According to a recent ruling in a case in Encinitas, CA, students in 9 district schools may continue to experience the benefits of yoga, despite the opposition of one set of parents who believed yoga to be in conflict with separation of church and state. They were also concerned that its teaching were against the teachings of the Bible (which sounds pretty religious-based to me).
Fortunately, their request to disallow yoga in the classroom was denied. I say fortunately not because I am a yogini, but because I am a public school teacher and a parent. Regardless of my religious beliefs, I am dedicated to (and in fact held accountable for) creating a positive learning environment, developing discipline, focus, and confidence in my students, and maintaining relationships that model and encourage acceptance, tolerance, and character. Yoga happens to provide all that, plus physical and emotional health benefits as well.
Can practicing yoga lead to spiritual deepening? Absolutely! So can reading Jonathon Livingston Seagull, The Giver, Lord of the Flies, and most poetry. Studying the vast reaches of Outer Space and the infinitesimally small elements of matter; the motives of the Crusades and the Holocaust; the current atrocities of economic greed and the home room collection for Food Pantry items to feed the hungry and poor; Time management and Teamwork. These are all a part of a child’s daily learning that can inspire a sense of self beyond the physical, beyond the statistics, beyond the rules.
They all beg the question: “why?”
Society (aka lawmakers, taxpayers, and parents) might answer that question for kids by telling them it will help them be a success, help them go to college, help them become great leaders. But when a kid’s sense of self is prodded awake by any of those books, theories, events or routines listed above, they will continue to ask “why?” until their answer comes from within, from a place of purpose and self-actualization.
That is when great stuff happens.
I know this because I make my students ask “why”. Over and over and over again until their own great truth beats in their heart. Knowing yourself is the basis of education. Yoga is an excellent means of teaching children how to connect to their strengths, find confidence in their learning, and appreciate each other.
Just because something is spiritual or good, that doesn’t mean it is religious. And conversely, as we have seen repeatedly through history, just because something is religious, it isn’t necessarily good. Appreciating the effects of yoga for what they are will be significantly more beneficial to our society and families than any unfounded fears might try to convince us otherwise.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~~ The Buddha
Or if you prefer:
“If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don’t bring forth what is inside you, what you don’t bring forth will destroy you.” ~~Jesus
Literature, Science, Friendships, Yoga, Sports, Art, Music, all help a child to explore what lies within, and what brings benefit to one and all.
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