Devon

Hindu leaders 'sad' at Barnstaple church hall yoga ban

Atsuko Kato. Pic: Peter Wormington, Moonshine Photographer Image copyright Peter Wormington, Moonshine Photographer
Image caption Atsuko Kato said she was "very surprised" she could not hire the hall

Hindu leaders have criticised a ban on a yoga teaching at a church hall.

Atsuko Kato, who teaches in north Devon, was told she could not hire a hall in Barnstaple, north Devon.

The Church of England said each parish could decide if "eastern spirituality is something they feel happy with in their church premises".

Hindu Council UK said the move was "over-protective" by the Church, "notwithstanding the health benefits of yoga".

Image copyright Google
Image caption No yoga lessons allowed at the Pilton Church Hall

Ms Kato, who has been teaching yoga for 25 years, said she was "surprised" when staff who deal with hall bookings for St Mary's Church Pilton told her, "we don't let the hall out for yoga".

She said yoga had become a "mainstream activity" with "benefits for health, for relaxation".

Hindu Council UK said the issue had "quietened down" after a number of challenges to the Church on similar yoga bans.

'Love and respect'

"We are sad it has come up again as yoga, whilst originated in Hinduism, is adopted by Christians and secularists the world over for its health and fitness benefits," it said in a statement.

It said the spirituality in yoga "depends on the individual upon which no religion has a monopoly on" but "any guidance a religion offers on spirituality can only enhance love and respect for humanity in general".

It added that Hindus "do not seek conversions to religious labels but to the goodness in humankind as was the line taken by Jesus Christ".

The Venerable Mark Butchers, archdeacon of Barnstaple, said the Church of England "has always been trying to be as we welcoming as possible" but policies would "vary from parish to parish".

"Some will say at its root is an eastern spirituality which they would not feel sits well with Christian spirituality," he said.

"Others would say its more about health and community benefits and would not mind at all."

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