Yoga, Education, and Health OH MY!!

Posted on December 23, 2013 by


This video is a general history of yoga and also what yoga means to these practitioners and yoga studio owners. For many Americans the most common idea of yoga is strictly a physical practice. But for many others this is a completely different idea which effects their children’s schooling and physical education classes. Many schools have been implementing  yoga instruction in the physical education portion of their curriculum. This has gained support from many but also sprung conflict from more.


This article from the New Haven Independent represents a successful and supported yoga curriculum not just by students but also faculty and the community. 108 Monkeys is the nonprofit organization that instructs yoga classes at the New Haven Academy. Their philosophy is promoting yoga as a health benefit, particularily stress relief. The students and staff at New Haven Academy were at first skeptical of yoga and resistant towards it but it is now a favorite part of their day. There was never any mention of yoga’s religious connection in the article and no parental opposition was posed in the article. This is interesting since there are so many other schools that are dealing with issues of implementing yoga into their cirriculum. So why is yoga accepted at New Haven Academy? It is because of its demographic orientation? Are the people of Connecticut not threatened in their religion by yoga practices? Or was yoga’s religious relation never an issue to arise for them?

Not all stories of implementing yoga into the physical education curriculum has gone over as well at the New Haven Academy article. An article from KRQE News reported on a school in Albuquerque, NM where many parents were outraged to find out that yoga was being used as exercise due to its religious association. This was an issue for parents because they believed a religion other than the one taught at home was being pressed on their children. The school ended up making this an option for parents to opt their children out of this program when it is was only used sparingly as “stretching time.”

Not only has this debate of yoga’s religious association persisted in many areas in the U.S. it is also appearing in India where a case has been brought to the Supreme court on whether or not schools may be allowed to teach the physical and mental practice of yoga. This is particularily interesting because yoga’s history originates from the East. It would seem like yoga in Indian schools would not be problematic and wouldn’t raise any issues with Indian families but this is not the case. Muslim and Christian families have raised this case due to the argument that yoga infringes on the children’s religious freedom and is conflicting with their faith base at home. Their main concern is because of yoga’s historically religious ties with Hinduism. That is the sole reason all of these articles press when they are against yoga in the class room. It is due to its historical origination.

The Desert News article also posed the argument that yoga is merely a commercialized industry coming from the United States. This is not the only article that has talked about the popularization and fad of yoga.  This prezi walks through the questions I have posed and also trends I have noticed in multiple articles about yoga’s commercialization, religious association, and its plausible health benefits.

Historically yoga has been a practiced tradition in Hinduism. It also has even more dated ties which associate it with the practice of mental stillness and health in our ancestors. This is often not considered by persons who have qualms with introducing yoga into schools. Many nonprofit organizations have popped up with the intent of teaching yoga to school children as a health promotion and battle against childhood obesity. Danialle Karmanos is a woman from Detroit, MI that is the founder of the Work It Out Program which brings yoga to school children from underprivledged areas of Detroit. She does not encourage any sort of religious content in her practice. She is primarily concerned about the children’s well being.

Whether she truly is concerned about children’s well being and giving these underprivledged kids an experience they otherwise wouldn’t have, or if she is using yoga as a popularity gain is up in the air. Many of these articles that take the oppostitional side to state why yoga should be put in schools is all about the health benefits and the practices that the kids can take home.

This info graphic from the Huffington post shows only health benefits of yoga and different practices of yoga- none that are religious. The info  graphic is visually appealing and the content of it is quite encouraging as to why someone would want to join. Not only has America made yoga visually appealing and popular it has also changed yoga’s definition.

This is Google's definition of yoga. Consider this when thinking about how you define yoga or how America has changed this definition.

This is Google’s definition of yoga. Consider this when thinking about how you define yoga or how America has changed this definition.

This leads into how Americans have morphed yoga into an acceptable definition and practice. We have shaped yoga into what we want it to be for us. We have stripped its religious affiliation due to superior Christian based faith of our nation. We have created an industry out of a practice that originated from a minority religion. “One Nation Under God” has taken its tole on how we control and manipulate every situation to make it acceptable for the United States. We have created a practice that is a revenue stream for many. As Americans we are constantly power and money hungry. So is this new craze of yoga, that is sweeping the nation, truly concerned about promoting national health or is it purely a business. .

Why has there been this sudden push of yoga in schools? Not only is there a theme of placing yoga in schools but there is a theme that yoga is merely a fad and a money making industry. This has changed the definition of yoga in the United States for many. Many have adopted the practice of yoga as a healthy new trend and others still remain skeptical and resistant. America has successfully taken the religion out of yoga because if we don’t want it to be religious we will make it so. Due to America’s fascination of yoga it has lit fires under the supporters and the opposed. It has created conflict that wasn’t necessary. America’s true focus should be on implementing world religion classes into schools. We first must learn tolerance of other religions and not have fear or place bigotry towards these “foreign” religions. This implementation of world religion classes will create an easier transition of placing yoga into the physical education system. We must be educated on religion to be able to handle foreign policy, world conflict, and solve religious discrimination.


So is yoga religious? YES AND NO. Yes yoga has its religious qualities and history. No yoga is not religious by how America has morphed its definition. Americans are not the only ones to change yoga’s definition. Although there is a supreme court case in Indian about adding or removing yoga to school curriculum a few Indian students have voice their opinions. Each student defined what yoga personally meant to them and what they think yoga means in general. None of them posed qualms they had about placing yoga in school and were in fact in favor of the proposal. Overall the trend of America’s new definition has spread globally as well as conflicts of yoga in physical education classes. Why is this? It may possibly be because other countries follow the United States lead or it may be the commericalization of yoga. Whatever the case, it is still unclear whether yoga is religious and there will most likely never be a conclusive agreement among all people world-wide to determine its religious status.


Bailey, Melissa “Newest required high school course:yoga” New Haven Independent 10 October 2013 Web

Blackstone, John “Teaching Not Preaching in CA Bible Belt” CBS News 24 June 2008 Web

“First Amendment: An Overview” Cornell University Law School 19 August 2010

Gregoire, Carolyn “How Yoga Changes Your Body, Starting The Day You Begin (INFOGRAPHIC)” Huffington Post 28 October 2013 Web

Lawson, Jill “Yoga in America: Where Bowing to God Is Not Religious” Huffington Post 08 November 2013 Web

Scribner, Herb “Yoga as religion debate heats up in India” Deseret News 29 October 2013 Web

Simonich, Milan “Yoga is banned word for New Mexico fitness teacher” Daily Times Four Corners News 19 October 2013 Web

Staley, Dean “Lawmaker concerned about yoga in schools” 21 October 2013 Web

“Students view on yoga-religion debate” The Hindu 19 July 2013 Web

“What is Yoga?” CNN 23 January 2011 Web

Woods, Ashley “Danialle Karmano’s Work It Out Teaches Inner-City Kids Yoga And The Value Of A Deep Breath” Huffington Post 12 November 2013 Web

Art Sources

Church and State photo

Nowhere in our constitution does it say we are a Christian nation photo

One Nation Under God photo

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