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Hindus disheartened at Catholic Church banning yoga in England
Published in Bikya Masr on 27 - 09 - 2012

Hindus are disappointed over a church in United Kingdom (UK) banning yoga in its premises.
According to reports, St Edmund's Church in Southampton (UK) banned yoga from the Church hall on the premise that it was not-compatible with the Catholic faith. Instructor Cori Withell's yoga classes, which were booked with payment of £180 two months ago at the Church, were cancelled with 10 days to go, despite her claims that it was just exercises and she did not use meditation in her classes, reports suggest.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, yoga was 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.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged 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.
Rajan Zed stated that yoga, referred as “a living fossil" whose traces went back to around 2,000 BCE to Indus Valley civilization, was a mental and physical discipline handed down from one guru to next, for everybody to share and benefit from. According to Patanjali who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical. It was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.
Zed pointed out that world-famous Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago (USA) had offered “Catholic Yoga" classes in the past. Website of this Cathedral, which is both a parish and the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago, then said: “Join us as we explore the multiple spiritual and physical benefits of yoga practice while explicitly integrating prayers and spiritual themes of our Catholic faith." Instructors for “Catholic Yoga" included Ali Niederkorn, who claimed to be “a devoted Catholic and a practicing yogi.”
Rajan Zed noted that Vatican Library reportedly carried books on Bhaktiyoga, Yoga, Yoga-system of Patanjali, Yogic Powers and God Realization, etc. Vatican included well-known verse from ancient Hindu scripture Brhadaranyaka-Upanishad (“Lead me from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality.”) in “Way of the Cross at the Colesseum" Meditations and Prayers on Good Friday 2009 led by Pope and put together by Vatican Office for the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff. In “Verbum Domini" (The Word of the Lord) apostolic exhortation released on November 11, 2010, Pope Benedict wrote about “the sense of the sacred, sacrifice and fasting..." in Hinduism.
Zed indicated that Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles (USA), a premier Roman Catholic university rooted in the Jesuit and Marymount traditions, had offered Certificate Program in Yoga Philosophy in the past. An article, appearing in the September 2010 issue of “U.S. Catholic" magazine, published by Claretians, a Roman Catholic religious community of priests and brothers, said: “Yoga had completely transformed my Catholicism". Titled “Om-schooled: How Yoga can influence your Catholic prayer", this article further said: “Catholics can take a lesson from the Hindu tradition of yoga when it comes to praying with body, mind, and spirit". Church of Saint Paul the Apostle (Roman Catholic) in New York had offered in the past “series of yoga postures, set to music".
Rajan Zed argued that it was simply “un-Christian" to refuse services to a yoga instructor who was trying to help the community fight the obesity epidemic by introducing them to some exercise. Love and compassion was the hallmark of Christian ethics. Gospel According to John 13: 34 said: “...Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."
Zed stresses that in our shared pursuit for the truth; we can learn from one another and thus can arrive nearer to the truth. Dialogue may help us vanquish the stereotypes, prejudices, caricatures, etc., passed on to us from previous generations, Zed adds.
According to United States National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. According to an estimate, about 16 million Americans, including many celebrities, now practice yoga.
According to St. Edmund's (dated from 1889) website, it is “warm, welcoming and diverse...Catholics and people of any Christian community or faith (or none) are able to use St Edmund's Church as a place of quiet and reflection throughout the day...As a community we are very conscious of our responsibility to reach out to the wider community and to offer a welcome to all."
“The hall next to St. Edmund's, with a small kitchen, is available for hire at a rate of £15 per hour." Monsignor Vincent Harvey is the Parish Priest and Father John Chandler is Assistant Priest.


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