Yoga instruction creates school-religion controversy

I can’t imagine that we’ve heard the last about whether yoga is appropriate in a school setting.

U.S. researchers already are studying the effects qigong can have on adults but little is known about the effects on children.

U.S. researchers already are studying the effects qigong can have on adults, but little is known about the effects on children.

I’m a big fan of yoga, which I practice for mental health purposes as much as for its immediate physical benefits. But I can see how its religious roots could unnerve those of differing spiritual beliefs, regardless of the Americanization yoga has undergone with its many iterations (hot yoga?).

From the Reuters article:

A California judge refused on Monday to block the teaching of yoga as part of a public school’s physical fitness program, rejecting parents’ claims that the classes were an unconstitutional promotion of Eastern religions.

Judge John Meyer acknowledged that yoga “at its roots is religious” but added that the modern practice of yoga, despite its origins in Hindu philosophy, is deeply engrained in secular U.S. society and “is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon.”

He also said the Encinitas Unified School District had developed its own version of yoga that was not religious but distinct and separate from Ashtanga yoga.

Is this sort of like saying that Christmas for many people has evolved into a commercial celebration so closing public schools each year for the holiday is a secular tradition?

Also from the Reuters article:

The plaintiffs’ expert, professor of religious studies Candy Gunther Brown (Indiana University Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences), testified that yoga practice indoctrinates Hindu religious practices whether the individual knows it or not.

Brown cited research suggesting yoga practice changes the user’s brain and thoughts, a sort of gateway drug to the occult.

I’ve blogged about IU research that examines the use of modified yoga for therapeutic purposes following stroke. An IU Communications article talked about how a doctoral student at the IU School of Public Health taught fourth-graders the traditional Chinese exercise qigong, to help the youngsters with flexibility, concentration, ability to relax, endurance and teamwork skills.

The separation of church and state is important, but I also hope kids don’t have to wait until they’re adults to experience the benefits of yoga and other Eastern practices, especially if they pose an easy and affordable classroom solution to children’s needs.

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