Yoga in Schools: The Ethical Concerns about its Religious Connection Maureen A. Davin, Ed.D.
Yoga is Becoming More Popular in Schools • Yoga Ed • Yoga Kids – Yoga Beez and Yoga Kids Grow Up • U.S. Yoga Association – Kids’ Yoga Challenge • Little Flower Yoga • Yoga’d Up of London • Yoga Bears • Methods of Movement
Yoga Alternative • Yoga Alternative – Power Moves Kids Program for Public Schools: This program uses stretching and character-building quotes. Its founder Laurette Willis was featured in Newsweek and Time Magazine.
Growing Popularity Causes Growing Controversy “Parents getting bent out of shape over yoga in schools. Why?” Rachel Breitman , Columbia News Service, 2006 “Yoga causes controversy in public schools: Some parents say it violates the separation of church and state “ MSNBC, 2007 “Yoga in schools denounced as anti-Christian: Quesnel opponents say fitness program puts students on Satan-inspired path toward embracing Hindu gods” Ethan Baron , CanWest News Service January 10, 2007 “Yoga in schools: What’s all the fuss about? “ Darlene D’arezzo Yoga Times, September, 2007 “Parents in twist over yoga in schools” The Associated Press Oct 5, 2008 “Yoga controversy gaining attention” Watertown Daily Time Oct7, 2008
Yoga Controversy Timeline • 1993 – Alabama religious leaders pushed for a law banning yoga from schools. • 1996 – American Catholic Lawyers filed a federal lawsuit in Bedford, New York. • 1997 – Four representatives from Washington State tried to pass a bill forbidding yoga.
Timeline Cont. • 2002 – In Aspen, Colorado, Christians and secular parents lobbied the school board. • 2005 – Christian Law Association contacted Wake County School District. • 2006 – The Alabama Department of Education’s State Board of Education decided to prohibit meditation and yoga. • 2008 Massena High School parents asked Board of Education to remove yoga.
Separation of Church and State The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.“ The First Amendment forbids religious activity that is sponsored by the government but protects religious activity that is initiated by private individuals.
Impermissible Speech and Actions • Engel v. Vitale (1962) Teachers and school officials may not lead their classes in any prayer, devotions, or any other religious activity. • Lee v. Weisman (1992) School officials may not attempt to compel or persuade students to participate in prayer or other religious activities. • March 2, 2009 – The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from Coach Borden of East Brunswick High School who was banned from bowing his head during student-led team prayers.
Permissible Speech and Actions • Students can pray voluntarily at any time during the day and can pray with other students who want to pray. Students can organize prayer and religious groups. Students can wear religious clothing. • In 2000 a Virginia law was passed requiring all public school children to participate in a one-minute moment of silence in the morning.
Illinois Moment of Silence in Schools Ruled Unconstitutional Thursday, January 22, 2009 | FoxNews.comCHICAGO — A federal judge has ruled that a state law requiring a moment of silence in public schools across Illinois is unconstitutional, saying it crosses the line separating church and state. "The statute is a subtle effort to force students at impressionable ages to contemplate religion," U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman said in his ruling.
Yoga is banned by Islamic body • In November 2008, Malaysia’s Islamic body banned Muslims from practicing yoga. The leaders claimed that you can not separate the exercise from the elements of Hinduism. “Yoga as practiced in the Hindu community involves not just physical movements but also chants and elements of worship. Such devotional practices aimed at becoming ‘one with god’ of a different religion could erode a Muslim’s faith.”Two months later Indonesian Muslims did the same.
Is Yoga Connected to the Hindu Religion? • Yoga means union or to yoke. • Yoga is strongly connected with Hinduism. • Trinity – Brahma (god of creation), Vishnu (god of sustaining), and Shiva (god of destruction and lord of yoga)
Vedas • Vedas are believed to be divine inspiration. • Upanishads were written between 800 BC and 600 BC . • They are the foundations from which yoga is taught. • The first 12 of the 200 Upanishads are used for teaching yoga.
History of Yoga • Ceramics dated 5,000 years ago were found with yogic postures. They resemble Parvathi (father of yoga) and Lord Shiva (Parvathi’s first disciple). • Yoga has been found recorded in scrolls from ancient Tibet. • Evidence of meditative practices was found in ancient cities in India.
Yoga Comes to America • 1850 – First introduced to the United States • TM - Popular during flower child movement • Effort made to hide the true purpose of yoga • Packaged as a fitness activity but never intended as an exercise
Raja Yoga –eight-step path Mantra Yoga – mantras awaken energy Bhakti Yoga – chants, prayers, and worship Karma Yoga – path of selfless action Jnana Yoga – most difficult path of wisdom Tantric Yoga – extreme style of yoga using bizarre mixture of occult and magical practices, sorcery, white magic, human sacrifices, cannibalism, and sexual perversion Styles of Yoga
Hatha Yoga • Most popular yoga practiced in West • “ha” means right and “tha” means left • “ha” means sun and “tha” means moon • Brings the worlds of opposition into unity in order to provide balance • Releases prana or energy that is in body • Unites person’s soul with the divine • Many styles of Hatha Yoga: Kundalini, Iyengar, Kripalu, Bikram, Sivananda, Astanga, Restorative, Anusara, and Integral
Kundalini Kundalini is a sleeping serpent that is coiled three and a half times. She stays sleeping at the base of the spine. The ultimate goal of yoga is to awaken Kundalini and send her to the crown of the head.
Chakras • The body is said to have 6 or more major centers of the body, with an extra one called sahasrara located at the crown of the head. • Breathing is central to the idea of energy flowing through them. • Prana travels through the body by way of 72,000 nadis.
Traveling Through the Chakras • As Kundalini rises up, she passes through the different chakras. • If a student can cause Kundalini to arise to the crown of the head, Kundalini will unite with Shiva, her spiritual spouse.
Pranayama • Importance of breathing – releases energy and causes a cleansing • When taking in a prana breath, students are told that they should visualize the energy force going throughout their body. • Concentrate on breathing to enter meditative state and empty the mind. • Astrial projection – step outside the body
Mudras • Mudras are finger movements used in yoga. • The prana generates from the fingers when they are positioned in certain ways. • Each finger is said to release certain types of energy and certain finger position will energize different chakras in the body.
Meanings of Mudras • Gran Mudra – Wisdom & knowledge (Jupiter) • Shuni Mudra – Patience & discernment (Saturn) • Surya Mudra – Revitalization & energy (Uranus) • Buddhi Mudra – Communication (Mercury) • Venus Lock – Love & Sexuality • Prayer Mudra – Used for prayer
Asanas • Asanas are postures that are used that help to change the energy paths. • 12 asanas make up the Sun Salutations . Each asana awakens a certain aspect of the sun’s energy – It’s power to give life; its constant motion; its ability to give energy; and its ability to nourish, stimulate, dispel darkness, and bring forth remembrance of wholeness.
Mantras • Mantras are sacred sounds that are said to have psycho spiritual power. • They are directed to certain areas in the body, many times to the third eye point. • The goal is to master jopa. This happens when the mantra is sent to the cosmos and is sent back to the person.
Mantras have Spiritual Meanings • “Om” – hidden creator • “Ong Nama” – I call upon the infinite creative consciousness • “Om Nama shiviaja” – Salutation to the Hindu God Shiva • “Sohum” – I am the universal self • “Om Namio” - Salutation to the so-called Divine Sources • “Sa’ha” – means “I am” and this means the person has arrived at becoming the “eternal” • “Sat Nam” – truth is my identity – helps you realize you are indeed the truth manifested
What Now??? There appears to be a strong religious connection in yoga. Does changing the terminology really change the meaning? Parents and others do appear to have a legitimate concern. What are you going to do with this information? If you have not had to deal with this issue, you probably will soon.