I read a story this week about a controversy over teaching yoga to kids at a San Diego area school. Apparently some parents in the community are objecting to yoga classes as part of the curriculum because they believe it’s indoctrinating them into eastern religion.
Beside the outrageous narrow mindedness of the argument, this story hits me where it hurts because I practice yoga and believe everyone should give it a whirl. Yoga literally means the union of body and mind and aims at achieving a healthy, strong, balanced body and a calm, clear mind. Good goals for adults and kids, no?
This group of California parents has hired an attorney who sent an email to the school district demanding that the classes stop immediately, claiming they’re unconstitutional. While the lawyer says the district is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, the district superintendent says they’ve removed any religious content from the twice-weekly classes and don’t intend to stop the program. (You can read the full story in the North County Times here.)
A newspaper columnist and school board member went and observed the classes and found the kids quiet, engaged, and having fun. The yoga classes are part of an enrichment program at the school that started three years ago and has been targeted as so successful, it could become a national model.
A school official said the yoga classes allow kids to slow down during their busy school day and learn to breathe and calm themselves, especially when feeling social or academic stress.
Practicing yoga regularly can have life-changing effects that have nothing to do with how you worship. Holding the poses stretches and lengthens your muscles, making you strong, and promotes balance. The deep breathing and concentration helps quiet the mind and focus your thoughts and energy.
When I finish a yoga class, I feel calm and empowered. How could that be anything but positive for kids, especially during a school day?
I respect everyone’s right to religious practice and completely support upholding the separation of church and state in our schools, but the yoga practice going on at this school is not a threat to that.
Perhaps if these complaining parents could open their minds to new experiences, they would set an example for their kids of tolerance and understanding. They should look inward and start questioning their own dogma instead of fearing those who downward dog.