Yoga in America is now a six billion dollar industry. It is a highly influential practice that has captured the attention of millions, and continues to do so at an insurmountable rate. It is estimated that 15 to 20 million Americans practice yoga on a regular basis as it has become a celebrated form of exercise, stress relief and an effective method to enhance overall wellbeing. It is not uncommon to find a yoga studio on almost every street corner in the city, see them occupying strip malls in the suburbs and discover them inhabiting old buildings in many small towns.
While most people view modern yoga as a non-denominational practice for the mind and body, Father Gabriele Amorth, the former chief exorcist for the Vatican, does not. Esteemed as someone who exhumed evil spirits for the Vatican, Amorth believes that by practicing yoga, one will be led to practice Hinduism, and that “brings evil” because it supports the non-Christian notion of reincarnation.
The Hindu religion is considered to be one of the oldest religions in the world. Yoga was born in a region where Hinduism was practiced, long before Christianity was conceived. Yoga then manifested as a way to live life for the purpose of selfless service, greater good for humanity and faith in the divine. By definition, the word yoga means to join or to unite. This union is about connecting the human spirit to a higher power and that power can be referred to as God, regardless of how one chooses to define God.
Traditionally steeped in Hindu philosophy, yoga in America has transformed to fit the needs of the population by adapting to the trends and fads of our time. Yoga for Christians, for example has been transmuted slightly to assuage its Christian followers, while keeping the mind-body benefits the same. Overall still somewhat gilded with allusions of Hinduism, modern yoga in America is neither practiced as a Hindu religion, nor do all American Hindus practice yoga.
One day there might be more people practicing yoga than going to mass as participation in the Catholic Church has dwindled since the recent scandals involving priests and altar boys. Unless the Catholic Church can reincarnate the trust it lost from some of its devotees, the tidal wave of yoga might engulf those who have given up on it. Perhaps that, not evil, is what Father Gabriele Amorth fears the most.