Om Shanti (Peace be with you) Bishop Phonsie! It's okay, tuck the cross back into your cassock and save the garlic for another day because, believe me, yoga comes in peace. It has no agenda, no proselytising motive for it is not a religion.
Yoga has neither an inferiority complex nor does it suffer delusions of grandeur. Yoga has no arguments with religions of any kind because it doesn’t offer itself as an alternative. Yoga just is – yoga.
Yoga’s origins can be traced to the Vedas, the ancient Indian texts dating from around 1900BC from which also arose the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist religions. So yoga is not a Hindu practice though it shares its origins with that religion.
Modern yoga in its most popular forms, as practised all over Ireland, can be attributed to Sage Patanjali who, sometime in the period between 200AD and 400AD, codified the Yoga Sutras which to this day serve as a guide to posture, breathing and meditation.
Yogis might well be possessed, but only with a desire to keep mind and body in good condition
Yoga is a physical discipline that is completely blind to religious identities, allowing people of any or no faith to achieve as strong a mind-body connection that their individual practice will allow them to reach.
The Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, who has warned against teaching yoga and mindfulness in schools, might want to consider why so many Irish people are taking to yoga so enthusiastically. The reasons are so far removed from what he imagines that he really doesn't need to mobilise the deliverance brigade any time soon.
Fit and healthy
Yogis might well be possessed, but only with a desire to keep mind and body in good condition. People roll out a mat and stretch out all that shiny Lycra because, shock horror, they just want to keep fit and healthy.
That young one easing so elegantly out of the downward dog is merely preparing for a dance contest. The middle-aged fella doing the tree pose with his eyes closed and a small smile playing on his face is dreaming of his golf handicap.
The two pregnant women lying facing each other in eagle twist are best friends and will be godmothers to each other’s babies. That overweight diabetic who is always at the very back has finally managed to do the half-twist pose without falling over.
There are people there sent by their doctors, others urged on by their physiotherapists. There are constipated folk, overweight folk and whole rugby squads. Cancer survivors, Olympic hopefuls, super-flexible show-offs – you’ll see them all. Menopausal women flushed with joy and yummy mummies rising up to perfect cobra poses.
Just everyday ordinary Irish people from every walk of life trying to keep their minds and bodies de-stressed.
So what’s the average yogi thinking of lying on the mat doing the Shavasana? Happy thoughts in the main, Bishop Phonsie. No one, I can assure you, absolutely no one is thinking of converting to Hinduism.
This demonisation of an ancient practice that professes no belief systems and therefore seeks no converts is just a diversionary tactic
The Catholic Church’s anti-yoga stance is a deflection of sorts. But yoga is not the bogeyman. Practising yoga does not make anyone a lesser Catholic. In fact the wellbeing that comes with regular practice of yoga (or any other physical activity for that matter) definitely contributes considerably towards being hardworking, well-tempered, patient and tolerant with your family, children, friends and co-workers. All good Christian attributes.
In the last two decades so many Irish people have in droves lost faith in the institution of the church while retaining every bit of their faith. Ireland is not any more a nation that will be dictated to by men in costumes, and certainly not about something so absurd. Imagine being afraid of yoga!
This demonisation of an ancient practice that professes no belief systems and therefore seeks no converts is just a diversionary tactic. The existential danger to the Catholic Church is totally from within. There is plenty to be exorcised, and Ireland knows what doors the deliverance ministry needs to be knocking on first.
Yoga, Bishop Phonsie, is the very least of the huge problems of credibility that exist and are multiplying for the Catholic Church in Ireland. Yoga is not the anti-Christ. Namaste (Bye).
Cauvery Madhavan was born in India into a Hindu family, and has lived in Ireland since 1987. Her third novel, The Tainted, will be published in April