Hindus are disheartened over a church affiliated to Church of England banning yoga in its premises.
According to reports, St. Andrew's Church and Centre, opened in 1999 in Dibden Purlieu, banned an 81 years old Christian instructor Eileen Meegan who is great-grandmother of five, from teaching yoga in the church hall, claiming that it was against the church’s religion and dangerous for the mind. “…doing yoga has enhanced my faith as a Christian”, Meegan was quoted as saying and termed church’s action as “ignorance”.
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.
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 an Episcopal News Service article titled “Yoga for Episcopalians – a healing discipline” in the past said: “Yoga can teach us to improve our posture, or sharpen our focus during Mass.” St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Washington (DC) “has offered quality yoga instruction” since 1978 emphasizing “effective breathing, mastery of asanas (comfortably held postures), relaxation, positive thinking, and meditation as elements of healthy spiritual living that promote happiness and true knowledge of self”. St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne (Pennsylvania) offered in the past “A Quiet Morning of Yoga and Centering Prayer” which included “30 minutes in a guided meditation for a deep, conscious rest”. It also offered “Yoga with Spirit” “vigorous yoga classes”. Episcopal Church was derived from Church of England.
Rajan Zed argued that it was simply “un-Christian” to refuse services to a yoga instructor who was trying to help the pensioners de-stress, calm their minds and improve their flexibility through yoga. 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.
St. Andrew's Church and Centre in the Diocese of Winchester and part of The Church of England has a 150-seat hall, a comfortable lounge, a large kitchen, and several other rooms, which are extensively used by the community for various activities, including social events and lace making. "We are a warm and friendly church called to love and serve God and the community”, its website says and it displays "Jennie's Shape Up & Dance Class" and "Jo Jingles Music and Movement Classes" being held in the complex. “The Centre meets the dual purpose that was envisaged from the beginning: to serve both the members of St Andrew's and also the wider population of Dibden Purlieu”, website notes. Reverend John Currin, Reverend Sarah Hayward and Anne Murphy are Rector, Curate and Parish Administrator respectively. Right Reverend Tim Dakin is Bishop of Winchester.
About 1.7 million people take part in a Church of England (headquartered in London) service each month, 12 million people visit its cathedrals annually and it has over 19,500 licensed ministers. The Church of England “seeks to build up good relations with people of other faith traditions, and where possible to co-operate with them in service to society”, its website states.
“The Church of England encourages openness, welcome and hospitality towards people of other faiths and none. Christian hospitality is an essential part of mission. The church community should not be seen as a closed or exclusive group, but open and available to all who want to come in. Often churches have halls or buildings which others in the community ask to use and allowing groups the use of such facilities can be a useful way of allowing the wider community contact with Christian life, witness and hospitality, as well as a useful source of revenue where groups pay for hire of facilities”, website adds. Her Majesty the Queen is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.