On May 3 2022, a Facebook user warned that “yoga Barbie” poses a spiritual threat to innocent children:
“Yoga Barbie” is at Target on the shelf. Satan always comes as appearing innocent. He will never come with horns and a pitchfork. This Barbie has 5 guided meditations. Remember, Yoga IS Hinduism. You cannot separate the poses from the religion. Each pose is designed to invoke a hindu deity in the spirit realm. I have seen children get possessed by demons. This Barbie also teaches you deep breathing(pranayama). Her pet is also involved. Satan is after the children. He wants to use them and indoctrinate them for his glory. Then, when he is done, he will destroy them. As your kids grow, they will get rebellious, depressed and many will be suicidal. You won’t understand what’s happening as a parent. God forbids all practices of eastern religion as a Christian. You must remove all toys and clean your children’s room of all demonic attachments. Deuteronomy 18:10-12
The ‘Yoga Barbie’ Facebook Post
An attached photograph showed a Barbie doll on a shelf at an unnamed Target location. Screenshots of both the image and the Facebook status update were shared to Imgur on May 12 2022, in a post titled “SATAN YOGA BARBIE”:
At the bottom of the image, the product’s name (“Breathe with Me Barbie”) was visible. Imagery on the packaging included an illustration of Barbie in a yoga pose:
On May 12 2022, screenshots of the same post also appeared on Reddit’s r/insanepeoplefacebook, titled “Yoga Barbie is the new Satanic panic!”
On Facebook, the post was shared nearly 30,000 times as of May 12 2022. Notably, the same individual published a May 2022 Instagram post claiming that unicorns also pose a sincere spiritual risk to small children:
Many people have contacted me through the years about their children seeing orbs in their bedrooms, spirits or having nightmares in their sleep. Many of them have had UNICORNS in their room. Toys, clothes and obsessions with unicorn is common now. Today, the unicorn is a decidedly more magical, gentle creature, running around on rainbows and inspiring millions with regular appearances in “My Little Pony”. Unicorns have also been said to be the representations of light and good magic. Their horns have been said to be made from diamond, to gold, to silver, and even to pure concentrated magic. These unicorns, as innocent as they look, are occult in nature. Satan come innocently into our children’s lives. ALL UNICORNS must be removed, renounced and destroyed in your home. We are to have NOTHING to do with the OCCULT/WITCHCRAFT.
Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Does The Book of Deuteronomy Prohibit ‘Yoga Barbie’?
The post referenced Deuteronomy 18:10-12, which BibleGateway provided as follows:
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.
Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Bible’s Old Testament, and chapters four through eleven pertained to “serving gods other than Yahweh.” Additional sections of the Book of Deuteronomy forbade charging interest on debt, commanded the cancellation of debts “the end of every seven years,” mandated giving “generously to [the poor] and do so without a grudging heart,” and directed caring for the “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow”; neither yoga nor Barbie dolls were referenced anywhere.
Do Yoga Poses ‘Invoke’ Hindu Deities, and Can Christians Do Yoga?
Since the mid-20th century, asanas have been used, especially in the Western world, as physical exercise. In this context, their “overtly Hindu” purpose is masked but its “ecstatic … transcendent … possibly subversive” elements remain. That context has led to a division of opinion among Christians, some asserting that it is acceptable as long as they are aware of yoga’s origins, others stating that hatha yoga’s purpose is inherently Hindu, making Christian yoga an evident contradiction or indeed “diametrically opposed to Christianity.” A similar debate has taken place in a Muslim context; under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, yoga, formerly banned as a Hindu practice, has been legalised, while mainly-Hindu Bali has held a yoga competition in defiance of a ruling by Indonesia’s Muslim Ulema Council.
In a secular context, the journalists Nell Frizzell and Reni Eddo-Lodge have debated (in The Guardian) whether Western yoga classes represent “cultural appropriation.” In Frizzell’s view, yoga has become a new entity, a long way from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and while some practitioners are culturally insensitive, others treat it with more respect. Eddo-Lodge agrees that Western yoga is far from Patanjali, but argues that the changes cannot be undone, whether people use it “as a holier-than-thou tool, as a tactic to balance out excessive drug use, or practised similarly to its origins with the spirituality that comes with it.”
Controversies about yoga as it relates to Christianity were not uncommon on social media. In 2018, Vox.com published an explainer following a controversy initiated on Twitter due to a blogger’s inaccurate opinion that yoga was a “pagan ritual.”
In 2015, the Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan’s “Ask-A-Theologian” addressed the “Catholic position” on yoga. That analysis began with an observation people sought an “outright condemnation” of yoga practices, and added that the Vatican had never discouraged it:
I have received a couple inquiries about Yoga by e-mail, and heard of others by word of mouth. It seems that a lot of the faithful are wondering what a Catholic is supposed to think about Yoga. Many even desire an outright condemnation from the Church.
That such a condemnation has not yet occurred is an important factor for anyone seeking to honestly answer this question. Despite registering certain concerns, the Vatican has not felt compelled to tell Catholics that yoga is totally out of bounds. Why not?
Many arguments Catholics tend to use against the practice of yoga are, in fact, unCatholic – even superstititous. Those who argue that the practice of putting one’s body into certain positions automatically opens one to malign supernatural forces are making the same mistake that St. Paul criticized in 1 Corinthians 8 when he told those in his congregation who were concerned about eating food that had been offered to idols (much of the available meat in Paul’s time would have come from pagan temples) that “we know that no idol in the world really exists.”
The physical positions of yoga have no more spiritual power of themselves than meat from a pagan temple differs from any other meat. Consequently, there is no problem with a Catholic using various stretches and exercises that may help her or his bad back just because they happen to be yoga poses.
That analysis went on to note that any Catholic yoga practitioner “needs to be clear that they are merely exercising,” but that there “can be nothing inherently wrong with exercises that enhance our health and wellbeing.” A 2013 BBC article about whether yoga was inherently religious covered concerns from several religions, explaining:
Yoga classes vary. While some feature the chanting of Hindu sutras, others will make vaguer references to a “life force” or “cosmic energy”. A session might end with a greeting of “namaste” and a gesture of prayer. There will probably be a moment for meditation, at which point participants may be encouraged to repeat the sacred word “Om”, which Buddhists and Hindus regard as a primordial sound which brought the universe into being.
But other classes may make no overt reference to spirituality at all.
It’s worth noting that many of the post’s claims clearly echoed the long-debunked “Satanic Panic” conspiracy theory that engulfed Americans in the 1980s, an antisemitic disinformation campaign that is perhaps most recognizable in recent history in its most recent iteration, QAnon.
Is ‘Yoga Barbie’ New?
A 2012 article on PhillyMag.com described a “Yoga Teacher Barbie,” purportedly part of an “I Can Be …” line from Mattel; many of the page links had since disappeared:
And so, it happened. Barbie became a yoga teacher.
Word of the new Mattel-issued doll has been making its way around the internet over the past week [in June 2012]. The Barbie, found at Target stores, is part of the brand’s “I Can Be…” collection, which also includes Barbies pursuing careers as architects, lifeguards, tennis pros and movie stars. Yoga Teacher Barbie comes with a pink yoga mat and tiny dog (for accessorizing, duh).
Mattel’s “Made to Move” line of Barbies (on Amazon since 2018) featured a “trendy mesh top and colorful yoga pants,” and were seen in yoga-like poses in product photographs. The “Barbie Breathe with Me” doll appeared on Amazon in January 2020, and a March 2020 People.com article reported the line was a collaboration with meditation app Headspace:
Barbie partnered with meditation company Headspace to create the dolls. The two companies also teamed up to release custom guided meditations for kids “to raise awareness around nurturing overall emotional well-being through mindfulness exercises.”
The meditation doll (called “Breathe with Me Barbie”) includes a button children can press to play one of the guided meditations. Each meditation session is 4 minutes long, and focuses on themes like kindness, staying positive and settling down.
Breathe with Me Barbie Isn’t Even a Yoga Doll
Although Barbie appeared to begin dabbling with yoga as early as 2012, Mattel’s product page for “Breathe with Me Barbie” indicated that the doll’s function was meditation — not yoga.
A complete product description explained that the doll did included five guided meditations for children, explaining its purpose as “wellness,” “self-care,” and awareness of emotional states:
Barbie® doll knows the way to be one’s best is to give yourself the best care! This meditation-themed doll celebrates one of her favorite ways to recharge using lights and sound — mindfulness meditation. The set comes with a Barbie® doll, a puppy and four cloud emojis. Kids simply press the button in Barbie® doll’s necklace to activate one of five guided meditation exercises that use light and sound effects to inspire their own practice. Her puppy helps her visualize — insert one of the cloud emojis into its head to represent a meditative thought bubble, then switch it up for new meditation inspiration. Breathe with Me Barbie™ doll is dressed in cozy loungewear and features extra flexibility for realistic posing and active play. Kids can collect all the Barbie® wellness dolls to explore self-care and expand their worlds because when a girl plays with Barbie®, she imagines everything she can become! Each sold separately, subject to availability.
- Kids can practice self-care as they help Breathe with Me Barbie™ doll with her meditation practice.
- Barbie® doll has lights and sounds designed to inspire mindfulness — press the button in her necklace to start one of five guided meditation exercises that kids can practice, too.
- The puppy helps Barbie® doll focus with visualization: place one of the four cloud emojis — Love Rainbow, Sad Rain, Happy Sunshine or Grumpy Red — into its head to express an emotion; switch them up to express a new feeling.
- Barbie® doll wears inspirational loungewear with a cloud and rainbow graphic on her top and a cloud print on her pants.
- She also features 15 ‘joints’ for more realistic movement and posing — at the neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, thighs, hips, knees and ankles.
A May 2022 “yoga Barbie” controversy followed a viral Facebook post, claiming that Mattel’s “Breathe with Me Barbie” was “Satan” in disguise, and that yoga poses “invoke a Hindu deity”; the same poster made nearly identical claims and biblical references about unicorns as a secret indoctrination tool. Barbie dolls with yoga themes dated back to 2012, and the doll in question was released in 2020. As for the “Breathe with Me Barbie” depicted in the post, the doll in question was not yoga themed. Mattel introduced “Breathe with Me Barbie” in a 2020 collaboration with meditation app Headspace, designing it to help children relax and better identify and express their emotions.