4 Reasons Why Yoga Isn't a Religion

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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

alternative medicine, exercise, natural health, yoga


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tuffy... tuffymama

For some devout followers of other religions (not just Christians), yes, yoga would have to necessarily be off limits. Not the best analogy, but imagine it is the drugs debate. Marijuana is considered a gateway drug to many more people than caffeine, yet there are some religions that ban coffee. Yoga is a part of an eastern doctrine, and many Christians are taught to shun the trappings of eastern doctrines. You shouldn't poke fun at someone's genuine beliefs. I guess that's okay since they're just Christian's, right? You wouldn't be rolling your eyes and OMGing over a Muslim group who protested the yoga in the schools.

LO and I do some light yoga every day for health. I feel my relationship with God is not threatened by Zumba or yoga, and the instructors on my yoga DVDs are strictly fitness motivated. We did receive a yoga DVD that had a lot of chanting, and I donated it to charity. That's just not what I want to hear while I'm stretching and sweating. I prefer to meditate in silence and stillness, not during yoga.

Kate Cote Fruehsamer

I have really just begun to practice yoga on a regular basis. I am seeing wonderful changes in my body...definition, flexibility & strength. I am a physical therapist and utilize many yoga techniques in my practice with young and older clients. I only wish I began my practice long ago. All students would benefit from a regular practice of yoga.

Kevin Snyder

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.

In other words, YOGA IS A RELIGION! Asanas, taken individually, are not.

PonyC... PonyChaser

There are so many everyday things in life that are taken from religion... breaking bread with friends, the act of 'unloading' to a therapist and vowing ot make amends for wrongs done (confession in the Catholic Church), and probably a bunch of others that aren't coming to me because it's early. Just because an action gets its start in a religion doesn't make it inherently religious. Yes, a Sun Salutation might be a position in a particular religion, but does that mean that standing tall and stretching your arms toward the sky is ALWAYS the act of saying a Hindu prayer?

If they were doing religiously-themed chants, I'd agree that it's an issue, but simply stretching the same way that is done in the practice of spiritual Yoga? No.

Maias... MaiasMommy619

People just need an excuse to act all up in arms about stupid stuff..Why is society becoming so damn sensitve??!

bills... billsfan1104

Adriana, I will remember this when you get all up in arms when "god" is mentioned in your presence

Melan... MelanieJK

I dont' think kids need to be taught or prompted to meditate or relax.     They need to be taught/prompted to MOVE,  MOVE,   MOVE.      Get the heartbeat going!     

Zenia6 Zenia6

I think that is one of the cool things about yoga, it can be meditative/relaxing, it can be stretching and flexibility/ strength, and it can be about movement and getting the heart rate up. The ideal practice will take you through asanas fitting all descriptions.

LadyM... LadyMinni

It isn't a religion, but it is a religious practice. This is Hatha Yoga, which focuses on physical health and purity. The very act of doing it is worship, in the Hindu point of view. It is also used in Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Yoga is used as a method to achieve moksha as well as to pray to the god(s).

Meditation is also a form of worship, FYI. You're supposed to meditate while doing yoga.

However they aren't using this in a religious context and probably have taught the children nothing about Hinduism (god forbid they learn about other religions) so the parents are being idiots.

Angelique Daley Daniel

Do these people REALLY think their kids' yoga instructors are getting them to MEDITATE during yoga much less become indoctrinated with Eastern religion??? They could do the exact same poses, call it something else, and no one would care. Yoga CAN be a spiritual practice, but as a Christian who LOVES yoga and has practiced it for years, I think this law suit is ludicrous. Here is a school trying to be progressive about physical fitness teaching the benefits of overlooked concepts (like the benefits of stretching and focused breathing) being shot down by obnoxious, ignorant busybodies.

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