The GEM Debate:
Is Yoga In Schools Exercise For The Body Or The Spirit?
When kids get free anything in schools these days you would think that’s good, right? Well, I can think of a few free things they don’t need, but yoga definitely would not have topped my list. That is not the opinion of some of the parents in the Encinitas Union School District.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock along with their children are suing the school district for bringing religion into the schools by way of yoga. The school district was given a three-year grant worth $533,000 by the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga, a practice which, according to Wikipedia’s Asthanga yoga page, is more about breathing and movement than anything else. I said “more”…there is a religious component in the higher level practices of Asthanga; power yoga aligns with a Hindu philosophy. Using the same unit of measure, Wikipedia, yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline. So yoga at its core is known to have a spiritual component and that’s why the Sedlocks are against it.
If you google “study of astronomy religion” you will find that several religions used the stars as their spiritual guides long ago (some still use astrology, but that’s different). ”Celestial bodies were the subject of worship” at points in world history, says even more Wikipedia. What does that have to do with yoga and spirituality in schools? At some point “the heavens” weren’t just flecks of light, but light that brightened men’s souls. Worshipping the stars now seems outdated and most only use it as a point of reference because once you name something Orion, which references the Egyptian god Osiris, that’s its name; and that is how it is taught in schools. Let’s not forget that literature and history classes are also filled with religious stories or crusades.
Basically, my long-winded point is that religion is in our schools. You can separate church and state as much as you want to, but many of the disciplines we learn have some roots in religion; Pythagorus from algebra class had a following called Pythagoreanism (you know where to look it up), but we still use his theorems to solve problems and we don’t tout his religious beliefs when we do it.
Yoga in the instance of the Encinitas Union School District isn’t being used to filter in religion. Children aren’t given religious pamphlets and there are no chants that have them praising any deity. Yoga is great for teaching children to think first, act second; push their bodies to do incredible things; get them involved in a physical activity that doesn’t have to be done at a gym or even on a warm day. Schools are losing so many different activities why would parents think that since there is some speck of spirituality in the practice that that is what their children have to take from it?
I’m not a teacher but I deal with children. I have got to to think the whole district did a shout of joy to their god of choice when they were given this money to make children sit still for however many minutes these classes run. The silent prayers of thanks for that is probably the only place you are going to find religion or spirituality in this one.
What says GEM nation? Am I taking too much spirituality out of yoga in schools or are these parents putting too much in? How much would your school district love such a generous grant? Let us know!
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Ella Rucker is the mother of one of the smartest, funniest two-year-olds she’s ever met. She is currently assistant to the head GEM which means hats-a-plenty including writing, editing, and producing for Good Enough Mother. An Ohio native implanted in NYC for the last 13 years, Ella has achieved one of her many dreams by writing. Her musings (she’s amused they’d be called “musings”) can be found at other places on the web so make sure you follow her on twitter @ellalaverne for all the information.