The leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church have formally warned adherents against taking up yoga. The practice, they say, is “completely incompatible” with the Christian faith. In a statement last week, the church’s Holy Synod (the Patriarch and the most senior bishops) cautioned that yoga is not “a kind of physical exercise”, but rather a “fundamental chapter of the religion of Hinduism”.
There has long been a debate – not just in Greece – over whether yoga is an intrinsically Hindu practice. Yoga is cited in Indian texts dating back 2,500 years, and some of the asanas, or yoga poses, retain their earlier spiritual associations and names. However, many yoga classes seem (are. Ed.) devoid of spiritual content. In 2015, a Californian court – asked to rule on the subject – concluded that if a person doing yoga doesn’t consider his or her actions to be religious, then they aren’t.
(My reaction): Quite. I have never met anyone who goes to yoga for religious reasons, although I have to admit I don’t know many practicing Hindus. Millions of people who practice yoga do so for flexibility and strength. Period. Others find it offers peace of mind. In any case, it is both healthy (mostly) and harmless. Would the Holy Synod kindly leave us rational people alone?