4 Reasons Why Yoga Isn't a Religion

yogaSo here's a funny story. The Encinitas United School District in California started an in-school yoga program. You know, because it's fun and relaxing and helps kids focus and all that. But some families got their pants all up in a bunch over the whole idea -- because they think yoga is a religious practice, and what about separation of church and state, and now it's time to sue the school district. Yup, a family just filed a lawsuit to stop the yoga classes.

SIGH. I know this isn't the last time I'm going to say this, but here goes: Yoga is not a religion -- certainly not the way it's being practiced in the Encinitas schools, where it's taught as a physical fitness program. Don't these people have better things to do than sue over YOGA?!? Oh my god, this lawsuit is so freakin' stupid, I feel like ... I need to ... OMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM


Okay, I feel a little calmer now. Let's talk about yoga.

1. Yoga is meditation. Meditation is a vehicle. It can lead you to spiritual enlightenment, if that is your goal. Or it can help you focus and relax, if that is your goal. All depends on where you want to go. If you drive your car to church, does that make your car religious? No. It does not. 

2. Some yoga is just exercise. This is a little controversial -- I have yoga teacher friends who say it shouldn't be treated as "just" exercise you do at the gym, but that's what it's become in the U.S. You stretch a lot, you breathe, and your body benefits from that. It's a limited use of yoga, but one a lot of people find very effective, physically.

3. You can be a Christian and do yoga. Millions of Christians who do yoga know this. They don't feel like they're worshipping Hindu gods when they do yoga, even if some poses refer to Hindu gods. I bet Jesus would have practiced yoga if he'd known about it. 

4. Yoga's spiritual roots have sprung practical uses. True, yoga developed in ancient India as a spiritual practice. And for many practitioners, it still is a spiritual practice. But it's evolved into a multitude of different kinds of practices, many of them completely secular. Some people consider it a form of alternative preventative medicine!

I just think it takes a special kind of Grinch to sue a school district over a phys ed program that helps kids move their bodies, relax, and focus better in class. I'm sure Encinitas is teaching yoga in a completely secular, practical way. And they're going to continue teaching yoga. Kids with intolerant parents can opt out. What's the big deal?

Do you think yoga is a religious practice, or can it also just be exercise?


Image via Carl Lender/Flickr

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