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4 Reasons Why Yoga Isn't a Religion

by Adriana Velez on February 21, 2013 at 7:15 PM

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

Filed Under: alternative medicine, exercise, natural health, yoga


  • bills...


    February 21, 2013 at 7:19 PM
    I am Catholic and just started yoga. My yoga instructor does use some prayer chants. They are not long and we don't have to do them, but I can see where some parents would say this.
  • MaryC...


    February 21, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    Yoga is a great way to relax my muscles after I get back home from dragging the body to my hiding spot. Makes me feel wonderful!

    And seriously, people think this is a religion? The Flying Spaghetti monster is a religion not yoga.

  • doodledo


    February 21, 2013 at 7:36 PM
    There are different yoga paths within the Hindu religion, but all paths of yoga are based on the Hindu religion which happens to be one of the oldest and most complex religions in existence today. World religions 101 stuff folks.
  • Ashle...


    February 21, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Not a religion

  • Zenia6


    February 21, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    So not a religion in this context. I wish yoga was used in schools here.

  • PonyC...


    February 21, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Yoga, in this context, is about as religious as sitting quietly at the kitchen table with your hands folded in front of you. Are you in "prayer position"? Yes. Are you praying? No.

    People seriously need to lighten up on the whole "separation of church and state" crap. And I mean that whether it's a Hindu offshoot like Yoga or calling the winter festivities "Christmas Parties". They've both become absolutely secularized.

  • Me
    -- Nonmember comment from


    February 21, 2013 at 10:24 PM
    My son goes to one of the Encinitas schools and he loves the yoga program (I do too!). I can assure you that it is stripped down and non spiritual in any way. They do things like tree pose and downward dog and they don't pray or reference anything remotely spiritual or religious. The lawsuit is a supported by a Christian based organization that in all likelihood is peeved about the fact that religion isn't allowed in schools. For the record, my son recites the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school, complete with "one nation, under God." To me, that is way more related to religion than yoga.
  • bleed...


    February 21, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    So stupid! The kids of America have weight issues and the parents should be happy that the school is trying to get their kids to move.

  • Felly...


    February 22, 2013 at 12:07 AM

    Wait, you're telling me you can be Christian and do yoga!? Can Muslims and Jews do it too?? *sarcasm*

  • Alex...
    -- Facebook comment from

    Alex Klein

    February 22, 2013 at 5:43 AM
    It's not a completely easy question...
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