As a black Christian, I was told yoga was 'demonic' – then I tried it

I went to a predominantly Catholic school and, among my black friends, the topic of yoga rarely came up.

But whenever it did, a few of them were really against it. Some even slammed it as ‘demonic’ and completely refused to try it. When I pressed them about why, they just said that their parents warned them against doing it because it goes against our Christian beliefs.

I was surprised to feel like I was a minority in thinking it was alright and pretty harmless, in the grand scheme of things.

But the truth is – yoga just isn’t as popular in black communities and it’s because many Christians fear a clash between their religion and the spiritual aspect of yoga, which historically has roots in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

During high school, I was trying to find an exercise I genuinely enjoyed and being bluntly told by my peers that yoga goes against our religion did put me off slightly. But I was curious.

I decided to put the opinions of others out of my mind and I did my own research.

While it’s true that I found articles that adamantly spoke against Christians doing yoga (Irish Roman Catholic Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan banned Catholic schools taking up yoga and said last year: ‘Practices like yoga are not capable of opening our hearts up to God’), I also read stories about the amazing benefits it had for the mind and body.

I decided I would give my first class a go and if I felt weird or put off, at least I could say I’d tried it.

I went in to my first yoga class with no expectations at all.

As soon as I walked in, I noticed that I was the only black girl in the class. I wasn’t surprised, but I was very aware of it.

We got started and – quite unbelievably – I didn’t burst into flames.

The class really felt like a no-judgement zone. Even when I stumbled in tree pose, no one laughed and everyone was focused on themselves. My teacher, in a really calm voice, simply suggested an easier version for those who couldn’t get their balance.

Our instructor was great – speaking with a direct but relaxed tone and clearly explaining what we had to do in every step of the way.

During Shavasana (the final relaxation), I said a quick prayer followed by a quiet ‘amen’, instead of ‘namaste’.

For me, the prayer helped me feel centred and calm.

At the end of the class, I felt victorious because I managed to push the voices out of my head telling me that yoga was ‘demonic’. I refused to let it stop me from doing something I enjoyed.

We need to see black yoga teachers in advertising campaigns and in films, and there needs to be more awareness of the different types of yoga.

At the same time, I didn’t want people to think I was blindly jumping on the yoga ‘trend’ just to be cool, or to move away from my blackness.

But the reality is, the two identities can co-exist. Easily.

One argument from Christians against yoga is that consumerism has pushed the practice away from its Hindu roots but they have been fooled into thinking it is just another non-spiritual fitness ritual. Christian leaders, such as Pat Robertson have openly criticised the act of Christians practicing yoga, warning that there are clear contradictions.

New-age yoga is practiced by many as a form of exercise – increasing flexibility, releasing stress, toning the body and improving form.

It’s a shame that black Christian communities refuse to see this.

I think one way to change the tide around this is more black Christian yoga teachers in the wellness space.

Black Christian communities need to be educated and made aware of the benefits so that the space can be diversified.

We need to see black yoga teachers in advertising campaigns and in films, and there needs to be more awareness of the different types of yoga.

‘What you see in the world, is what you believe you can do,’ said Founder of Black Girl in Om, Lauren Ash, in an interview. She added, ‘If you don’t see a lot of black women teaching yoga, you’re not going to think it’s an opportunity for you.’

For example, I tried Kemetic yoga last year, an ‘African legacy’ originating in Egypt and thought it was great.

So to say yoga goes against Christianity is simply untrue.

Although I don’t regularly attend church, I do have a relationship with God and I do pray. I’ve never looked at yoga as something that would weaken that relationship. I simply saw it as a form of exercise in which any belief system could be applied.

Yoga can even be used to get closer to God. The practice is what you make it and it doesn’t always have to mean chanting and praying.

Everyone has their insecurities and I’m trying to put mine behind me.

My downward dog may not be perfect, but I’m willing to keep going for the amazing benefits it gives me, and maybe other black girls should try the same.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing [email protected]

Source: Read Full Article