An Irish priest has warned parishioners that yoga endangers the soul. It’s turning into a rubbery, vainglorious dullard that worries me
In an unprecedented move against bendy people, it was reported this week that a Catholic priest has been campaigning against yoga. A missive from Father Padraig O’Baoill to his parishioners in County Donegal warns that yoga, tai chi and reiki are “unsavoury activities” that could endanger their souls. And before there are any disparaging remarks about Donegal’s slogan being “Up here it’s different”, it should be noted that a Catholic priest in Southampton banned yoga from his church hall in 2012 because it was advertised as “spiritual”; and there is even a US pastor willing to say something extreme, outlandish and bigoted on the subject, with one spluttering, in 2010, that yoga is “demonic”.
Much of this criticism stems from the fact that yoga has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. But as anyone who has tried yoga a handful of times knows (and it is mostly only ever a handful of times – first as a new year’s resolution, then because you’ve spent money on the mat, and finally, well, it’s been at least a year since you tried …), the yoga practised in the church halls of this country comes as close to Hinduism as your head is to your backside when you’re in an “upward facing dog”.
I have no theological problem with yoga, but I do agree with Fr O’Baoill that it is deeply unsavoury. This is a truth that most people realise when they give up after three sessions and start using their yoga mat as a draft excluder. Probably the main reason people abandon the practice, or never even try, is the unutterable smugness of yoga bunnies. People who are fit and exercise regularly are insufferable only when they insist on telling you about it. And an integral part of being into yoga is telling everyone you meet how ah-mazing it is, and how it’s not just about being able to touch your toes, it actually brings spiritual calm and makes you an all-round better person – certainly better than you, with your creaking, befouled starch-hips.
These people rarely drink alcohol – and not for the reasonable reasons, which are religion, previous alcoholism or pregnancy. This only accentuates how boring they are and makes it even more inexplicable when they insist on demonstrating their flexibility by becoming a “camel” and “king pigeon” in the kitchen at a house party.
The people who get addicted move on to harder and harder forms of yoga. Hatha leads to Bikram, and before you know it you’re on Ashtanga, and your friends and family won’t speak to you any more – but you don’t care because you’ve reached a level of pomposity and Lycra that means you squeak when you walk and are constantly shiny. Yoga aficionados insist on the efficacy of yoga by pointing to the fact that it’s been around for thousands of years. Well, so have corruption and diphtheria.
Yoga is also unsavoury because of the dreadful clothes involved. Despite the fact that it is just a bit of stretching, apparently you need to wear marl-grey, bootcut yoga pants. It’s not a sport or proper exercise if you wear pyjamas to do it and then carry on wearing them, just in case anyone was in any doubt that you do yoga. It’s spawned a whole sartorial aesthetic that is best described as “floppy”. There are actually “yoga looks” you can go for, but every single one has to be advertised on a woman in the lotus position sitting on a mountain. Plus, yoga is responsible for people thinking, wrongly, that it is OK to wear MC Hammer pants in public. Continue reading >>