One of Russia's most prominent Christian scholars has warned fitness lovers that trendy yoga classes could be a gateway to spiritual and physical damage, insisting congregations must atone for having taken part in them.
Alexander Dvorkin, a professor at the Russian Orthodox Church's Saint Tikhon's University, told Moscow's Znak on Tuesday that close links to Hindu philosophy make the system of exercise and mindfulness dangerous for believers.
According to him, the Eastern religion is based on the idea of "eternal rebirth of the soul into new bodies," while karma, pain accumulated over lifetimes, builds up. "This is the law of multiplication of suffering, because the amount of pain and tragedy is growing all the time. The only way to get out of this vicious cycle is to die forever, so that you will never be reborn," Dvorkin said. "Yoga exists for this. Yoga is the art of death."
In his view, this contrasts with Christian beliefs about the resurrection of Jesus and the nature of the soul. As a result, the academic claimed, "it is really impossible for a Christian to do yoga," and practicing it is a sin that must be repented for.
"Moreover, as many doctors say, it is not useful for a person to stretch their joints or bend like that," the religious studies scholar went on.
Proponents of yoga say its stretches are beneficial for the body, bolstering flexibility and helping ease pain, while its focus on stilling the mind helps people to focus and clear their heads. According to the Yogi Times, more than 300 million people across the world take part in it, and yoga was the US' fourth fastest-growing industry in 2016 with it taking off as a fitness fad.
However, some practitioners have warned that yoga is increasingly being marketed as a trendy lifestyle exercise and is divorced from its traditional roots in Hinduism and its role in South Asian culture, which they say dates back thousands of years.