Critical Commentary: Yoga practice in Indian schools- purely physical exercise or a religious ritual?

Posted on November 1, 2013 by


I will be examining the article Yoga as a Religious Debate Reaches India as Court Considers Ancient Discipline in Physical Education by Paul Rauschenbusch. In brief, the article tackles the deliberation of academic institutes on whether yoga as practiced in schools in India for physical education, is considered purely exercise or if it holds a religious connotation. On one end of the spectrum, Jagith Chandler Seth, who is a lawyer who also serves as one of the petitioners, states that yoga is simply a character builder. He maintains that yoga is not only essential to juveniles, but it also adds immensely to the building block of education. On the opposing side of the quarrel, John Dayal, a Christian leader for the National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education, contends that yoga encompasses a fervent component of faith. He deems the removal of religion from yoga as impossible, and instead suggests that yoga imposes a Hindu standpoint on the school-kids who are from a minority religion such as Muslim or Christianity. This issue is complex also in the sense that many Hindu nationals are extremists. They have the tendency to force their religion onto others provided by the secular democracy that is India.

            Upon first glance, this Huffington Post article didn’t provide for much credential from the author. His name was in small print at the bottom of the article, past all of the ads. In addition, there were no qualifications of the author to allow the audience to justify his claims as an author capable of writing such opinions on a news website. Though to oppose that negative, the author did provide many stakes on which there was a lack of bias. For example, by including multiple sources from each conflicting side, it depicted the representation of a more informative article rather than one meant to persuade. He also included the snippet about the California judge ruling yoga as a non-religious government issue when sued by the upper suburban districts of San Diego. This exemplifies the issue, pertaining the not just non-Hindu religions, but brought the conflict to the country where the audience resides.

            A stimulating part of this article, however, is the image used directly under the headline. It displays a group of young students, presumably in India, dressed in multi-colored, what I would guess to be, school uniforms. They all have their hands in the air, in yoga pose but the author specifically chose a pose in which it looks like they are praying. More importantly, behind these school kids, there are what looks to be over a hundred adults behind them. These adults are dressed in specific all-white robe like dress. This also portrays them as religious figures, which could show the hidden bias of the author. Believing that the practice of yoga may actually have a forced religion aspect. This picture also has the caption of this specific sun worship practice of yoga having to be practiced in a specific order. This discretely hints at the idea of it becoming a ritual, rather than just a physical exercise, though the writing in the article itself is fairly unbiased. 

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