Why Do People Keep Flipping Out Over Yoga?

The practice of yoga makes some people nervous. That’s sad, really, since yoga typically has exactly the opposite effect. It recently made some parents so nervous a school had to apologize for offering it.

Administrators at an elementary school in Georgia thought they were doing something helpful by introducing yoga and the concept of “mindfulness” to their school students. Sadly, a group of conservative parents didnít agree. They believe the practice of yoga forces non-Christian beliefs on their kids.

“No prayer in schools. Some donít even say the pledge, yet theyíre pushing ideology on our students,” Susan Jaramillo, one student’s mother, told 11Alive News. “Some of those things are religious practices that we donít want our children doing in our schools.”

Yoga class doing Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II).

Yoga class doing Warrior II.

Another parent reportedly posted on Facebook: “This is very scary. Parents beware of what your children are being taught without your knowledge.”

Please calm down, people. Yoga isn’t trying to abscond with your kids’ eternal souls or change their religion.

Yoga for School Kids Goes From Good Idea to Firestorm

At Bullard Elementary School in Kennesaw, Ga., the administration hoped adding instruction in yoga and mindfulness would be one way to help its students reduce stress levels and get more exercise. That wasn’t a bad idea at all, as many can vouch for the beneficial physical and mental effects of these practices. Instead, the school inadvertently triggered a firestorm.

To placate concerned parents, the school will continue its yoga program with some changes:

  • Students may no longer use the word “namaste” in yoga class. As many of you know, “namaste” is an everyday greeting in some parts of the world. It means roughly “The light inside me sees and honors the light inside you” or simply “I bow to you.” It’s a sign of reverence and respect to one another.
  • Thereíll be no more placing hands “at heart center” during poses, a frequent hand position in yoga. Yes, it looks like you’re praying, and perhaps some practitioners do. For a lot of us, though, heart center is simply where your hands go when you’re doing tree pose or a side twist. It’s graceful and beautiful.
  • Kids will no longer color mandalas in coloring books during breaks. Mandalas are intricate, multi-colored geometric designs. Historically, they can represent the universe to Hindus and Buddhists. To kids, I bet they’re fun designs to color.

Objections to these particular actions are perplexing, to say the least. I guess these oh-so-critical changes will avoid the zombie apocalypse and protect life as we know it in America?

Nope, not praying.  This is Child Pose, a resting position in yoga.

Nope, not praying. This is Child Pose, a resting position in yoga.

“I am truly sorry that the mindfulness/de-stressing practices here at Bullard caused many misconceptions that in turn created a distraction in our school and community,” Bullard principal Patrice Moore reportedly wrote in an email to parents. “While we have been practicing de-stressing techniques in many classrooms for years, there have been some recent practices associated with mindfulness that are offensive to some.”

Every time someone attacks yoga for being anti-Christian, I’m always a little surprised. I practice yoga and have never had a†nefarious yoga instructor try to†indoctrinate me into some new belief system. Frankly, in addition to the physical benefits, yoga offers a lot of peace to people whose lives might otherwise be mostly anxiety and chaos.

Aside from its physical aspects, yoga is about accepting everyone, acknowledging the value of each individual, being kind and being mindful. It’s not a religion, but it’s often attacked as one. Let’s not confuse meditation with worship.

In every yoga class I’ve ever attended, no teacher tried to steer my thoughts toward some alternate religion. In fact, most teachers take pains during the more contemplative moments to suggest that each student focus on what’s most important to him or her, whether it’s a deity, mother nature or something more indefinable.

These Parents Aren’t the First to Demonize Yoga

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that this isn’t the first time conservative Christians have offered strong objections to yoga. In 2013, evangelical Christian parents sued a California school when it added yoga to its wellness curriculum. Religious leaders can sometimes see yoga as a threat, too.

“Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots?” Washington pastor Mark Driscoll asked in 2013. “Totally. Yoga is demonic. If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you’re signing up for a little demon class.”

Some leaders associated with the Vatican urged their flocks to avoid yoga as well. “Practicing yoga is Satanic, it leads to evil just like reading Harry Potter,”†according to former Vatican chief exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth.

Why All the Distress, Yoga Haters?

Those who raise the loudest objections often seem to be those with the strongest allegiance to conservative religions. This fact leads me to ask — folks, what are you so worried about? Surely you cannot be so easily influenced by a discussion about spirituality that mere attendance at a yoga class threatens the foundations of your faith?

Runner's lunge in a yoga class.

Runner’s lunge in a yoga class.

The practice of yoga in modern day America isn’t an “ideology.” It isn’t a religion. Yes, it has roots in ancient religious practices and even today can be quite spiritual for those who wish it to be. Various types of yoga practice run the gamut from intensely to minimally spiritual.

I’m going to give Bullard Elementary School the benefit of the doubt and assume — like so many other schools these days — its teachers focused on the beneficial aspects of breathing techniques, stretching and anxiety-reduction, not Far Eastern spiritual awakening.

Here’s a thought for the concerned out there — if you’re in a yoga class that’s a tad too devotional for your taste, try another one. If your kid’s getting yoga at school, sit through a session or two before lodging objections. You might be surprised.

If the only problems here were the use of the word “namaste” and the positioning of hands at heart center, it sounds like the school ran a fairly normal American style yoga class. Move along, there’s nothing to see here.

Can you love Jesus and still be a devoted yogi? A whole lot of people do. Their faith is strong and is not for a moment threatened or conflicted by what goes on during a yoga class.

Yoga haters, let’s get a grip, shall we?

Photo credit: Thinkstock

91 comments

Mike R
Mike R18 days ago

Thanks

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Danuta W
Danuta W19 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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william Miller
william Millerabout a year ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Carole R.
Carole R2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

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Manpreet S.
Manpreet Sangha2 years ago

Truly!

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Rae Nelson
Rae Nelson2 years ago

Thanks for the info!

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Tanya W.
Tanya W2 years ago

Noted

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Tanya W.
Tanya W2 years ago

Thanks

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Natasha salgado
Past Member 2 years ago

Yoga is the trend that never dies. Personally i don't care 4 it but do realize it's benefits. I prefer boxing. Most of my my friend do it everyday swear by it.

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