CHURUMURI POLL: Is yoga only for Hindus?

Two vicars in Britain have kicked off a minor storm by disallowing yoga classes for mothers and children in their churches, claiming that the ancient exercise method is “un-Christian”. “I explained to the church that my yoga is a completely non-religious activity. Some types of adult yoga are based on Hindu and Buddhist meditation but it’s not a part of the religion and there is no dogma involved,” said yoga instructor Louise Woodcock.

However, the Reverend Simon Farr of the Silver Street Baptist Church said: “We are a Christian organisation and when we let rooms to people we want them to understand that they must be fully in line with our Christian ethos. Clearly, yoga impinges on the spiritual life of people in a way which we, as Christians, don’t believe is the same as our ethos.”

And Reverend Tim Jones of St. James‘ Church said: “Any alternative philosophies or beliefs are offering a sham—and at St James’s Church we want people to have the real thing. The philosophy of yoga cannot be separated from the practice of it, and any teacher of yoga, even to toddlers, must subscribe to the philosophy.

Questions: Although it originates as a spiritual practice in India and finds mention as part of Hindu philosophy in all the sacred texts, is yoga a tradition that only Hindus must practice? Although the two vicars do not represent the Church in its entirety, are the hundreds of thousands of non-Hindus who flock to India to learn it here, and those who practice it in their own lands, making a mistake, comitting an apostasy? And even if Yoga is rooted in Hinduism, is it so wrong and so difficult for one religion, any religion, to accept what is good in other religions?