In February of last year a group of parents in Encinitas, California began legal action against a local school which was providing Ashtanga yoga lessons to pupils. They claimed that the classes involved religious worship of deities, and therefore contradicted their own beliefs.
Let’s be clear about this – yoga is not a religion.
You do not have to believe in any God or deity in order to practise yoga. You do not need to believe in any concept of an afterlife, of a heaven or hell to go to your mat every day and find a few moments of peace. As Patanjali stated in The Yoga Sutras, ‘Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.’ (p.90, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Alistair Shearer)
That’s it, nothing more. The reason we practise our physical postures is so that we can gain mastery over the body, mind and breath, enabling us to sit still for long periods and be silent, which in today’s world, is a great gift. This is precisely why it is so sad to hear that these parents are trying to deny their children the opportunity to learn a skill which would benefit their sons and daughters, both physically and mentally, providing them with an invaluable tool to cope with life’s ups and downs in an increasingly chaotic world.
What’s your view on this case? Would you be happy for your children to learn yoga at school?
The original article that inspired this post:
The article which includes the ruling from the judge, who stated that the yoga programme ‘was not religious’.
At the time of posting, the ruling was being appealed.