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Catholics face a more formidable skeptic. In 1989 the Vatican issued a document saying the practice of Eastern traditions like yoga "can degenerate into a cult of the body," warning Catholics against mistaking yoga's "pleasing sensations" for "spiritual well-being." It was signed by then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger--now Pope Benedict XVI. In a 2003 document the Vatican further distances itself from New Age practices, including yoga. Even so, Father Thomas Ryan, a Catholic leader of the Christian yoga movement, says he interprets the church's position not as a denunciation of yoga but as a reminder to "respect Christian logic" in its practice. "And that's what we're doing," he says.
For Judy Arko, 43, the logic behind Christian yoga is simple. "It gives me time alone with God," she says. "As a mom of two small kids, I don't get that--even in church."