The road to hell is pathed with yoga mats, according to Derry priest Fr Colhoun, who recently compared yoga to a Satanic and pagan practice. He’s not on his own. A year ago a priest called for a ban on Yoga in Donegal, and the Catholic Church, an institution that hardly is in a position to throw the first stone,  have been warning us, for decades, that new age concepts are dangerous, and putting souls in jeopardy.

Yoga is damned because of its Hindu origins, but the reality is, many Catholic traditions are rooted in pagan practices. The use of beads, fasting, meditation, ritual sacrifice, holidays like Christmas, are but a few. That does not automatically make a practice intrinsically evil, but the Catholic Church continues to separate people, and all things that they oppose. Ironically, the word Yoga means to unite, to join together, to integrate. I wonder does the Church ever contemplate why one might be drawn to something that is all about love, peace, openness and acceptance, everything it seems the church is not.

As I understand it, Yoga has evolved over thousands of years, to energize bodies and calm minds. It is a popular activity for athletes, children, adults, seniors and special needs groups. Maybe, Yoga is all a bit ‘forin’ to the Catholic Church. Is it the fear of the unknown that has them viewing it in a suspicious light? Perhaps, the Catholic Church feel that they are loosing their grip on woman, and men, who are finding more love, peace, and harmony from their personal Yoga practice than from the guilt, shame, pain, sacrifice, and suffering that the catholic church has offered up and handed down over the centuries? It begs the question, who is it dangerous for, the Yogis or the Church?

As a professional counsellor, and in my personal life, I firmly believe in positive coping strategies, i.e. any action you take to manage your life in a way that isn’t detrimental or harmful to anyone. Yoga is one of those strategies. In my experience no amount of stretching will turn anyone into a Hindu or leave practitioners open to demonic possession. As I understand it, it is not the action that defines the intent, but the intent that guides the action.

So what exactly are the Catholic Church’s intentions when they are judging those who are mostly trying to care for their health and wellbeing? Furthermore, how can priests in powerful positions condemn yoga, yet, when they are probed about their opinions, they have little experience of yoga, and have less understanding of the motives behind mature, intelligent adults, who are mostly women, attending a yoga class?  Seriously, who has heard of anyone taking up Yoga to worship the devil!

Perhaps, they should try yoga before forming their opinions. Personally, I am forever grateful for the two amazing nuns and the priest who first introduced me to meditation and yoga. Regarding my spiritual health, Yoga has only enriched it. A healthy body is a healthy mind. My yogi instructors did not berate me on the dangers of Yoga but taught me a wonderful and miraculous God-given stress busting technique, call breathing. Christmas trees and Easter bunnies haven’t had any affect on my beliefs so far so I’m happy to meet you on the mat in heaven, or in hell, if that’s where it’s at. I haven’t tried Hot Yoga yet but, for once in my life, hell is looking good. I wonder do they supply mats or shall I bring my own? Namaste.