Issues with Yoga in Schools

Posted on December 8, 2013 by

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Parents in California are considering taking legal action over a school offering free yoga classes to its students. Why? They fear that the school district is using resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and the religious practice of Hinduism. Yoga has many health benefits to consider though; not only is it physically beneficial, it’s also mentally beneficial to the practitioners. A few of those benefits include joint health, balance, pain prevention, and stress reduction. Before the parents take legal action and possibly ban yoga from school they should consider the health benefits it will provide for their children.
The practice of yoga does, in fact, come from a religious background. Yoga originated in India as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice. It was used to find a permanent piece in one’s life. The practice of yoga is found in both Hinduism and Buddhism and has always been a big part of their beliefs and practices. However, the practice was accepted in the West and is often practices without religious aspect of it. A lot of people practice yoga for the health benefits like stress relief as well as other physical benefits it gives.

Scientists are getting closer to proving that practicing yoga can ward off disease and stress. They are leading a study on how the ancient practice affects the chronically stressed and they have found substantial evidence that practicing yoga can help to relieve stress. There are also many other benefits to practicing yoga; balance, flexibility, physical strength, joint health, pain prevention, breathing improvements, mental calmness, stress reduction, and body awareness are all benefits of yoga and should be put into consideration when deciding whether or not someone should practice it.
However, the parents aren’t worried about the benefits it will bring the children; they are more worried about the motives behind the school offering the classes about whether or not it’s religious. They are afraid that the school is trying to promote the eastern religions. The class itself does involve traditional Eastern breathing techniques and poses. Both are crucial elements of the traditions of yoga.
There are many conclusions that can be drawn from this religious theme pertaining to yoga. One of the conclusions that can be drawn from the article is that people aren’t as informed as they should be or that they just don’t realize that no harm will come from being taught yoga. Tim Baird, the district Superintendant stated in the article that “Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths,” he said. “Yoga is part of our mainstream culture.” This brings up a good point that people seem to be missing. Yoga, while religious and spiritual in its history, has become widely accepted in western culture and people use it to become more healthy and at peace with themselves. Another conclusion that can be made through this article is that people do not want their children to practice yoga because of their own personal beliefs that there is a strong conflict between their own faith and where yoga comes from.

Baird also stated that “Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress and yoga’s perfect for that.” This is a good point to bring up when helping people to better understand that the motives behind teaching yoga in schools is not for religious reasons. Also, perhaps if they understood the history and origins of yoga better and that it was, in fact, a way for the early practitioners to also find inner peace and strengthen their mental health, they would feel more at ease with their children participating. For the time being, the school has removed any religious content from the class in an attempt to encourage the children to be allowed to take the class.
Parents Considering Legal Action over School Yoga, North Country Times, 10/22/2012
Harvard yoga scientists find proof of meditation benefit, Business Standard, 12/7/2013
Parents considering legal action over school yoga, cnsnews.com, 10/22/2012
The images are from google, but the collage is mine

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