On doing yoga and not doing religion (or doing it– you pick)

News flash: after being banned for 28 years, Alabama public schools may soon be able to run yoga classes. The state house of representatives passed the bill this year, voting 73-25 in favor. It’s the third year in a row that the bill has been introduced, but the third time was apparently the charm.

Oh wait, I’m not supposed to say “charm” around the Alabama legislators. They seem very skittish about anything that sounds non-material or spiritual. The bill is very specific about limiting yoga practice to physical poses. An Alabama state newspaper described it this way:

“The bill aims to allow yoga without any religious connotations. Students could learn and practice poses, exercises, and stretching techniques. The legislation prohibits “chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, (and) namaste greetings.”

According to the Washingon Post, no other state has such a ban on yoga in schools. Whew.

It’s too bad about the no-mantras and no-mudras requirements (I like them both), but no-frills yoga is better than no-yoga-at-all.

Of course, some yoga instructors and yoga disagree. Religion News reporter Mat McDermott (yes, Mat with one t) writes:

“The benefits for students using the traditional names of asana, in terms of cultural sensitivity and awareness, far outweigh any issues of schools promoting religion… Furthermore… the bill as written erroneously conflates the greeting namaste with a religious chant… “

He concludes:

“Teaching school kids about Hinduism and yoga does not threaten anyone’s faith and may even increase the benefits of yoga by teaching them to appreciate another culture, rather than appropriating it without acknowledgement.”

Below is my previous post about yoga and religious connections (or not). What’s your view these days about yoga and spiritual practice? Are they inseparable to you? Are they two entirely different things? Do you worry about this at all? We’d love to hear from you.



Is yoga a religious practice? A form of exercise? A form of therapy? A tradition that’s been co-opted and distorted beyond all recognition (think chocolate or wine-infused yoga)? An excuse to buy more tie-dye yoga pants (oops, that may be just me…)?

In case you’re curious, I just bought these recently, and they’re cutey-cute.

Cute blue and purple tie-dye yoga pants.
Cute blue and purple tie-dye yoga pants.

Do we have to care about the question of what is yoga? 

Maybe not, but lots of others are forcing our hand/calling us out/dressing us down for doing yoga.  In particular, the pastor of an Assemblies of God megachurch in Missouri warned his congregation that the positions in yoga were “created with demonic intent to open you up to demonic power because Hinduism is demonic.”

Let me be clear.  By “demonic”, he did not mean that yoga was demonically difficult, as this pose might mislead him to believe:

A woman in an advanced balance pose, wearing super-cute red, blue and black geometric print leggings.
A woman…

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