BOISSEVAIN, Man. — Lindsay Alvis was excitedly preparing to open up the first yoga studio in the small southwestern Manitoba community she calls home when a letter showed up in the mail boxes of some of her neighbours.
"PLEASE DON'T DO YOGA" the letter began.
The typed letter left in mailboxes around Boissevain cautions people in the community of about 1,500 not to do yoga because of its Hindu roots, before closing with a dire warning for Christians.
"If you do yoga or are thinking of joining a class, prayerfully search your heart."
The letter, which warns about "yoga missionaries" and that "no part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it," is only signed with the name "Marie."
'If you don't like yoga don't do yoga': Alvis
Alvis was astounded and disappointed that it was being circulated just as she was preparing to teach her first class at Soul Worx Yoga and Fitness.
"If you don't like yoga don't do yoga," Alvis said.
"(If yoga) doesn't fall within your beliefs then don't do it, but I don't think you need to send out a letter warning people of dangers, telling people not to do yoga and saying it in response to a yoga studio opening in your town."
I never intended to offend any religion and I don't believe that yoga is any sort of religion, especially like in my yoga studio.Lindsay Alvis
Alvis was born and raised in the former town, not far from the border with North Dakota. She ended up moving to Alberta, living there for 13 years, before she came back so her husband could take over the family farm two years ago.
"I know religion is big in Boissevain but, when I decided to open the studio, I only had positive feedback," Alvis said. "I never intended to offend any religion and I don't believe that yoga is any sort of religion, especially like in my yoga studio."
Yoga isn't new to community
She teaches Buti yoga, a cardio-intensive version of the traditional practice which involves stretching and dance. It was created by a celebrity trainer in the United States. Alvis said it's far removed from having any religious overtones.
While her studio will be the first yoga-dedicated location in Boissevain, yoga has been in the community for a while. Alvis previously taught classes through the local municipality.
"It went very well in town. So it was kind of a first for me hearing about this," said recreation director Samantha Dyck.
"Since I've been here, I've never heard any issues with yoga with regards to religious beliefs."
Calls to local churches were not returned.
Ken Warkentin, executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba which represents one of the churches in Boissevain, said he understands that some people may be "opposed to yoga as a spiritual discipline of Hinduism." But he said it's important to have meaningful discussions with people of other religions and beliefs.
"By and large, we would continue to value a conversation around those things and try hard not to become overly judgmental," he said.
Alvis said she won't let the letter dampen her excitement over the studio opening.
While a few people may share the letter's sentiment, she said a lot more have reached out to show their support.
"I just want a great thing for the community," she said.