Yoga and Religion – Part Two

I previously wrote specifically about religion and yoga, and how some students deal with the various aspects of spiritual yoga. This is a little different.

In California there are apparently schools that offer yoga as an alternative/supplement to physical education. A group of parents sued, stating that yoga is inherently religious and violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

While I have many thoughts as to how the constitutional use of church and state is used hypocritically by many people as a means to their personal ends, in this instance, the argument simply did not hold water.

The Encinitas Union School District had stripped all spirituality out of what they were teaching, down to changing the Sanskrit names of poses to secular, more child-friendly names – for instance, lotus is called “criss cross applesauce” pose. I’m not even sure from what I’ve read if they were teaching the children any breath work. The families were also given the option to “opt out” or not enroll their children in the yoga class.

But here’s the real kicker – according to what I read, the children of the parents who sued never attended any of the yoga classes offered by the School District. They researched yoga on line, decided they didn’t like what they read and as the Judge put it “It’s almost like a trial by Wikipedia,”

Yoga is a terrific form of exercise and a magnificent way to learn to deal with anxiety and nerves. My friends and I have spoken many times on how much more complicated and stressful our children’s lives are ….. even going back to when my daughter, now 30, was a child, and I was worried about her getting good grades in elementary school so she could get into the right middle school, continue to work hard, take as many advance and AP classes as she could to then get into the right high school so she could go to a good college. Phew! I’m exhausted just typing that! Add in school and homework, sports or even family, and “free time” for children is becoming less available to them.

Yoga can help children learn to deal with anxiety, nerves and stress.

Let’s talk about the obesity problem with American children. Yoga is not a high-calorie burning activity, for the most part. But it will help the children develop a better knowledge of their bodies, and I believe can also assist in helping children form positive body image for themselves. I have read studies where yoga is integrated into eating disorder treatment plans and in the studies I reviewed, the majority of the students under treatment for eating disorders found yoga helped them tremendously to get in touch with their bodies and form a more positive self-image. Why can’t that translate down to our children?

Apparently some of the parents were also concerned that yoga could be a gateway to their children becoming interested in, or learning about, other religions. If yoga is a gateway for religious exploration for some individuals, its likely because they were seeking in the first place.

While I have an obvious bias, yoga and breath work should be taught to children as young and as often as possible. We live in a high stress world and that trickles down to our children. Why not give them the opportunity to learn how to deal with their anxieties and bodies without medications, therapy, or just letting them implode. Public school is not the place for religion, I agree. But teaching children to exercise regularly, respect themselves, perhaps improve their body image and calm themselves is a different story, which is why the Judge ruled as he did.