Christianity vs. Yoga?

I was paging through a trial issue of Parenting Magazine's new "school age" rag.  I loved being able to read articles that are more pertinent to what's going on in my older kids' lives.  I even saw a cute quote from one of my all time favorite bloggers (Rocks In My Dryer).  Cool...maybe I'll subscribe.


But then...

I came across an article about yoga in schools.  To quote the magazine:

"OH PLEASE!  A school in New York has renamed yoga: Kids can sign up for a "relaxation" class instead because parents complained that yoga would promote Hinduism and therefore violate the church-state separation at school.  Clearly, somebody out there needs to take a yoga class and chill." (April 2009, p. 16)

Wow.  Really?  Now if you don't want spiritual practices being taught in school, you're just supposed to "chill"?  

Before I let my feathers get too ruffled, I decided to check into it a bit more.  I did a Google search, and came across a post in the Yoga Journal.  The post itself was journalistic style - fairly neutral and fact driven (but short).  The comments to the post?  Completely different story.  Apparently, if someone who is not a Christian wants separation of church and state it's cool and enlightened...obvious even.  But if a Christian parent doesn't want their child exposed to spiritual teachings that are contrary to their beliefs? Definitely not cool.  In fact, according to the comments to that post, we are "brainwashed", "afraid", "so called educated", "strange", "judgmental", "ignorant", "stupid", "fundamentalist bullies", "warped", "foes", and even "d*heads".  

How very enlightened.

There has to be more to find...

So what is yoga, exactly?  

I once had a concerned friend comment on my blog when I mentioned that I was doing Yoga on the Wii.  But was I?  There was not a single word spoken on the Wii program about spirituality or "oneness" or "stillness" or "knowledge" of "union of human to the divine".  It was a basic "put your arm here, your feet here, and hold that position for 10 seconds."  Is that yoga?  No.  That's stretching in my book.

The Hindu Wisdom site says that "there is no Yoga without Hinduism and no Hinduism without Yoga".  It also says "The aim of Yoga is the transformation of human beings from their natural form to a perfected form.  Yoga is a precise practical method of spiritual training..."  Hmm...sound like more than stretching and deep breathing to me.  Not something I'd want my kids taught in their public school (if that makes me "warped", so be it).

About.com finally gave me some clearer insight: "Asana" refers to the practice of physical postures or poses.  Asana and Yoga are often used interchangeably, hence the confusion.  "Asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being than physical activity".

Okay - so maybe that New York school was teaching "Asana" instead of "Yoga".  In which case, it makes perfect sense to rename it, right (although they didn't name it "Asana")?  It's simply misrepresenting what's actually being taught to call it yoga.  If it's more than that...if there is a spiritual aspect to the class, then don't folks have a right to demand the separation between the spiritual and the public domain that has some of us missing school prayer?  
 
What do you think?  

Here's more info if you're interested:

Jenny Beth @ JenuineJen  – (3/18/2009 03:10:00 PM)  

I have not heard the quote you mentioned from the Hindu Wisdom site before. While I was going through infertility treatments and then when I was pregnant with my twins, I took a lot of "yoga." It was stretching, exercising, and meditating/relaxing. It really helped me a lot because it taught me how to live in the moment. You cannot balance on one leg when your mind is wondering in a thousand directions (at least I cannot).

Your article is interesting. I have not done any research into what "yoga" is as far as religion goes. I only have used it from the standpoint of helping me be in better shape physically and emotionally.

I am a Christian and I agree with you about the double standard of accepting everyone else's religion but if you but Christianity anywhere near a school you are violating the the Constitution. It is insane.

Craig and Bethany  – (3/18/2009 05:24:00 PM)  

Someone once lent me a book on Yoga that showed each pose and it's meaning. I never thought much of it before, but after I paged through the book, I found many of the poses related to bowing down and worshiping. I can't imagine ANYTHING at all allowed in the schools associated with Christian worship even on the most superficial level. A frustrating double standard for sure. And, I guess I'm not real comfortable with Yoga even on a superficial level.

Kathy Wilson  – (3/19/2009 09:06:00 AM)  

I work in a state university and love the diversity of the people around me. BUT am frustrated with the double standard of the all-inclusive accepting tolerance of anyone or any idea EXCEPT Christianity. If I were a lesbian, single mom of an adopted bi-racial child, practicing any religion other than Christianity I would be more accepted and encouraged in my personal and professional life than I am as a typical Christian married woman with 2 kids, a dog and a mortgage. I find this very sad and only hope the diverse people I come in contact with are touched by the love of Jesus - whether they recognize it or not. All that to say I so GET the double standard (which is really reverse-tolerance).

I am intrigued by yoga, but don't participate in it currently. The health benefits are great and I know I can choose what I meditate on. Our pastor once described Christian meditation vs. any new age type of meditation this way (my paraphrase): Meditation as usually done in yoga or meditation is the process of emptying your mind to gain some sort of enlightenment (gnosticism/special knowledge?) but a Christ follower mediates/quiets their mind and heart to GET MORE OF JESUS. It's not a process of emptying oneself, it's a conscious effort to seek God and commune with Him regarding what He is doing around you and in your life. Jesus retreated to do this and be rejuvenated and I know it is an area I need to work on.

Can we use yogo in the schools as a teachable moment for our kids to talk about what others believe and train them about how we as Christ-followers believe that the only thing worth being filled with is the Triune God? I think so.

Anonymous –   – (3/20/2009 08:06:00 AM)  

Using Yoga to teach Christ. That's a good one. Just change the religious practice to suit your own mission and wipe out the true beliefs of a people. Very Christian of you.

Let's examine, shall we, the idea that there is something wrong with a lesbian single mother who adopted a biracial child compared to the Christian married woman with two children, a dog and a mortgage who obviously lives her life in a more correct manner. Can not the lesbian woman also have dogs and a mortgage? What exactly are you trying to say?

Perhaps on a social level Christians are just being punished still for The Crusades. After all, that was pretty horrible.

But considering the majority of this country is Christian and even allows the teaching of the Creation in public school systems, I'm not sure where the idea of this anti-Christian double standard is coming from. Perhaps from your own insecurities?

Daiquiri  – (3/20/2009 08:59:00 AM)  

Anonymous~

I don't think that anyone here is trying to "wipe out the true beliefs of a people". The intent (from my understanding of the comment) was...how can a Christian participate in the physical activity of Yoga while still incorporating their own spiritual beliefs ie. focusing on Jesus. That, in fact, IS a Christian thing to do.

Regarding the lesbian/straight, children, mortgage thing... of course a lesbian can have dogs and a mortgage. The reader was not even saying that the straight or lesbian situation was wrong or right. She was simply making an observation based on her experience - that there seems to be a double standard.

The Crusades? They were horrible. Are we being punished for them? Please.

As for teaching Creation or Intelligent Design in public schools...why shouldn't it be taught? It's perfectly acceptabe...even expected...to teach the theory of Evolution, but not the theory of Intelligent Design. They can both be taught as THEORIES, there is evidence to support both theories, and personally...I think it would be a great opportunity to teach scientific method and critical thinking to the kids. But the fact that Evolution is clearly acceptable to teach but Intelligent Design is not? Well, now we're right back to the double standard that was mentioned earlier.

Daiquiri  – (3/20/2009 10:19:00 AM)  

And by the way - if Yoga is the true religious belief of a people? All the more reason to NOT have it taught in public schools.

Craig and Bethany  – (3/20/2009 10:01:00 PM)  

So I am trying to discern, does Anonymous think that Yoga is or is not a religion and should or should not be taught? And would they feel the same way about say a Christmas program in a public school? I'm sure you have this resolved in your own mind, share it! We may disagree, but you obviously feel strongly and so I am curious.

Anonymous –   – (3/24/2009 05:27:00 AM)  

Hey... I read your information from begining to the end and I think that is interesting information.. I think i will tell this information again to my friend and I hope this information will be usefull for them... oh yes I suggest you to check Yoga Classes on my site www.yogalife.org , I hope the Information on my site will be usefull for you..and we can share each other. thank you... :-)

Kathy Wilson  – (4/01/2009 09:17:00 AM)  

Daiquiri - I commented and forgot to check back! Nice! Anyway - what you said after the first 'Anonymous' comment - yes! ;o) 'how can a Christian participate in the physical activity of Yoga while still incorporating their own spiritual beliefs ie. focusing on Jesus. That, in fact, IS a Christian thing to do' is exactly what I meant.... OK, just deleted a bunch of stuff here that would have prob. started an argument w/someone... 'In the world and not of it' doesn't (in my book) mean removing potentially good things from our lives to live as hermits, only buying milk from a Christian cow... Anyway - thanks!

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