The latest installment in the long history of religious myopia has Father Gabriele Amorth proclaiming, “Practicing yoga brings evil.” The Vatican’s former chief exorcist believes that yoga is the Devil’s work because “you think you are doing it for stretching your mind and body, but it leads to Hinduism.” Never mind that only a tiny percentage of long-time yoga practitioners identify as Hindus, and that Googling “Christian yoga” yields 437,000 results. Yoga is satanic, says Father Amorth, “just like reading Harry Potter.” Well, what do you expect from a destroyer of demons who sees his Church’s child molestation scandal as proof that the anti-Christ has infiltrated its ranks.
At age 86, Father Amorth will not be with us much longer. Imagine his surprise if what he calls “the false belief of reincarnation” is not so false after all, and he one day returns to find that yogis and J.K. Rowling readers are more plentiful than ever. The former surely will be, because Americans are, for the most part, pragmatic, pluralistic and evidence driven, and yoga appeals to all those values, Vatican paranoia notwithstanding.
When I say that yoga is here to stay, I don’t just mean its current expression as a health oriented physical discipline. I mean the full yogic package, as described in classical texts like the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads. The repertoire of yogic precepts and practices has appealed to Americans for both spiritual and secular reasons for over 200 years now, and its influence, already profound, continues to grow inexorably, while the old-style religion that Father Amorth represents, with its dogmatism, divisiveness and triumphalism, is withering on the vine. If the U.S. doesn’t already have more yogis than conventional churchgoers, it will soon enough.
By “yogis” I don’t just mean the estimated 15 to 20 million who stretch and bend in postural yoga classes each year. I also refer to those who are yogis in spirit if not name, in that they seek the unified consciousness that yogic texts extol and yogic practices at their best lead to. The unitive state of yoga (the word, as most people know, derives from the same root as yoke) transcends religious categories and can be reached through numerous pathways. Understood in that way, there have been an uncountable number of American yogis ever since Henry David Thoreau called himself one in “Walden,” his iconic memoir of his sojourn at Walden Pond, where the Bhagavad Gita was his constant companion. There were no yoga studios in Concord, Massachusetts, at the time, nor gurus or meditation teachers, but Thoreau and his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson were classic yogis in that they sought, and often experienced, union with the infinite wholeness that Emerson called the Oversoul.
Those two celebrated Transcendentalists might have been the earliest examples of what we now call the “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR), which is said to be the fastest-growing cohort in surveys of religious attitudes, particularly among the young. To the extent that they aspire to the union of self and cosmos, the label-disdaining SBNRs can be called yogis. Also yogis are most American Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. And, in spirit, I would also include the Jews, Christians and Muslims who have turned to the long-buried esoteric disciplines of their own traditions. I don’t know how many American adherents of Sufism (a dogma-defying mystical branch of Islam) there are, but they are certainly more plentiful and diverse than most people realize. “Jewish meditation” yields 450,000 Google results. And, in the past decade or so, interest in contemplative Christianity has blossomed; practitioners of the meditative method known as Centering Prayer alone number in the six figures. We can also add the millions who have learned to meditate for the sake of mental and physical well-being, often at the recommendation of a physician or therapist. And now, with the likes of Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand advocating Transcendental Meditation — as the Beatles did 40 years ago — there is no telling how many there might be in Father Amorth’s nightmare future.
If you think I am being overly inclusive in my informal head count of yogis, feel free to use “yogi-like” or some such qualifier. The point remains that what classical yoga aspires to is universal; the urge to unity and wholeness knows no religious, ethnic or national boundaries, and the methods derived from yogic insights tend to be adaptable to most belief systems and lifestyles. That makes it quite compatible with American values, and therefore as likely as Harry Potter to retain its appeal. Father Amorth can rest assured that Catholicism will not disappear. It is, however, likely that future Catholics will draw more inspiration from Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila and other storied mystics of the tradition than from “The Exorcist” (his favorite movie) or most of the Popes. Horror of horrors, they might also see come to see Jesus himself as a great yogi.
Yoga to the People Takes on Bikram Choudhury on Facebook
As was reported last week, free yoga studio chain Yoga to the People is being sued by Bikram Choudhury, the inventor of Bikram yoga, for “stealing” poses. Choudhury, who is very litigious, and his lawyer sent in an undercover yogi into the YTTP hot yoga class to confirm Choudhury’s suspicion that his poses were being used. Bikram yoga involves a specific 90-minute-long series of 26 poses performed in a 105-degree room. Choudhury has trademarked the phrase “Bikram Yoga” and the poses along with it.
YTTP’s owner Gregory Gumucio used to be close with Choudhury and “considered himself Choudhury’s right-hand man for five years, before the pair fell out of favor,” according to DNA Info. Now Gumucio is discussing the situation with Choudhury on YTTP’s Facebook page and not mincing words.
From last week:
Question: “if u honestly and truly feel this way then why do u hang a photo of bikram in your schools?”
Answer: “you know, i appreciate this question. it is a fair and good question not an accusation.
first, there aren’t photos in every school. there is a photo in the one school you must be referring to on 27th street.
i hung that when we first opened. i trained and i am a certified bikram teacher. i ran his training for 4 plus years. bikram rarely would be found in a “regular” class he often preferred the advance series class. however, bikram and i were very close and he loved taking my class. we were dear friends actually. i would stay at his home, he would come and stay at my home. the photo is one of endearment for me. he was my worst student, drinking water, telling jokes, we had fun.
i have no problem with bikram the person. i still have a tremendous amount of affection for him. however, as the site states, i don’t believe anyone should own a sequence of yoga. not even bikram. most almost all people have no idea who bikram is, or what he looks like. you obviously do. that photo is heartfelt. it isn’t meant as some subversive statement. if it in someway offended you. it wasn’t intended to do so.
for the record. i hate this lawsuit. i don’t relish or take an ounce of pleasure in it. i reached out to bikram personally to speak with him before letting matters get carried away. his lawyers advised him against it.
i haven’t thought of that photo for awhile. it saddens me to think of it in this moment.
From this morning:
During the years I spent with Bikram, he had a series of sayings and Indian idioms. They were often thought provoking and over time the moral, truth or meaning behind the idiom or saying would come to light. A few weeks ago, I mentioned to a group of students that there was one story I never really understood. For 14 years I never understood it, until the lawsuit… and now it’s meaning is “crystal clear”.
Bikram would say, “In your country you have a saying: ‘You can lead the horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.’ No…NO…you got it all wrong I say I lead the horse to water, if he does not drink, I cut his f**king head off” And then he would laugh and laugh, and say, “That is MY way”
Yikes. The studio has also put out a petition called “Can Yoga be Owned?” regarding the lawsuit that so far has over 6,500 signatures; go here if you want to sign it.
Lilium’s Chakra Mindfulness
Hey everybody ^^ FINALLY I’m being a bit productive and here is the video loooooong under progress. This is for ALL OF YOU who are so supportive and sweet to me. THANK YOU SO MUUUUCH First we will start with the root chakra, then moving on to the solar plexus chakra then to the throat chakra and finally meditation the third eye 🙂 I hope you all enjoy it 😀 Love ***Lilium
Video Rating: 4 / 5