Priest bans yoga for ‘being incompatible with Catholic faith’

Priest bans yoga for ‘being incompatible with Catholic faith’

A row has erupted over a priest banning yoga from a church hall because the class was ”not compatible” with the Catholic faith.

Yoga class

Father John Chandler from the church said that the hall has to be used for Catholic activities and he banned it because it was advertised as ‘spiritual yoga’ Photo: ALAMY

10:00AM BST 26 Sep 2012

Instructor Cori Withell said the classes she booked for yoga and pilates at St Edmund’s Church building in Southampton were cancelled with 10 days to go.

 She was told by the booking secretary of the church that it was because yoga is a Hindu religious activity.

Father John Chandler from the church said that the hall has to be used for Catholic activities and he banned it because it was advertised as ”spiritual yoga”.

The ban is not Catholic Church policy and decisions are left to the discretion of individual priests. Some Catholic retreats use yoga for relaxation.

Ms Withell, 37, from nearby Eastleigh, said the church accepted the booking two months ago and she paid £180.

She was called later and told that yoga was from another religion so she could not have the hall. A separate pilates class she had booked was also cancelled.

”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,” she said.

”But there was never any meditation in my class – it was just exercises. Yoga is not religious: spiritual, but not religious.

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

”As a nation we have an obesity epidemic. I was trying to bring some exercise to the community and coming across blocks like this is frustrating.

”I offered to go down and show them the moves and, literally, the shutters came down.”

Fr Chandler said the church was ”misled” by Ms Withell’s booking because he claimed that, at first, the hall was booked for pilates and then he found out it was also for spiritual yoga.

”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.

”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,” he explained.

”On one hand we say to our parishioners ‘be strong in your faith’, and on the other hand there’s this other religious belief that’s not part of our faith. It’s not compatible. We are not saying that yoga is bad or wrong.”

Fr Chandler added he had not researched what Ms Withell’s class would have included and he had not spoken to her about the issue because he felt ”the relationship had got off to a bad start”.

”There are other halls she could use in Southampton,” he added.

A spokesman for Portsmouth Catholic Diocese said: ”It’s not possible for Catholic premises to be used for non-Christian activities and there is a dilemma with yoga as it can be seen as Hindu meditation or as relaxation.

”There is no national policy on this and the decision is for each priest.”

About The Voice Of Bombay's Catholic Laity

Bombay Laity Ezekiel’s Chapter 3 Task as Watchman 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[b] their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
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5 Responses to Priest bans yoga for ‘being incompatible with Catholic faith’

  1. Francis S. Lobo says:

    Father John Chandler knows that Yoga is a Hindu spiritual discipline. Many of our religious use Catholic institutions to conduct YOGA. Church premises and Catholic institution should not be used to promote non-Christian and non-Catholic spirituality. Many of our priests and nuns became Yoga guru or new age Guru. We need priests like Father John Chandler in India.

  2. charmaine says:

    Yoga consists of physical actions that seek to relax the body and free tensions to allow the mind temporary freedom from the body, to mediate. The problem really is the guidance towards meditation. Hindus are guided by the philosophy of the Hindu religion, Catholics should be guided by the dogma of the religion. Many Catholics are guided by their belief in Jesus, which is not as comprehensive as the Catholic dogma, but probably dos not contradict ti.

  3. June Pereira says:

    Why does the Church not come out with a statement on the same. This leaves us catholics totally misguided and lost. I for one do practice Yoga and find nothing wrong.

    • Shri Amit Diwakar Ranade says:

      Yoga should be written and pronounced as Yog which in Sanskrit and Indian languages means balance. Ideally the Church premises are meant to further the mission. Therefore, inspite of being a Hindu I don’t feel offended if the Church refuses Yog on its premises. Yog can be performed anywhere. Find or rent an empty hall or use someone’s home!
      Indian customs, rituals and even exercises are deeply intertwined with religion, spirituality and nature. It’s because since the Vedic times Indians lived off the earth. They hunted or fetched roots and fruits. Bathed in rivers (most settlements were along rivers), worshipped the Sun, the moon, the planets, fire, rivers, trees and animals like cows (though there is considerable difference in opinion on this because some feel that beef was consumed). Idol worship began around 900 AD. Therefore anything Indian is associated with the Veds, Upanishads or Purans and other religious literature or includes elements of pagan worship. To some extent therefore the Church as an institution eyes Yog nervously and suspiciously. For example Surya namaskar, is worshipping the Sun with exercise. Even mediation or other rituals are done sitting in the padmasana. Judaism, Christianity and Islam being Abrahamic religions may be opposed to Pagan ways. Indian religions (Vedic, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) generally tend to mix Pagan and non-Pagan beliefs, worship and lifestyle.

  4. james jose says:

    It is a pity that YOGAhas been wildly spread all over from KG to all form of educational firms in medicine,psychology etc.
    The worse evil started to rule even the Christian institutions!!even nuns are learning and teaching these evil powered so called”union with God” and being same like god.
    Bible clearly says”You said in your heart,I will scale the heavens above the stars of God I will set up my throne…………….I will be like the most High(Is 14:13-14)
    The serpent said to the woman.”You will not die,for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God who knows what is good and what is bad” (Gen 3:4-5)
    so please dear Christians you shall not be the missionaries of devil.

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