Christians get into a devil of a twist over yoga

The lotus position is the work of Satan say fundamentalist groups who want a ban. Hattie Sellick reports

Yoga, that ancient Eastern practice of meditation, measured breathing and bending your legs in remarkable ways, is the work of the Devil, according to Christian organisations now campaigning against it.

They claim that the 30,000 people in Britain who enjoy yoga - long considered harmless by the public at large - are unaware of the "dangers".

Not only, according to one group, the Reachout Trust, is yoga in essence a part of Hinduism and may lead to out-of-body experiences, but also it can have occult links, says another, the Agape Christian Fellowship, which says in a leaflet, Yoga - the truth behind it: "Yoga is cleverly disguised devil-worship and has nothing to do with the TRUE GOD and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ - HE FORBIDS IT!"

A spotlight was shone on the religious tizzy that yoga can get people into when a Japanese yoga teacher in Bideford, Devon, Atsuko Kato, was banned last week from using a Salvation Army hall for her class after complaints by parents of children who used the hall for other activities, claiming that yoga was a cult activity involving ritual and chanting. Ms Kato says she was simply leading "a class about exercise, breathing, relaxation and a bit of meditation".

Yoga's Christian opponents say the problem lies in its links with Hinduism. Yoga forms an important part of the Hindu meditative process and one of the aims of Hinduism is to come together with a higher being, even become God.

"Yoga is a way for the Devil to gain entry into a practitioner's life," says a Christian former yoga enthusiast quoted in the Agape Fellowship's leaflet. Doug Harris, director of Reachout, a less fundamentalist organisation than the fellowship, feels that yoga is not compatible with Christianity and thus should not take place in a church hall.

He spreads his message through literature and talks all over the country and says he has "written explanatory letters to ministers who show concern for the potential conflict".

All this leaves Britain's yoga enthusiasts bemused. They acknowledge that there are many forms of yoga and John Cain, chairman of The British Wheel of Yoga, encourages people to learn with a teacher certified by The British Wheel. They have approximately 1,700 registered instructors who teach in local education authority halls and sports centres throughout the country.

Mr Cain sees yoga "not as a religion, but as a spiritual practice that will strengthen your beliefs".

He views the opposition to yoga "with a sense of sadness about their misunderstanding" and mentions the names of a nun and a practising minister who are happy to talk about the benefits that yoga has given them.

One such minister is the Rev Jonathan Hopcraft from St John's, Wolverhampton, who has practised yoga for many years and does not find any conflict with his faith.

Despite several appearances in the press, he has not received any information from anti-yoga groups, but he is cautious in his support. "I can understand their position, as some groups are secular but some are based on Hinduism, especially the mantra," he says.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat