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.


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