A growing number of Georgians are turning to yoga to shake off the stress of daily life. But their quest for inner calm and smaller waists is generating hostility from the powerful Georgian Orthodox Church.
Over the past two years, yoga has gone from a largely unknown Eastern tradition to a popular fitness routine in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Georgian National Yoga Federation President Giorgi Berdzenishvili, a passionate practitioner for the past 15 years, called the trend a “dynamic” process that started under former Soviet leader Mikheil Gorbachev’s glasnost’ policies in the late 1980s.
During the Soviet era, when religious beliefs were discouraged, yoga tended to be viewed as a fringe health-oriented practice, devoid of spirituality, Berdzenishvili noted. But slowly, over the past several years, amid increased Internet usage and travel abroad, yoga has moved into the mainstream in Georgian society.
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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist who also works as editor of Investor.ge, a monthly publication by the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia.