Several years ago one of my Southern Baptists sisters was really into fitness. Strength and resistance, aerobics, flexibility. You name it, she was doing it. So she approached our young Southern Baptist pastor about hosting some fitness classes in the fellowship hall of First Baptist Church of Small Town.
He was very receptive to the idea. He thought it would be a great way to get
some more butts in the seats new blood new members. He didn’t ask any questions, really, about what type of exercise would be done. He just knew that some ladies would be meeting there three days a week to get their exercise on.
Weeks passed and my friend held all types of classes. She led step aerobics, jazzercise style classes, light weight training classes, and flexibility classes. Young Pastor was good with all of this because it was, it seemed, accomplishing his ultimate goal. Women were excited about learning new things, losing a little weight, and feeling better about themselves. Non church members were starting to attend not only the classes, but worship services too.
All was well until he happened to peek in on one the flexibility classes one day. He was appalled to find fifteen women sitting quietly…meditating.
Laura, startled, answered, “I don’t know. What do you think it is?”
“Well, it looks like Yoga to me”, he replied. “Please tell me this isn’t Yoga.”
“Very basic Yoga, yes. We just started into our meditation. Would you like to join us?”, Laura managed, not at all sure what he seemed so upset about.
“Uh, no. I think you need to wrap this up and we need to talk about what’s going on here. When they’ve all gone I’ll be in my office.”
They did talk. She attempted to explain that they weren’t practicing transcendental meditation; she had given a Bible verse to meditate on. It was harmless. They were using their meditation more as a prayer time. Then she tried to explain the physical benefits of Yoga. To no avail. He was having no part of it. Even if we weren’t using it in an evil manner, spiritually, some of the poses were just so suggestive. We’d be positioned in ways that displayed our hoohas! Downward Dog was entirely too provocative.
The following Sunday Young Pastor preached from the pulpit about the dangers of mystic religions(oh, the irony), how Yoga was of Satan and no good Christian should practice such things. Even the mere appearance of evil should be avoided. Yes, Yoga was straight from the pit of hell.
She didn’t hold any more Yoga sessions. In fact, after the lashing from the pulpit, the classes fizzled altogether. Women quit going. As with many things people get excited about in church a big bucket of icy cold water does wonders to drown any ideas outside of the teeny, tiny box of ideas you are allowed to choose from. Please, do not think that you can think. That thought was not in the box of choices. You must have brought that one in from outside. Take it back out.
As a result I viewed Yoga as evil, sinful, bad. Even after my defection from Christianity I retained a strangely negative view of the practice. I viewed it as mysticism; something I certainly wanted no part of. I’m learning that I have developed some, mostly ignorant, preconceptions of anything even remotely spiritual. It’s funny how even after we’ve thrown off a worldview pieces of it linger on without examination.
Well, no more. Pardon me while I go try to tie myself into a knot.