Well, well –
what goes around comes around, as they say. Radio Four ran a story this morning about a Yoga teacher who wanted to run classes for pre-school children in the local Church Hall – & was refused because it was ‘ungodly’ & would teach the children unchristian behaviour!
Whilst this might seem completely farcical in this day & age, I myself was ‘evicted’ from my Church choir at the age of seventeen, for attending Yoga classes at VIth Form College – classes which were part of the forward-thinking school’s Physical Education curriculum. As a result of the many physical benefits Yoga offered me, when I happened to bump into a Buddhist Monk walking his little dog down a leafy Warwickshire lane (admittedly something of an unusual sight in the Engish countryside!) I inquired as to whether they also held yoga classes, to improve my development over the Summer vacation; they did not, but after a fascinating discussion on the improvement of both body and mind, I decided to have a go at the strict discipline of meditation – so I attended classes at The Forest Hermitage – & was relieved to find, without having ‘religion’ rammed down my throat. As a result I became a far more balanced, gentle, thoughtful teenager; & I carry those lessons with me, always. For as I have since – voluntarily – discovered, Buddhism is not so much a religion but more a way of life; a moral code of conduct & an extremely wise philosophy.
The pompous preachings of the Vicar who would not allow such infernal goings-on in his Church Hall, is denying those children the opportunity for gentle suppling exercises which will help them to grow up healthily (you become more aware of posture; of diet; of how to relax) & could possibly even help prevent them developing problems such as arthritis, in later life. The Vicar’s argument is that you cannot learn Yoga without ‘tarnishing’ your mind with Buddhist & Hindu teachings, as the Yogic discipline developed in India & is underpinned with those philosophies. But as I have said, Buddhism is far more a way of life, much less a religion; & whilst studying Yoga myself for over 20 years now, I have never been tempted to delve into the deeper philosophy behind it, preferring instead to concentrate on the physical benefits it had brought me – even at the ripe old age of 39. So I hardly think a three-year-old is going to question Christianity as a result of a few fun & simple stretching exercises. And as Yoga is the fusion of many different disciplines, it does not specify one singular religion & so could not be said to ‘kidnap’ one’s attention. Why, oh WHY do Christians feel so threatened by all of this? Why can they not open their hearts & minds, & practice tolerance, love, & openness as their Lord preached?
Had I not been ‘kicked out’ of the Choir & made to feel unwelcome in my local Church for the ‘unclean acts’ I practised at School (& for which I would have been expelled if I had refused to participate; but I enjoyed it – & its’ health-giving benefits) I would doubtless still be a fully committed Christian rather than drifting away in disillusionment & disappointment. For the narrow-mindedness of such ‘Dark Age’ priests will toll the biggest death knell for the current Church; they need to realise the uncomfortable truth that in the modern platform of Equal Opportunities, religious intolerance only fosters resentment; and, as 9/11 and 7/7 so tragically demonstrated, even worse……proving that hate & fear, breed hate & fear (so how about a little ‘love thy neighbour?’ – I believe that’s written in the Bible…..?).
Ah well; you never know, maybe one day those little children will grow up to challenge that intolerant bigot for the freedom to choose what path they can follow without being forced down a more narrow-minded road. If the Church is still there, that is…..