37-year-old banned from using Catholic church hall despite paying up beforehand
She said the class was just for exercise and did not feature meditation
Ban not Catholic church policy - decision left to discretion of individual priests
(Mail Online) She meant her yoga classes to be a calming and relaxing experience for all those concerned.
Instead, Cori Withell has ended up flustered and frustrated after a priest banned her from his church hall because her lessons are ‘not compatible’ with the Catholic faith.
The 37-year-old instructor was told by Father John Chandler that yoga is a Hindu religious activity and therefore not in keeping with his rules on promoting Catholic activities.
The ban is not Catholic church policy and decisions are left to the discretion of individual priests.
Miss Withell said staff at St Edmund’s Church in Southampton accepted the booking two months ago and she paid £180.
But with just ten days to go before the start of the classes she was called 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.
She said: '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.
'But there was never any meditation in my class – it was just exercises.
'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 tried to explain to the church that my yoga classes were not religious at all and I even offered to come and demonstrate the class.
'It is about calmness and relaxation.'
Father Chandler said the church was 'misled' by Miss 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.
He said: '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.
Religious: Father John Chandler, left, said the lesson, advertised by this flyer, right, was not in keeping with his rules on promoting Catholic activities
Welcome: A spokesman for the diocese said in 17 years it was the first time he had commented on a yoga ban
'We are not saying that yoga is bad or wrong.'
Yoga enthusiasts criticised Father Chandler’s stance as 'ignorant' and even urged the priest to try a session.
Pierre Bibby, of the charity British Wheel of Yoga, said: 'Research demonstrates yoga improves people's health and wellbeing physically and mentally. Who could object to that?'
Give it a go: Yoga enthusiasts criticised the priest's stance as 'ignorant' and urged him to try it out
A spokesman for the local Diocese of Portsmouth said in 17 years it was the first time he had been asked to comment on a yoga ban but it was up to individual priests.
He said: 'We don’t allow anything that can be construed as non-Christian worship.
'There is a dilemma with yoga, which could be seen as a form of relaxation – or a non-Christian, possible Hindu, meditation.
'On the other hand, from the calls I have made there are some Catholic retreats which offer yoga.'
Cross-over: The diocese spokesman said he understood there were some Catholic retreats offering yoga.