JEFFERSON CITY, MO -- Yoga studios in Missouri are now required to charge sales tax for their services, a move that has yogis statewide arguing that that their practices are a spiritual pursuit protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In mid-October, the Missouri Department of Revenue sent a letter to 140 yoga and Pilates studios ordering them to pay a 4 percent sales tax on their services. The state said yoga classes are subject to a statute requiring sales tax on places of “amusement, entertainment or recreation,” and that the recent request was based on a 2008 Missouri Supreme Court case that stated the tax should apply to all fitness facility services.

“The Missouri Supreme Court has held that athletic and fitness clubs are places of recreation and therefore fees paid to these types of businesses are subject to sales tax,” David Zanone, manager of the Missouri Department of Revenue's taxation division, wrote in the letter to studios. “Yoga centers offer the same types of fitness services that the Missouri Supreme Court has held are taxable.”

But yoga instructors maintain that their services aren’t merely recreational and actually are a form of meditation with the goal of attaining spiritual enlightenment.

Recently, a group of yoga instructors and businesses gathered to meet and organize under the The Spirit of Yoga Saint Louis umbrella to lobby state politicians for exemption from the sales tax. Representatives from the group said they will encourage legislators to clarify the definition of “places of amusement, entertainment or recreation” in hopes of having their studios recognized as spiritual in nature.