Hindu leader takes a contrary position on yoga class in Pennines

A disagreement over a yoga class at a church hall in the Pennines has gone global, with a Hindu elder in the American state of Nevada calling on the local vicar and the Bishop of Leeds to 'show some maturity'.

Liz Ellis at Kemps gift store in Malton, where retailers are reporting a record Saturday. 17 December 2018. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, stepped in after officials at St John the Baptist Church, which runs the village hall in Coley, near Halifax, terminated its agreement with yoga teacher Melissa Makan.

She said yoga was “not a religion”, but the vicar, James Allison, said there had been debate within the Church of England as to whether to embrace the practice, which has Hindu origins.

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“Yoga is a rainbow of different experiences and some of our congregation have issues with some styles and teachings,” he said.

Rajan Zed said in a statement that Rev Allison and the Bishop, Nick Baines, should “re-visit the issue” in the interests of local residents. He also suggested the Prime Minister should “look into” the situation.

He said that although yoga was introduced by Hinduism, it was a “world heritage and liberation powerhouse” available to all.

“The Church of England talks of love for others and engag(ing) positively with other faiths,” he added.

Ms Makan’s weekly Yoga Nidra classes used “deep relaxation” techniques to encourage participants to slow their breathing and embrace mindfulness.

In 2014 the United Nations designated June 21 each year as International Yoga Day, saying the practice was among “lifestyle patterns that foster good health”.