In the past two weeks I have been informed that people in my community believe that yoga is “satanic” three times and I have been asked to defend yoga, and from my perspective, myself in this matter each time. This is not my first rodeo. I have owned a yoga studio for almost eight years in this small, Southern Bible Belt town and I have more stories than I wish to recall about people throwing accusations at me about what I teach. I have been hurt and offended, but now I’m just plain angry.
Most of my yoga teaching career has been spent here in Albemarle, NC so I’m not sure if teachers from other regions or big cities have dealt with as much as I have on the subject. For their sakes, I surely hope not. I have written on this matter before on my blog and for the local paper to try to put people’s minds at ease that I am not making a career out of trying to send good Christians to hell. The paper I wrote for let someone editorialize on what was basically a rebuttal to my article saying that I am a pagan and that I am leading my students down the pagan path with me.
This past week someone told me that a local pastor told his congregation that all the ladies doing “hot yoga” were practicing satanic rituals and would go to hell for it. I imagine he thinks “hot yoga” is some place where we all try to get really good looking and sexy to seduce the poor unsuspecting men of his church community. I’m pretty sure he has no idea that the “hot” part actually just refers to the temperature of the room.
People in my teacher training have sent me copies of conversations with friends saying they have been Googling yoga and satanism and that there are lots of interesting articles out there on the subject. I, myself, Googled satanism and pizza and found a lot of interesting stuff on that, as well. I hope Pizza Hut is ready for some damage control around here.
I cannot speak for any other yoga teacher or yoga practitioner on the subject, but I can tell you that the yoga I have learned, practiced and taught has nothing to do with the devil. The words are in Sanskrit, an ancient language from India. The roots are from India where Hinduism was the main religion, so there are teachers who use stories of Hinduism as analogies in their classes. I personally don’t use those examples, but I have never felt that I should convert to a brand new religion because someone told me a story about one.
I am a Christian. I was born into a Christian family and I have always been a Christian. I believe that Jesus is my savior and I have a very close and personal relationship with God. I am open about it because I’m proud of it, but it’s really no one’s business what any of us believe or who we pray to. I feel firm in my faith so I am not threatened by learning about things that may not be spoken of in the Bible, like the internet or pizza, for instance. I am not a minister and I am not trying to lead anyone to change religions because I teach yoga.
I teach yoga because it has changed my life for the better. I teach yoga because I have seen so many other people’s lives be changed for the better. My students leave my class feeling better and they tell me so. I see a world inundated with stress and anxiety and unrealistic expectations at every turn. I feel guided by God to try to help people feel better living in their bodies and their minds because I’m good at it. I suppose nothing worthy comes without a price and the price for trying to bring my hometown something I am passionate about has been feeling persecuted by some of my Christian peers. And I am all the more grateful for every person who has trusted me and supported me and loved me through it all. So to all of you, a great big NAMASTE!