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Downward Facing: The Dark Side of Yoga (Part 1)

yoga classThe "yoga wars" are hotter than ever, with both sides staking out their positions and hammering their tent pegs ever deeper into the ground, but for everyday people like 54 year-old Priscilla de George (not her real name), this isn't a matter of taking sides - it's a matter of life and death.

It was 2009 when the 54 year-old health care worker and mother of two was coming to the end of a 20 year marriage. Under a lot of stress from the divorce, even the body of this avid runner was stiffening up from the constant anxiety she was facing. When someone suggested she try a yoga class, she was all for it.

"I had heard tidbits here and there about yoga and Hindu gods, but I thought because I was a devout Catholic who was practicing my faith, all I had to do was pray to Jesus and Mary during class and I'd be safe."

Just in case, she checked with a local priest who said all those warnings about the devil and yoga were "baloney". As long as she was in good standing with the Church, it was okay to practice yoga, he said.

She enrolled in a class and really enjoyed it. Her teacher never did anything overtly spiritual in class except the usual namaste bow. The instructor would often walk around the class and help students achieve the proper posture, or encourage them to relax by imagining themselves "stretching like a tall tree reaching for the sky".  With the exception of a little statue of the sun god that she kept in the room, there was barely a hint of Hinduism in the class.

Unfortunately, the peace and pleasure she felt in class didn't come home with her. Looking back on it now, she realizes that almost as soon as she started the class, her life began spiraling even more out of control than it already was.

Aside from bickering with her ex, she took up with a new man who was good for the kids but was annoyed with her practice of the faith and repeatedly tried to keep her from Mass on Sundays.

A family squabble escalated between her and her sister that got so bad she had to go to the police to stop her sister from the continuing harassment.

Although she still can't explain why, she made the decision to leave a job she loved and held for 28 years to go back to a former employer. It was a decision she knew was wrong but somehow couldn't seem to stop herself from making. As soon as an opportunity arose to return to her previous position, she tried to get back but one mishap after another kept it from happening.

yoga white backgroundIn the midst of all this, her 17 year-old daughter tried to commit suicide.

By now, she was having panic attacks and found it difficult to focus.

She also became aware of a kind of "force" that felt like a heaviness, an oppression, that would come over her whole body and hold her back from doing what she intended to do. For instance, it made her miss an important orientation that would have gotten her back into her old job, a door that now seems to be permanently closed to her.

Life was becoming unbearable. She was nervous and shaking all the time, her mind flitting from one fearful thought to the next.

The only place she found peace was in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at a local parish. She would flee there, sometimes in the middle of the night.

As her condition worsened, she sought medical help and went to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a medical doctor. No one was able to help her.

By now, she was beginning to feel as if the "force" was inside her, telling her what to do.

"I felt like there was something inside me that wanted to force me to do things like put curses on people. There was something inside me that wasn't me."

One day, she suddenly felt compelled to remove all of the pictures and statues of God and the saints from the house. She stuffed them into a box and shoved it into a closet.

"I knew there was something very, very wrong with me," she said.

She can't exactly say when she began to feel as if she might be possessed, but this author, who knows Priscilla personally, can remember encountering her in the back of an empty church on a Saturday afternoon in October, 2013. There was a look of panic on her face when she asked to speak with me. I could tell she was upset and immediately put my arms around her. To this day, I can remember the feel of her body trembling with fear.

"I think I'm possessed. No one believes me. You've got to help me. Do you know anyone who can help me? The priests just think I'm crazy."

After calming her down, I gave her a few suggestions of priests I knew who were well-versed in the occult and could help her determine if she was indeed under demonic attack.

Right about this time, the Lord chose to intervene. The internationally known Stella Davis, a Catholic author whose work in deliverance is well known, was scheduled to come into the area to conduct a workshop and Priscilla arranged to attend. Afterward, she spoke with Davis who agreed to see her.

As bad as she believed herself to be, nothing could have prepared her for what happened next.

Click here to read Part II.

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