A yoga group for toddlers has been banned from two church halls by ministers who branded it a "sham" and "un-Christian".
Louise Woodcock, 41, the group's teacher, was told that the ancient Hindu and Buddhist meditation method "impinges" on the spiritual agenda of the churches.
Yesterday, Miss Woodcock, who has been turned away from Silver Street Baptist Church and St James's Church of England church in Taunton, Somerset, said the claims were "ridiculous" because her classes simply involve music and movement.
"I couldn't believe it when they suddenly said I couldn't have the hall any more because yoga is against their Christian ethos," she said. "It's crazy because we're talking about kids pretending to be animals and doing exercise routines to rhymes - it's really sweet.
"There is nothing that could damage their minds in any shape or form. The Church have completely misunderstood it and I think they are being narrow-minded."
Yoga originates from Hindu meditation techniques to achieve control of the body and mind, but in modern times it is used as a type of exercise.
Miss Woodcock, who has been teaching for 20 years, added: "I explained to the Church that my yoga is a completely non-religious activity. There is no dogma involved."
She was originally given permission to use the Baptist Church hall for a children's activity group, but the minister, the Rev Simon Farrar, withdrew his consent after discovering it was for yoga. Days later St James's barred her for the same reason. Rev Farrar yesterday defended his decision. "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. If it was just a group of children singing nursery rhymes, there wouldn't be a problem. But, she's called it yoga and therefore there is a dividing line we're not prepared to cross."
Rev Tim Jones, the vicar of St James's, said: "Any alternative philosophies or beliefs are offering a sham - and at St James's church we want people to have the real thing.
"Yoga has its roots in Hinduism, and attempts to use exercises and relaxation techniques to put a person into a calm frame of mind - in touch with some kind of impersonal spiritual reality.
"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.
"As Christians we believe that this philosophy is false and not something we wish to encourage. Yoga is encouraging people to think that there is a way to wholeness of body and mind through human techniques - whereas the only true way to wholeness is by faith in God through Jesus Christ."
Miss Woodcock has moved her classes to a nearby village hall.
Last Mod: 31 Ağustos 2007, 07:11