Wednesday, October 3, 2018



I'm an atheist. I'm also a big fan of yoga. Yoga, when done properly, especially under the guidance of knowledgable instructors, does wonders to alleviate mental stress, and it provides a safe step-by-step process that improves physical health inside and out. 

Yoga takes many forms with a spectrum of difficulty that suits beginners and adepts. With practice it can provide challenges that last a lifetime, likely an extended one. I've met very old folks with physical limitations who loved it, as well as a martial arts master who appreciates the challenge of yoga, and who has added it to his daily workout. 

I'm not a martial arts aficionado, but my friend is an expert, and I believe that like yoga his discipline has a powerful spiritual element that I wouldn't define as a religion, perhaps because it lacks a prescriptive dogma. That some Christians wish to ban yoga from schools is not surprising, but it's a shame. Exposure to yoga at a young age could be tremendously beneficial, the beginning of a healthier lifestyle, perhaps. Physical and mental training without the negative elements of conflict and competition. Promoting meditative thinking without dogma might reduce school violence, and lead to calmer and less tragic lifestyles for graduates.

I understand the Christian arguments raised about teaching yoga in schools, "if teachers can't preach, why should my kid talk like a Buddhist in gym class?" I don't agree with it, but I get it. What I don't get is the recurring fear they have of exposure to alternative thought. If Christianity's so great what do they have to worry about?

Mindfulness programs have become popular on K–12 campuses, but in some parts of the country concerns about religious intrusion keep the trend at bay.
(Alia Wong at The

"The trend, however, seems to have been accompanied by an uptick in vocal pushback against the idea. In 2016, an elementary school in Cobb County, Georgia, became the subject of heated controversy after introducing a yoga program. Parents’ objections to the yoga classes—on the grounds that they promoted a non-Christian belief system—were vociferous enough to compel the district to significantly curtail the program, removing the “namaste” greeting and the coloring-book exercises involving mandalas. A few years before that, a group of parents sued a San Diego County school district on the grounds that its yoga program promoted Eastern religions and disadvantaged children who opted out. While a judge ruled in favor of the district, the controversy resurfaced two years ago amid concerns that the program was a poor use of public funds in already strapped schools. Meanwhile, just last month the Alabama Board of Education’s long-standing ban on yoga caused some ballyhoo after a document listing it as one of the activities prohibited in “gym class” was recirculated, grabbing the attention of a Hindu activist."

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