The second coming of yoga

John Schlimm Contributor
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During the past several weeks, many of us have been working hard to speak out against bullying, observe Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Months, discuss the direction of our country as the critical midterm elections approach, and seek any number of ways to better ourselves.  Meanwhile, one particular “Religious Leader” (who shall remain nameless herein as he doesn’t deserve anymore attention) spent his time recently trending on the Internet and gaining national notoriety for attacking yoga.

REALLY?  This is what you’re doing with so many other things going on?

My dear Mr. “Religious Leader”: There are young people jumping off bridges and shooting themselves because of bullying; women, men, and children are being brutalized and dying because of domestic violence; women are succumbing to breast cancer; and candidates on both sides of the aisle are viciously clawing at one another (and that’s to name only a few of the pressing issues currently suffocating our society!).  YET your focus is on why you think learning new ways of becoming a healthier person through stretching and breathing is bad for Christians.

Hmmmm, where to even begin with you?

For starters, this is unfair to Christians worldwide, who may feel obligated to cling to your every word, since some of them may believe you speak for the head honcho upstairs.  And, it’s unfair to your colleagues as it casts a shadow over the important and positive works they are trying to accomplish around the globe.

However, to be fair to you (because I am all about fairness and, most especially, open-mindedness), I’m sure you have other interests beyond slamming yoga.  All the same, I would be remiss if I didn’t naturally question your real motive here in lieu of your recent status update to headliner.  Feels good to see your name in print, doesn’t it?  And, to “trend” on the Internet, OH MY!, that almost feels…well, addicting, right?  Speaking of trends, in the last few years there seems to be an upswing in religious leaders seeking celebrity.

Most notably, think of the mega-churches that have become like small countries.  In some cases, not all (so please hold your furry, oh pious ones!), the pastors-turned-rulers are living high on the hog, enjoying a life purposely driven by mansions, fancy cars, designer duds, adoring congregations fans with open wallets, bestselling books, DVD’s, television shows, etc.  Now I may be a little shaky on my Bible history, but I recall a powerful scene where the Devil tempts Jesus with all the riches and kingdoms of the world.  Jesus turned down the offer.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of those who today claim to speak on the Lord’s behalf while selling their souls to the spotlight, or, at least, desperately trying to!

It all begs an important question. What’s a bigger threat to Christianity or any belief system: Stretching and breathing exercises that make people feel better OR starry-eyed radicals with self-appointed halos who offend and alienate?

Cue the images of President Obama’s now former pastor who shot to international stardom via his fiery (and frankly embarrassing) rhetoric; the reverend who heads the hate-fueled congregation that protests at soldiers’ funerals, or, more recently, the minister who threatened to burn the Koran on 9/11.  For his publicity stunt, he was also rewarded with worldwide headlines.  Luckily for all of us, his fifteen minutes are tabloid history and his despicable actions are now between him and a God he only thinks he knows.

This leaves me to wonder if this latest attention-seeking “Religious Leader” has simply become one more devotee of the Fame Machine by placing yoga squarely in his crosshairs as an easy target.  After all, the only other explanation really is that he’s close-minded (which is even more frightening).

Believe me, I get that there are a few really quirky people out there who teach and practice yoga.  But then again, think of some of the total whack-jobs and self-righteous, “God-Fearing” folks (You know who you are!) running around our places of worship (GOD HELP US, INDEED!).

Those few individuals in each case above can never be allowed to define us all!

For anyone who is confused about yoga, let me ease your fears.  Having practiced yoga for many years, in urban and small town studios alike, I can happily confirm that never once have I felt as though a battle was being waged for my soul.  Not once have the many talented yoga instructors I’ve studied under donned red pointy ears, forked tongue, and a tail, or tried to do anything other than show me how to lead a healthier lifestyle by stretching and breathing, and calm myself amidst a frenzied world.  And not once have I ever encountered anything in a yoga studio other than peace and kindness.

This latest Fame Monster “Religious Leader” has sadly given religion itself a bad name once again.  While he is entitled to his opinion for sure, he has sadly tarnished religion in the eyes of many people who simply want to be welcomed by their faith rather than have another church door slammed in their face.  This man is one more reason why some teetering on the edge of their faith and questioning religion will simply turn and walk away.  And for what?  A non-issue that he has turned into one more guilt-drenched excuse to tighten the noose around the necks of trusting lambs.

Dear “Religious Leader,” I’ll leave you and my readers with one of the most important lessons yoga has taught me:

In addition to a better understanding of who I am as a person, yoga has taught me a greater appreciation for loving thy neighbor as thyself (Ah, sound familiar, Mr. “Religious Leader”?).


John Schlimm is a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, meaning he sees life through sudsy, gold-colored glasses. A former celebrity publicist, educator, and artist, John is the award-winning author of several books, including his latest, Harrah’s Entertainment Presents…The Seven Stars Cookbook as well as The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook (named “Best Beer Book in the U.S.” and “Best Beer Book in the World” by the international Gourmand Awards).