London, Aug 27--(AFP) The Church of England defended Tuesday a small-town vicar's decision to ban yoga from his church hall because of its associations with Hinduism.

A church spokesman said clergymen like Reverend Derek Smith in Melksham, in the county of Wiltshire, western England, had the right to take a stand against practices which "do not square with Christian teachings".

Smith has banned yoga lessons from Saint Michael's Church, citing its links with Hinduism, despite its growing popularity among Britons who see it as a helpful way to offload day-to-day stress.

Though the Anglican church has no plans for a nationwide yoga ban, a vicar in Essex imposed a similar prohibition last November -- raising the ire of yoga enthusiasts. "Yoga is used as a kind of generic term for exercise and stretching, but there are many different types of yoga," the spokesman at Church House in London said.

"But some have a more spiritual basis as handed down from Eastern religions. It's reasonably understandable that someone can say so if they don't want something with a spiritual basis taught in their church hall."

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