which in many ways is incompatible with Catholicism.

I suppose a crucial question to ask would be, “What is the purpose of the breathing exercises?” If the purpose is simply to relax you, and properly dispose you for focus and limber movement in the martial art techniques, then there would be nothing wrong with it. But if the purpose is to give you some sort of deep spiritual experience, then it would be problematic.

We must always remember that true meditation is reflecting on God’s Word and entering into a dialogue with him with the intention to deepen our relationship with him.

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