A children’s exercise class has been banned from two church halls because it is teaching yoga. The group has been turned away by vicars who described yoga as a sham and un-Christian.
Louise Woodcock, 41, who was looking for a new home for her Yum Yum Yoga class for toddlers was turned away by the Silver Street Baptist Church and St James’s Anglican Church in Taunton, Somerset.
Miss Woodcock says that the ban is ridiculous as the classes simply involve music and movement with no religious content. She said: “I couldn’t believe it when they suddenly said I couldn’t have the hall any more because yoga is against their Christian ethos. It’s crazy because we’re talking about kids pretending to be animals and doing exercise routines to rhymes.
“I explained to the church that my yoga is a completely nonreligious activity. Some types of adult yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation but it’s not a part of the religion and there is no dogma involved.
“This is a class for mums and children, which has yoga-inspired moves — but as soon as I mentioned the word yoga the church staff completely changed their attitude. They have completely misunderstood and are being narrow minded.”
Miss Woodcock, who has a two-year-old daughter, was given permission originally to use the hall at Silver Street Baptist Church for a children’s activity group. The Rev Simon Farrar withdrew his consent after discovering it was for yoga.
She was then turned away from St James’s Church for the same reason.
Yoga is a series of exercises and postures (asanas) which are advertised as a way to tone up, reduce stress and experience tranquility.
Yoga though is an intrinsic part of Hinduism. Swami Vishnudevananda, well known authority of Yoga, in his book The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga explains the purpose of Yoga, “It is the duty of each developed man to train his body to the highest degree of perfection so that it may be used to pursue spiritual purposes… the aim of all yoga practice is to achieve truth wherein the individual soul identifies itself with the supreme soul of God.”
– Source: Yoga, a Profile by Watchman Fellowship
Mr Farrar defended the decision yesterday. He said: “We are a Christian organisation and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our Christian ethos.
“Clearly, yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we as Christians don’t believe is the same as our ethos.
“If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there wouldn’t be a problem but she’s called it yoga and therefore there is a dividing line we’re not prepared to cross.”
The Rev Tim Jones, vicar of St James’s, said: “Any alternative philosophies or beliefs are offering a sham – and at St James’s Church we want people to have the real thing. Yoga has its roots in Hinduism, and attempts to use exercises and relaxation techniques to put a person into a calm frame of mind – in touch with some kind of impersonal spiritual reality.
“The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga, even to toddlers, must subscribe to the philosophy.
“Yoga may appear harmless or even beneficial, but it is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques – whereas the only true way to wholeness is by faith in God through Jesus Christ.”
Miss Woodcock has now managed to book a village hall for her classes.