Leaders of Britain's Hindu community are expressing disbelief and outrage at claims by two English church ministers that yoga should be banned after saying that the meditative exercise is a sham and not compatible with Christianity - writes Trevor Grundy.
"I have written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, about the reported actions of the two men," Anil Bhanot, general secretary of the Hindu Council U.K., told Ecumenical News International. "These priests might appear to be advising Christians not to practice yoga because they believe it is based on a sham and a false philosophy. But what in effect they are saying is that Hinduism is a false religion."
The Hindu council's spokesperson on yoga, Amarjeet-singh Bhamra, noted: "It is very disappointing that such medieval-like irrational prejudice is still allowed to flourish in the Christian church in 21st century multicultural Britain."
On 31 August 2007, The Times newspaper reported that a children's exercise class was banned from two church halls in Taunton in southwest England because it was teaching yoga.
Louise Woodcock, 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 the St James' Anglican Church.
Woodcock had been using the Baptist church hall to conduct her classes, which were based on songs and simple movements aimed at relaxing small children, when the Rev. Simon Farrar withdrew his consent after he discovered she was teaching yoga.
"We are a Christian organization," Farrar was quoted as saying by The Times, "and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in turn with our Christian ethos".
The Rev Tim Jones of St James' Church said, "Yoga has its roots in Hinduism …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".
Still, Bhamra, one of about 600 000 Hindus in Britain, told ENI, "Yoga is one of the oldest medical systems enshrined in the Atharva Veda, the most ancient Hindu book on wisdom, and it is now at the forefront of holistic and integrated medicine in the West."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]