A Catholic priest has banned a yoga class from taking place in his in Southampton, England, church hall because of the practice's Hindu roots.
"Yoga is a Hindu spiritual exercise," Father John Chandler, pastor of St. Edmund's Church, said of his decision, according to the BBC. "Being a Catholic church we have to promote the Gospel, and that's what we use our premises for."
He added, "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."
According to Chandler, the church was "misled" when fitness instructor Cori Withell booked the church for her classes two months ago. Initially he believed Withell would only be leading a pilates class, but he later found out she was planning to lead a "spiritual yoga" class as well. In the end both classes were canceled.
Withell told The Telegraph her yoga class was just for exercise, and it didn't feature any meditation. She also said the practice is not religious in nature but admits that it is "spiritual," and says the church declined when she offered to show them the moves she would teach in the class.
''I do not object to anyone having a religious viewpoint, but it seemed terribly petty to cancel the classes," she said. ''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."
While some people believe yoga should not be practiced by Christians, others have tried to redeem it by adding Christian principles to the exercise.
JoAnn Bauer, communications director for Holy Yoga, told The Christian Post on Wednesday that yoga can actually be used for Christian worship.
"The Word of God states that all things are redeemable, and that the Lord is sovereign over all things, for all eternity, in all directions. And if that is true, and we believe that to be true, that would include the practice of yoga," said Bauer.
Holy Yoga incorporates Christian scriptures, prayer and music into each session, and Bauer calls it a "moving Bible study" or "experiential worship." There are currently over 600 Holy Yoga instructors who facilitate classes across 43 states and 10 different countries.
"Yoga, in and of itself, is not a religion," said Bauer. "It is a discipline just as, for example, fasting can be utilized as a spiritual discipline."
In a blog post from last November, however, Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., says there is nothing wrong with stretching and breathing exercises, but the tenets of yoga are "by definition a worship act to spirit beings other than the God of the Bible."
"Thinking through whether a Christian can redeem yoga becomes murky. As I alluded to earlier, going to a yoga studio to practice yoga as a Christian is a bit like going into a mosque to practice Islam as a Christian," said Driscoll.
"They don't go together. Complicating the issue even more is that ... yoga is often not overt in its teachings but rather weaves them through seemingly harmless practices such as stretching. Without a discerning spirit, one can find oneself naively participating in spiritual activities that are not Christian."
The Catholic Church as a whole does not forbid yoga, but leaves it up to each local pastor to decide whether or not the exercise will be permitted in their local church's facilities.