Yoga is becoming an increasingly popular exercise for tweens. They benefit from the breathing, stretching and mindfulness, which can help counter some tween angst and help them more calmly navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. The tween years are a great time for yoga, according to Paula Walker, yoga instructor at Miami-based Green Monkey yoga studios, which partners with schools to offer children's yoga classes.
Parents in Encinitas, California, however, object to their children participating in yoga in their elementary schools, the Los Angeles Times reports. The program offered yoga twice a week in five elementary schools that teach grades K-6, and nearly 50 parents have voiced their opposition to the program because they believe yoga is a system of spiritual beliefs. The parents contend that the yoga poses that the teachers are now leading the children in performing are, at their base, prayers to Hindu deities, which makes them an inappropriate addition to the curriculum.
School officials also note that the program does not use of Sanskrit, and the names of poses have been changed to "kid-friendly" language such as "gorilla pose" and "mountain pose." In explaining why the program was implemented after receiving a grant to fund it, school officials cited anecdotal evidence that the number of playground incidents and behavior problems decrease in schools that include yoga and said the only objective was to increase student wellness.
The school said that students could be excused from the yoga classes, but the parents are threatening to sue to get the yoga program out of the public schools entirely.
I've practiced yoga on and off for many years, going back to when I was in high school. I have never once felt like I was being indoctrinated to a religion. I can honestly say I have never once thought of Hindu deities, let alone offered up a prayer to them. Yoga is practiced by millions and millions of people across the world and across many religions. I do not know how it is being taught in Encinitas elementaries, but the parents' concerns are nothing that I have experienced in the practice of yoga. What yoga my tween has done, she has loved. I love that it teaches her something that she can do throughout her life, in any location given that no equipment is needed. I don't think kids should be indoctrinated, but a little peace during PE seems like a nice counterbalance to the picking of teams and focus on victory. I'd far prefer that she work on gorilla pose than take a dodge ball to the face.
UPDATE: Parents of two children at the Encinitas elementary school filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on Feb. 21, 2013 to block the yoga program. The lawsuit claims that yoga "is inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and western metaphysical religious beliefs and practices." The Encinitas Union School District superintendent said that he was disappointed that a lawsuit had been filed and said that school administrators maintain that the yoga program benefits students and does not represent religious indoctrination.
What about you? Would you object to yoga being taught in your chilren's schools?