Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fear the Yoga Demons!

So it looks like the whole "yoga is demonic" trope is still alive and well. Here's an article about a Catholic woman named Priscilla who was supposedly possessed by demons at her yoga class. The story is so outlandish that I first thought it was some sort of parody, but after looking over the rest of the web site I'm not so sure. I suppose there's a fine line between satire and true religious fanaticism.

At any rate, according to "well-known deliverance minister" Stella Davis, Priscilla's story began when she was going through a divorce. A friend suggested she try a yoga class to deal with the stress and her fate was sealed. The class was completely secular with no religious references, and she prayed to Jesus and Mary to keep her safe. Still, her faith offered no protection and she was quickly possessed, which caused her life to completely fall apart. Davis reports arranging a "deliverance" for Priscilla, which quickly turned into a scene straight out of The Exorcist.

Suddenly, a sound emerged from Priscilla’s mouth, like the hiss of a snake.

“You can’t have her, she’s mine!” the voice shouted. “I took her. You gave her two deformed children,” it said in reference to Priscilla’s children, both of whom have special needs. “I got in through yoga,” the demon announced, then continued his diatribe. “You cannot take her from me. She’s mine. You’ll never get rid of me and even if you do, I’ll get back in.”

It went on to announce: “I took her family away from her. I took her job away from her when she was about to get it back. I put the anxiety in her . . . I’m in control now . . .You will never make me leave. I’ll get to her through her kids. . . ” Davis silenced the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ in a calm but firm voice and in a way that led Parker to believe she had done this a thousand times before.

In fact, she had. In the course of her 35 year-old ministry, Davis has had to deliver many people from spirits who infested them through the practice of yoga. “I find it in women, young and older, and also in priests and nuns,” she said. “The reason they come to me is because they can’t find any peace – they have anxiety – they become very angry – and they have to be delivered of these spirits.”

This was the case with Priscilla, who ended up being delivered of more than 17 different spirits that afternoon. And it all began in what seemed like an innocent exercise class.

Deconstructing this a little, it's pretty obvious to me that the yoga class was not sufficient to deal with the stress of the divorce, which of course was the real source of Priscilla's anxiety. The article doesn't mention why she left the marriage either, especially since she was a devout Catholic. I imagine that she would only divorce under extreme circumstances, and if domestic abuse was involved yoga is not going to do anything for PTSD. In fact, the parts of this narrative that don't strike me as obviously made up or exaggerated sound like Priscilla suffered from untreated mental illness that her religious beliefs caused her to associate with demons.

What's confusing to me is how, essentially, stretching is supposed to be evil. Is it the poses themselves, so if, say, you invented a system of exercise that used totally different postures, would that be okay? What about gymnastics? I can understand how for a devout Christian a yoga class that includes Hindu prayers would be an issue, but a totally secular one? If you really think about it, even if you believe in the existence of spirits and demons that simply makes no sense. Exercise is exercise, and a class that has no spiritual component has no spiritual component.

I would be very interested in seeing how much of this story can be verified, and if so how much of it isn't being told. One thing I notice right away is that Priscilla claimed to feel "like a different person" after the "deliverance," but it should be noted that she felt much better attending the yoga classes too - at first. There's no follow-up to see if the effects held, which is what we would really need to establish that her problems were the result of demons and not mental illness. And, of course, we're not going to see one.

I also find it interesting that even though Priscilla is Catholic, she didn't seek out a Roman Catholic exorcist. I wish she had, because exorcists in the Roman Catholic Church go through a whole series of tests to determine whether an apparently spiritual problem really is the result of mental illness rather than instantly assuming demonic activity like Davis did. And a test like that might have gotten Priscilla the help she probably still needs.

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Nerd said...

Haha, some people should stick to pilates!

Scott Stenwick said...

Unless there are pilates demons too...