The declining numbers of people aligning themselves with a religion in New Zealand is well documented. At the 2013 census there were still 49% claiming to be Christians, down from 60% in 2001. There are a few religions where numbers are up, the born agains and the Eastern religions amongst them, though it appears to be Sikhs not Hindus or Muslims that are growing the fastest in the latter.
My point though is not religion itself but what appears to be replacing it.
I went to Hot Yoga for the first time yesterday and spent a whole hour sweating and looking at myself in the enormous full wall mirror that annoyingly was only a meter away from my ugly mug, that’s what happens when you’re one of the last to the class. I ended up as slippery as a wet bar of soap – not that anyone would have wanted to catch me. I didn’t keel over like one friend reportedly did when he tried to impress his girlfriend and his daughter with his moves (you know who you are!). I did feel that palpable sense of relief when it was all over. I suspect that’s part of the attraction, knowing that you’ve survived and when the overworked pores come again into contact with a normal temperature.
At the end of the class, you are encouraged to close your eyes, place your hands together in what can only be described as a prayer position, bow your head and say ”Namaste”. I muttered to my Buddhist Christian brother in law next to me that that was the only time he’d see me pray.
I do like Yoga though and have been going for the last three years or so to various studios in Wellington. I don’t like the mumbo jumbo but I do like the fact that my lower back has been much improved along with my flexibility. Both my young adult children will concede that I’m bendier than they are.
Anything that lasts for apparently 5000 years must have something going for it and incidentally the first registered Yoga organisation in New Zealand was started in 1936.
So my argument is that Yoga is one thing that has supplanted religion in this funny word we live in. The other is that other shared, uncomfortable religious experience. The mass concert. Last weekend I think I must have been the only middle aged middle class wanker that didn’t make the pilgrimage to see Adele in Auckland. No, I’m not going to get all snobby and say that I don’t like her because I do and yes I believe that the show was great and she was funny and fruity and kept you amused.
However, do we all really need to see the same person at the same show? The evangelist Billy Graham toured NZ in 1959 and drew crowds of 60,000 in each of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I could ask, is that “Someone Like You” Adele?
Having said that I’ll see you at the Lions game in Wellington, I might well be the one praying and then later in the year, tickets permitting, we’ll be off to see that well known popular entertainer Yusuf Islam.