Anusara teachers defecting “the practice” followed by the John Friend scandal…
Jois Yoga versus Ashtanga Yoga…
Yoga studio worker masturbating while a student is in savasana… Really?
Yoga studio being sued for too crowded class and student becoming injured after not listening to teacher’s instructions…
William Broad’s book warning that yoga can be unsafe…
Sensationalism. It sells but often clouds what is important.
Yoga as a Religion—the latest piece of yoga sensationalism. Many have weighed in on the Encinitas, California uproar about the ashtanga yoga based program as religion. Supported with over $500K from Jois Foundation and others, yoga entered the school system this past fall.
Wait…yoga is a religion per some folks and now a lawsuit has ensued?
We have heard this “yoga as religion” card played before.
Back in 2003, Yoga Ed brought yoga to a couple schools in Aspen and the same thing happened. Some parents were in an uproar about this spiritual practice being a religion especially when words like “mantra”, “transcendental meditation” and “Namaste” were used. Yoga Ed ultimately changed some language.
As founder of Newark Yoga Movement, a non-profit organization that would, by the way, welcome some of the heavy hitting dollars being given to Encinitas School system, I am disturbed. I was disturbed when I first formed the organization back in 2009 and read about the Aspen School controversy and had to take measures to ensure the Newark school system that yoga was not a religion.
If we want to trust Wikipedia, the truth of the matter is that “yoga is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy…” What do we do about this? In my opinion, all who share yoga should be mindful of their audiences. Yoga has become mainstream for good reason.
Scientific research has shown that GABA ( Gamma amino-butyric acid) increases in the brain after yoga, hence improving moods and reducing anxiety. Research (from the Thomas Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia) also supports how after yoga, cortisol levels in the brain decrease hence reducing the “fight or flight hormone” associated with stress. These are good things!
“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science—science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” (Amit Ray)
My mission for starting the Newark Yoga Movement was to bring yoga to all children in Newark to help them reach their fullest potentials not only academically but also personally. Now in our fourth year, we have taught over 12,000 students and more than 1,300 educators “life tools” of yoga. In this time we have had just a handful of students not participate due to “religious” reasons.
Yoga is strength-building, flexibility-building, confidence-building and it absolutely guides you to shed stress among other benefits. I don’t see anything wrong with these enhancements for our future leaders.
I do not believe that religion belongs in schools. Religion, to me, is a private matter. If one were to start bringing in all the Hindu gods and goddesses to our school program and chanting to them, I too, would have a problem. I just can’t imagine this going on in California.
On the flip side, sharing the wonderful benefits of yoga with students to help them self-regulate, increase their self esteem and help teachers enhance their curriculum and manage their classrooms is what I call a very positive form of cheap intervention.
Why wouldn’t our country want to do more of this? Let’s inspire our children! Let’s teach them wonderful life lessons—many of which are a part of yoga: kindness, truthfulness, and acceptance. Don’t see religion in these lessons, do you?
In Newark Yoga Movement’s program, we inspire and engage our children through yoga and even teach them some “yoga language” words like Shantih—meaning peace. Why wouldn’t we want to share peace in another language with our students?
I am sure in Spanish class they learn that “paz” means peace. If children can learn to have peace with themselves, they will learn to have peace with others and then maybe see the vision of what it could be like to have peace in our world.
We share words like “Namaste” with students as well and they learn that it means “I see the good in you, you see the good in me, we see the good in each other.” Don’t see any religion in this, do you? What if everyone said Namaste to each other with this meaning? What would shift?
And what would happen if, because of yoga, a person who is of a certain religion feels even more connected? Is that a bad thing? That actually happened with me in my yoga journey. Ironically, through my yoga practice, I became a bit more at home with my religion and that is where I am today.
Yoga has made me feel more connected with myself. Yoga made me more open to seeing people as they are. Yoga brought out the Me in me. No religion in any of this at all.
I hope the sensationalism subsides with this subject. I hope this lawsuit goes away and I hope that if for whatever reason there are any shreds of “religion” in the Encinitas yoga program, an immediate shift occurs. The children in the Encinitas Union School District are so lucky to have the backing to bring yoga to an entire school system so quickly.
At Newark Yoga Movement we have mindfully been at this for four years. We’ve taken our time to build consensus with and educate administrators, principals, teachers and students about the life tools of yoga. We have been true to our mission as to why we are doing this and hope to continue to inspire others not to be scared because of the old “yoga is religion” controversy, but to rise above and think about how incredibly helpful yoga is on so many levels to so many.