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Catholic priest's yoga ban angers leading Hindu cleric
A PRIEST’S ban on yoga classes at a church hall has sparked an international row after one of the world’s leading Hindus launched a scathing attack on him.
President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, last night called for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to “intervene immediately” to reverse the ban, saying the exercise should be enjoyed by everyone.
As exclusively revealed by the Daily Echo, Father John Chandler said Cori Withell could not teach yoga at St Edmund’s Church off The Avenue, Southampton , because the classes were “not compatible” with the Catholic faith due to their roots in Hinduism. He added that facilities were only for Catholic activities.
Now leading Hindu Rajan Zed, who became the first to offer a Hindu prayer at the US Senate after appearing as its guest chaplain in 2007, has entered the row.
Speaking from America, he branded Father Chandler “simply un-Christian to refuse services to a yoga instructor, who was trying to help fight the obesity epidemic by introducing them to some exercise.”
He said yoga was a mental and physical discipline handed down from one guru to the next for everybody to share and benefit from.
He said: “Although introduced and nourished by Hinduism yoga is a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all.
“One could still practice one’s respective faith and do yoga. Yoga would rather help one in achieving one’s spiritual goals in whatever religion one believed in. It was not at odds with any faith and rather made one spiritually healthier.”
He said even the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago had offered Catholic yoga and claimed the Vatican library had books on the discipline.
The religious leader added: “I call for the immediate intervention of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in this matter to restore the yoga classes in St Edmund’s to bring goodwill among the communities.”
Meanwhile yoga teacher Cori said she was still looking for a hall to host her Unite classes – a mixture of yoga and pilates.
The 36-year-old, of Eastleigh , said she backed the Hindu leader’s call for action from the Bishops.
She said: “I think the Catholic churches in the UK either need to ban yoga completely or accept it. There needs to be a universal decision so people know where they stand.
“It is a very archaic view, which is why it has touched a nerve with a lot of people and I think the terms religion and spiritual have been very confused in this debate.
“It is a combination of factors. There is me trying to make a living, the religious issues, the health issues, stress issues and then the issue with interfaith relations in the community.”