Separation of yoga and religion
August 29, 2002
I read in your paper yesterday that the Yoga Ed program for the Aspen Elementary School has been put on hold because some parents called to question whether yoga in the classroom violates the separation of church and state.
In this day and age (and particuarly in this community) I am surprised and not a little disappointed that a lack of understanding or knowledge would lead to such a misguided and fearful response.
For the parents who are concerned about the “religious connotations” of yoga, I suggest they acquaint themselves with the practice. Yoga means union or link and is an ancient system of exercise which integrates the body, mind and breath. The poses ultimately (and hopefully) develop an awareness of the fundamental connection between intention, action and consequence.
The Accelerated School in South Central Los Angeles (which was named Time Magazine’s Elementary School of the Year, as you mention in your article) developed the program and says it is “designed to organically grow awareness of body, mind, self and community to support the whole child in building strength, flexibility, mental clarity, discipline, balance, compassion, respect, curiosity and a love of self, life and lifetime learning.”
They also say yoga in the classroom “will inspire, educate, facilitate and support children in developing physical health, emotional intelligence, personal growth and fulfillment within an education environment …”
Anything religious there? Anything problematic there? On the contrary, I can’t think of a better way for my elementary school children to spend a portion of their day!
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To the parents who raised the red flag: if you didn’t know, maybe you should have done some research. My question is, why must this community always be embroiled in controversy? This time, it’s at the expense of our kids.
Because of ignorance and fear, this extremely worthwhile program is in jeopardy. I, for one, think we as a community should be thankful that we have the administration, teachers and people like Betsy Fifield and the O2 Yoga Studio with the foresight to bring such a positive program to our kids!
Carolyne Heldman Harvey