Yoga, Farr told The Telegraph, causes confusion among Christians by telling them that it will help them to “ascend a higher spiritual plane”. Farr said that this was the exclusive prerogative of Jesus Christ within the Christian faith.
The vast majority of people who attend yoga classes in Britain are non-Indian. This was why Farr added: “We hope Christians will think carefully before continuing with their classes.”
The one vicar who has spoken out in support of yoga is Reverend Humphrey Squire, who retired eight years ago from his parish in Wareham, Dorset. His view is that yoga does not undermine Christianity or any other religion and he has strongly argued his case in a book, Yoga and Christ. “I don’t know much about yoga,” he said sarcastically. “I have only been doing it for 23 years.”
Church halls throughout Britain are used for yoga and many other classes, and the Church of England is generally very tolerant of other faiths. Arun Kataria, a press officer for the Church of England based at Church House in Westminster, would not give a direct reply when asked if the Church approved or disapproved of yoga. “It is up to individual vicars,” he said. “We don’t have a view.”
The anti-yoga lobby appears outgunned, however. The two-day conference at Cambridge, which has drawn 200 people, including leading international experts, is being held at the university’s Faculty of Divinity. The conference was launched by no less a figure than the university’s vice-chancellor, Sir Alan Broers, who set the tone for the discussions and learned papers by stating: “Once divinity was a narrow subject but it is no longer so.”
Sir Alan said that the faculty would in future expand the study of traditional theology and religion and encourage “greater interchange between the religions of the world”.
The conference has been organised by the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research which was funded and set up in 1995 within the Divinity Faculty by the Hinduja family in memory of Srichand Hinduja’s son, Dharam.
Srichand Hinduja, 67, who said he had been practising yoga since his boyhood, disclosed it had helped him deal with the many ups and downs in his life.
“Yoga offers practical solutions for dealing with stress,” he declared. “I do yoga twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. I mediate whether I am at home, in the office or in the aircraft.”