Yoga is secular stretching
September 5, 2002
I had the honor of moderating the Children’s Health Symposium organized last winter by the Aspen Center for New Medicine at the St. Regis Hotel.
At that conference, we heard presentations from a variety of experts in the field, including Tara Guber, whose excellent work with the Accelerated School helped win it Time Magazine’s School of the Year award, and Dr. James Gordon, a Harvard-trained M.D. and the chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
In their formal presentations and their informal discussions afterwards, all the speakers agreed that a regular practice of stretching and breathing exercises can offer substantial physical and emotional health benefits to children.
The above fact, which has been demonstrated in a variety of national studies, bears repeating: stretching and breathing exercises can offer substantial physical and emotional health benefits to children. To my knowledge, no one familiar with the research data seriously disputes this conclusion.
Indeed, including stretching and breathing exercises in a modern education program should be no more controversial than taking a good multivitamin and exercising regularly. A problem arises only because of the popular name attached to such exercises: yoga.
Because “yoga” is an Indian word originally associated with a foreign religion, it arouses suspicion in some. This is unfortunate, because the kind of stretching yoga taught today in schools across America is 100 percent secular; it has no connection whatsoever to any particular religion.
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These breathing and stretching exercises have been used by NASA astronauts, countless Olympic athletes, hospitals, Aspen Skiing Co. programs, health clubs across America, and a host of other secular organizations. For the sake of our community’s kids, I hope that the Aspen School District will not fear to add our schools to this list.
The decision to teach the theory of evolution was extremely difficult for many school boards in the last century, but it’s a “non-issue” most places today. Yoga will be a similar non-issue a few years from now.
Thank you for your consideration ? and good luck in your deliberations!
John S. Bennett