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Thursday, 27 September 2012

British priest bans 'spiritual' yoga from church hall

A British priest has banned yoga from the parish hall because it is "a Hindu spiritual exercise" and therefore "not compatible" with Catholicism, according to news reports from the kingdom.

Cori Withell told The Mirror that with just 10 days remaining in the two-month instruction, St. Edmund's Church in Southampton canceled her yoga and Pilates classes. She said a parish secretary explained that the hall must be used only for Catholic activities.

The decision to ban yoga or other non-Catholic activities rests with individual priests and is not official Catholic Church policy, the diocese said.

St. Edmund's priest, Father John Chandler, and the diocese said Withell had misled them by booking the hall for Pilates and later advertising separate yoga classes. They apologized for the inconvenience.

"Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise. Being a Catholic church we have to promote the gospel and that's what we use our premises for," Chandler said. "We did say that yoga could not take place. It's the fact that it's a different religious practice going on in a Catholic church. ... It's not compatible. We are not saying that yoga is bad or wrong."

It's been a learning experience for Withell, whose classes were aimed at helping overweight Britons slim down.

"I had never heard about any religious issue with yoga before but I have looked into it since and found that some other religions feel that when people meditate it could let the devil inside them," Withell told the paper. "But there was never any meditation in my class -- it was just exercises."

She added, "I do not object to anyone having a religious viewpoint, but it seemed terribly petty to cancel the classes."

Ravindra Parmar, president of the Vedic Society Hindu Temple of Southampton, told the BBC that yoga was "a form of exercise" and "not a religious type of activity." He said he felt "a little let down" because of efforts by the local faith council to "get all the faiths talking to each other."

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