Church hall drops 'spiritual' yoga
A church has banned a yoga class from using its hall because of its links with "alternative spiritualities".
Instructor Naomi Hayama has been told by church leaders at St Michael and All Angels in Bristol that she has to find an alternative venue - even though she has been using the hall for nine years.
Her students have been left angry at the decision, telling the church the twice-weekly evening classes at St Michael's Hall have no religious content whatsoever.
Ms Hayama, said the decision was made despite church leaders never observing one of her sessions.
In a letter to her, the Parish of Bishopston and St Andrews' Parochial Church Council described yoga as "alternative spiritualities".
"We are aware that yoga can be practised as either an exercise class or as a spiritual discipline and anywhere in between, however we understand that its roots lie in thinking that it is not compatible with the Christian faith and the Christian faith has not appropriated yoga," the letter stated.
"The parish church council recently passed a resolution stating that we would no longer take either new or continuing bookings for groups practising 'alternative spiritualities'."
Ms Hayama, 39, from Horfield, has until the end of the month to find alternative premises and avoid letting down her 30 students.
In a statement, the Church said yoga was a "spiritual activity whose roots are not Christ centred".
"All of our buildings are open to and used by a wide range of groups from the local community," the Church said.
"The primary purpose of these buildings is the worship of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
"Yoga means the union of 'mind, body and spirit'. By definition, therefore, Yoga is a spiritual activity whose roots are not Christ centred.
"We are confident we have acted legally and have waived the last nine months of Naomi's fees, amounting to nearly £1,000.
"We are surprised at the actions currently being taken. Whilst we understand that Naomi would not agree with our decision, in December 2014 she informed us that we had reached an agreeable compromise with regard to her notice period."
A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Bristol said: "Decisions on who can lease church buildings lie entirely within the remit of the relevant parochial church council (PCC) in each case.
"The Diocese of Bristol therefore supports the PCC of Bishopston and St Andrews in exercising its responsibility in deciding to cease bookings for a yoga class in St Michael's Church."