A yoga teacher who claims she was forced out of a long-standing hire agreement with a church community hall has described the saga as “unbelievable”.
Melissa Makan, 37, was told her agreement with St John the Baptist C of E Church, which runs the village hall in Coley, was to be terminated at the end of the year after concerns were raised by members of the church congregation.
“It’s ridiculous,” she said, ”I’ve been teaching for about eight months at the church hall.
“I received a text five minutes before a class to say the December class would have to be the last one we do.
“I was told a friend of the vicar’s wife said she had been to the class, the vicar found it out was yoga, and he is totally against it. I was then told it’s not just the vicar but also the PCC.
“Yoga isn’t a religion. If I could explain it to him, or he could come and see it for himself, but they haven’t tried to understand it.
“I don’t know how they can form an opinion without understanding what it it’s about. Anyone is welcome, and we help people with stress and anxiety.”
Her once-a-week Yoga Nidra classes utilised ‘deep relaxation’ techniques and encourage participants to slow their breathing and embrace mindfulness.
After a period of time looking for an appropriate venue, these classes will resume at Wade House Community Centre in neighbouring Shelf.
James Allison, vicar of St John’s, Coley, said there has been debate within the Christian community for many years as to whether to embrace yoga, which has Hindu origins.
He said that efforts had been made to reach out to Melissa but that Tuesday’s Parochial Church Council decision was final.
He added: “We had a meeting and took the unanimous decision not to renew the yoga class agreement in the hall.
“Yoga is a rainbow of different experiences and some of our congregation have issues with some styles and teachings.
“Some open-mind meditation can be unhelpful to certain people and great care has to be taken over how it is taught.
“We’ve got no reason to doubt the teacher, but much like in the case of not allowing gambling or alcohol in the community hall, we can’t be responsible for that.
“We didn’t kick them out, we offered to continue the agreement until the end of the month to allow time for them to find a new place.”
Catherine Horsfall, who attends the yoga class, said she was shocked to hear of the row.
She said: "I have been attending Melissa Makan’s Yoga Nidra classes since April and have found Melissa to be extremely professional, friendly and dedicated to helping people with relaxation.
"I am a working mum of two, my husband work longs hours therefore I get very little time to relax and therefore struggle to de-stress. I also have some medical conditions including chronic migraine and chronic insomnia.
"The class helps me release stress and tension and has improved the quality of my sleep.
"The benefits of Yoga Nidra has most definitely improved my health and given me better quality of sleep. I am worried that if I don’t attend this regularly my health will again deteriorate rapidly. It has no relation to religion whatsoever."