2.8
June 12, 2013

The Devil is in the Dogma. ~ Michelle Marchildon

In yoga news this week there was a lot of hubbub about yoga causing satanic possession and I’m here to tell you my official reaction: Duh.

For 2,000 years, or pretty much since yoga was brought to the attention of the west, it has been confused with being a spiritual practice. I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence here by denying it.

In fact, you can say you heard it here first:

Yoga is both a physical exercise and has the potential to be a spiritual practice.

While many laughed at the Virginia Lt. Governor who claimed that if you practice yoga and empty your mind it could fill up with Satan, I did not.

I also did not laugh at the lawsuit in southern California where parents are suing to keep yoga out of the schools because it contains religious messages.

And I didn’t laugh when I taught in a suburban yoga studio and the students asked me not to “Om,” because they are Christian.

However, I did laugh when Elspeth Reeve from the Atlantic suggested that the vacuous brains of the Lululemon salesclerks were really the work of the devil.

So what is it about yoga and touching our toes that brings out the crazy? After careful consideration I am quite sure it is our own behavior.

This is one of my personal doctrines. When everyone around you is acting like a jerk and being completely crazy, maybe it’s not everyone else? Maybe it really is you? With apologies to the Four Agreements, sometimes it is us, we are the problem, and we need to fix our behavior.

Years ago when I told my family that I wanted to become a yoga teacher, which followed having been a devout Jew, to a dabbling Presbyterian, to a pretend Buddhist, my family’s reaction was a unanimous, “Oh God.”

“That’s fine,” my dad said. “Just don’t become too ugga bugga.”

“Whatever,” my husband said, “as long as whoever you are occasionally makes us dinner.”

If you haven’t been in a yoga class where the teacher was a preacher about how you have to be a vegan, or pray to Ganesha, or that Shiva and Shakti created the pulsation of life which stems from their non-stop lovemaking, well then in a yoga sense, you need to get out more often.

My introduction to the darker aspects of yoga came from Baron Baptiste (I recognize the irony, given that Baron teaches a non-religious form of Power Yoga). Baron wrote in his book, Journey into Power, that he was a Christian and believed in God.

So you have to wonder, what motivated a world famous yoga teacher to make a public declaration that he believed in God? Hmmmmm (pinky finger at the corner of my mouth, a la Dr. Evil).

Then there was the Anusara yoga debacle.

The sex scandal did not upset me as much as that Anusara had been predicated upon a secret, anti-God, anti-Judeo-Christian premise of pagan rituals including the sharing of pubic hairs. And you know I can’t make this stuff up.

It turns out, that the founder was a Wiccan, and that the school had a Wiccan-based spiritual philosophy of nature and seasonality and jumping around when the moon is full and (WTF) my new Wiccan friends have been trying to explain to me because I worship the old-fashioned way, at Easter, Christmas and Passover.

My local teacher said I should have been paying better attention when the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism was being explained (I thought it was “Cream Cheese and Chive-ism,” which I am down with on a bagel).

True, but I was too busy trying to stay awake.

Let me be clear (before everyone starts writing in to say in a non-judgmental way that they hate me, again):

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Wiccan!

That is, unless you are trying to sell yoga to a mainstream audience. Wiccans are a gentle, but misunderstood people.

Right after Anusara imploded, I was fired from my suburban studio because the owner thought I was teaching sexy witchcraft yoga, even though I am a dedicated Jew-Presbyterian-Buddhist, who very much believes in God and only having sex when you need something from your husband.

This brings us back to the current state of affairs where people think yoga is a spiritual practice.

If we don’t want our students to think we are teaching something religious, then it might be best if we don’t preach to them how they should love, worship, eat, or which Gods and Goddesses they should believe in because a lot of people confuse that stuff with religion.

On the other hand, if you enjoy bringing a spiritual awareness to a yoga practice, then quit whining. Not everyone is going to love you all the time, or understand that you are not Satan, or that they are free to worship in their own way regardless of taking yoga.

I mean, my kids think I am Satan just for asking them to obey the curfew.

So what if some people believe that the devil is in the dogma?

Obviously, (I hope) it’s not true, unless you are shopping in Lululemon, where it might be true.

I would be very careful around those salesclerks who tell you that your butt looks really good in yoga pants.

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Dottie Wagner Jun 14, 2013 7:06am

I wish I still lived in Denver! Your articles always crack me up and I would love to take your class, or just have lunch!!

Michelle Marchildon Jun 12, 2013 11:49am

I am actually quite woo woo in my own teaching, but my students all know that I am utterly nuts so they don't take it seriously and practice yoga instead.

Robyn Jun 12, 2013 10:28am

Thanks for brightening my day! I just saw someone post on FB how they got a hot yoga groupon (I believe that's another Elephant article or 10) and someone else say that they are Catholic and think yoga looks fun physically but that it's evil and they cannot do it.
I practice at home by DVD because of having a toddler (child care issues) and no money, and, frankly, I'm just not a very spiritual person in any respect, so that aspect doesn't play a big role in MY yoga. Make it your own, find the yoga that works for YOU. Don't let all of these people tell you how you have to connect with it. If I'm not a "real" yogi, so be it. Yoga still does wonderful things for me and my life and I love it.

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Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.