I have recently learned about an Encinitas, California parent group who are upset over yoga being taught in their public schools, saying it is promoting Hinduism. Check out this NPR audio link for the full story:
I can’t imagine why people would think that the physical movement of Yoga would corrupt our children. Is Yoga truly a Vishnu friendly evil menace in our society? To Hell with self-regulation, calm, peace and kindness! These kids need something to resolve those playground battles! Why don’t we just let ‘em all duke it out? I mean, come on. Being calm, relaxed, and focused, is the last thing your kid should be for his math test! Jolt him up with a morning coke, a nutritious pop tart, a cigarette and a few violent video games, and then let ‘em take the test!
I work at a high school where we have a specialty PE class exclusively focused on Yoga. The School Board approved yoga program is taught by a passionate PE teacher, who is also a yoga instructor. She promotes yoga as an excellent alternative to regular PE. Traditionally, you never get 100% participation in a regular PE class, particularly with girls. This program is fully subscribed with every single student participating. No one is excluded. No one is judged. They work at their own pace with the movements as guided by our teacher. It’s a movement class. The class follows the PE curriculum and gives the students over 60 minutes of activity that they wouldn’t normally get.
Is Yoga really a ‘religious experience’? Well, yoga did start as a moving meditation based on the general teachings of Hinduism thousands of years ago, but that is not what it is today. One could argue that any activity, movement, sport or game where a person rises to a heightened state of self-consciousness and greater awareness could be considered a religious experience. In today’s North American world, Yoga is a fitness discipline designed to strengthen the body, and calm the mind.
Many schools are incorporating Yoga into their physical education curriculum because it helps kids learn coping and self-regulation skills. After doing yoga, kids are more focused and centered which enhances their learning experience. In a world filled with stress, anxiety and uncertainty, kids need to learn the balance of calming movements to keep their little heads from exploding with constant stimulation and societal pressures. Yoga in schools is not about any religious teaching. It is about helping our kids learn to de-stress, unplug and relax to movement. And what is so wrong with that?