Sophie Heawood: Downward dog is not a hellhound

Our writer defies the Vatican and slips off to a yoga class

Related Topics

Cor! You know you're doing something sexy when you've managed to rattle the Vatican's chief exorcist. Well done, yoga – the papists are up in arms (but not downward in dogs) against you.

Father Gabriele Amorth, a grown man who is paid to scare ghosts out of the Pope's house, has told a conference in Italy that "practising yoga brings evil, as does reading Harry Potter. They may both seem innocuous but they both deal with magic – and that leads to evil."

The Harry Potter hate makes sense enough: our poor old ghostbusting priest is clearly worried that if people start thinking spirits and ghouls belong in a work of fiction, then he'll be out of a job. But as for yoga – a spiritual practice that largely translates, in the Western world, to a 90-minute bending and stretching class – well, it's hard to locate the exact bit which he wants us to think summons Satan. But do let's try, so we have an excuse to stop going.

Perhaps the priest speaks of lust. Indeed, it can be hard, when yogists will dress in such tight clothing, not to sneak a peek at people's protuberances. One can certainly entertain a few unclean ideas when publicly stretched over backwards like a rainbow.

But do you really think that "doing the downward dog" is akin to what Cubans call "dancing the horizontal mambo"? Or find yourself overcome by uncontrollable frissons when trying to breathe through one isolated nostril? You do? Lucky you! Perhaps I should go more often.

I mean maybe, when I see an image of Pol Pot's killing fields, or Fred West's victims, or George Osborne's beefy grin, I should think to myself, good heavens, that's nearly as Satanic as that time we were told to stand up with our feet together and then bring one foot to slide up the other leg and stand there for as long as we could (but if we couldn't stay balanced just to sort of quietly stop and have a sit-down for a bit).

Or the way we say "Namaste" to each other at home-time without knowing exactly what it means. It could be Sanskrit for "come, vile witches, and overflow my pustules with sin". It could mean "Who needs the love of the Lord when you've got mauve Lycra?". It possibly translates as "Take me now, big boy, right here, right now, in King's Hall Leisure Centre, Hackney". I don't even know. I really should be more careful.

Perhaps I should have recognised the mark of Beelzebub that week when I had to pay a quid extra because, in my haste to shave my armpits into the right sort of tantric baldness before leaving the house, I had forgotten to bring my own mat.

Once, I took an outdoors yoga session on a Greek island, taught by a scantily clad guru who had recently impregnated a muse some 30 or 40 years his junior. He encouraged us to say "Om" and find stillness among the mosquitoes. It was he, apparently, who had taught Sting and Trudie their tantric ways.

Again, if you have trouble distinguishing between Lucifer's hellfires of destruction and a randy old bloke dodging insects in the olive groves, then I can understand that this is not the weight-loss plan for you.

Another time, I was lucky enough to go to a few yoga classes in a swanky health studio in Hollywood (they were giving out free vouchers). There were women there whose boobs did not move when they stood on their heads. I don't think we can blame Lucifer alone for their implants. But we could always try.

Unfortunately for the priest, the more I think about the evils of yoga, the more I want to go, praying to experience some of this wanton lascivious heat. Rather than just sweaty armpits. Or a dull sense of despair about my calf muscles. Or a stitch.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009  

Being sensitive to mental health need not lead us to downplay the horror of what Lubitz did

Will Gore
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
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing