Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Religion in the schools

Last week when I was on my blogging hiatus, I came across two cases of spiritual/religious advocacy in our schools, one at Stephenson Elementary in Grandview Heights, the other at Ohio State. On May 24, Channel 10 ran a story on using yoga to fight obesity in children:
    More and more public schools, yoga centers and gyms across the U.S. are beginning to offer yoga classes for children, 10TV's Heather Pick reported.

    "Yoga for kids is a little different than yoga for adults," said instructor Julia Sims Haas. "We use a lot of the same poses but it's presented in a fun way."

    Sims teaches young children yoga techniques as part of the Afterschool Adventures Program at Stevenson Elementary School.

    "It really encourages kids to learn about their body, learn about the world around them, and get in touch with themselves so they can have a healthy approach and lifestyle," Haas said.

    Kathleen Lemanek, a pediatric psychologist at Columbus Children's Hospital, said that everyone, including children, has some stress in their lives.

    "What is going to stress a second grader is going to be very different than a tenth grader or, for us, but anything that's unexpected, unpredictable that can be stressful," Lemanek said.

    She said that yoga teaches children to breathe more efficiently, calm their minds and strengthen balance, gain flexibility and improve posture.
They recommended that your pediatrician give approval, but you might also check with your pastor. Yoga is an integral part of the Hindu religion. It is not just an exercise program, although it is presented that way. It's about as honest as having the children gather for afterschool story time and then finding out the only stories presented were from the Bible, and at the end of each story, there was prayer time. That would never make it past the school board or principal, would it? But Yoga? Oh, it's just about fitting your body into prayerful positions to worship various Hindu dieties.

Then I was researching digital archives at Ohio State. The fancy name for it is "institutional repositories," or at OSU, Knowledge Bank. So I was looking through the list, noting how inconsistent the catalog subject terms were, learning that each department makes up their own (unfortunately), when I came across a video presentation of a lecture on the battle between Black Hawk and Keokuk back in the early 19th century. That sounded pretty interesting, so I brought it up. Imagine my surprise when the faculty member of Ohio State who introduced the guest speaker, gave sort of a laudatory praise to "Our Grandmother", who by definition in that culture is the Creator, Supreme Being and Author of Life. A lecture on some aspect of Christian history or literature or Crusades battle would not open with a prayer to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (whom Christians accept as Creator, Supreme Being and Author of Life). At least in my many years at the university, a department sponsored event didn't open this way, although special invited guests for para-church organizations using a university room might.

So why the double standard for Christianity and other religions?


Anonymous said...

The practice of yoga has as much to do with Hinduism as karate or judo has to do with Shintoism or Buddhism.

I am a yoga practitioner and haven't, nor do I want to, worship any gods, Hindu or otherwise.

Poses like "prayer" use pressed-together hands like a prayer, but only the position is the same there is no prayer. Many yoga poses have descriptive names like "warrior", "corpse" or "child."

Yoga itself is mentioned in the Hindu Scriptures. However it is not taught as part of the religion, except to monks or other seekers of faith.

Instructors frequently use words like "energy" and "spirit" but use them in an areligious context.

It is true that yoga contains many of the trappings of Hindu culture such as statutes and paintings of Hindu gods, but they are regarded as art objects not objects of worship.

In short: yoga, especially in America, is secular.

Dancing Boys Mom said...

While I agree somewhat with your commenter, having participated in Yoga classes and having had my son in karate, I can say that you should keep an eye on anything your children are being exposed to. In my yoga class they definitely pushed the meditation to some sort of weird entity (can't remember which) and in my son's karate they attempted to add some spirit worship or something like that. I asked for my son to be able to opt out of that part of the class and soon after it was dropped completely. I would not trust a public school to not try to indoctrinate my children into some foreign religion.

Norma said...

Let's see what someone knowledgeable about both religion and reaching inside for spiritual meaning through exercise programs has to say. Donal O'Mathuna, PhD, has a doctorate in medicinal chemistry from Ohio State and a Masters in theology from Ashland University. He's the author of "Alternative Medicine," rev. ed. 2006, Zondervan. If you are not a Christian or Jew, you will not be violating any commandments; if you are, you should at least be informed about what you are letting your child get into.

"The word yoga literally means "union." As an integral part of Hindu religion, it implies union with the "divine." It is fundamentally a spiritual exercise designed to bring spiritual enlightenment.

The pranayamas, while focused on physical breathing, are designed to regulate the flow of prana, the Hindu term for life energy. The exercises are to help bring a person into a meditative state from which union with the Great Unconscious occurs, leading to spiritual enlightenment. . . The ultimate goal being the realization of one's divine nature . . . it is a deeply religious practice." p.271

Clinical studies show that yoga can reduce stress and relieve chronic pain--but so do a lot of legal and illegal drugs.

If your child is fat or stressed out, turn off the computer and send him/her out to run, ride a bike or climb a tree. Or spend time with him with your cell phone off. Don't enroll him in an after school religion in disguise program.

Anonymous said...

Listen, I'm a practicing Presbyterian. But, more importantly I am well aware that Christianity makes up over a third of the world's population and has been the most prominent in forcing itself onto others. I don't think you or I have the right to play the descrimination card on something which is motivated towards exercising children. I am fairly certain there is no brainwashing going on in this case. The Christian thing to do would be to accept other religions anyway, even if you find yours is being misrepresented. It's not all about if we can't do it, they can't either.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I just read

"Clinical studies show that yoga can reduce stress and relieve chronic pain--but so do a lot of legal and illegal drugs."

Are you serious? Is that actually an argument? That's exactly like saying: "Christianity gives some people satisfaction, but so do a lot of legal and illegal drugs."

--Nic, 18, Ottawa, Canada,

Norma said...

Nic: "Listen, I'm a practicing Presbyterian." I'm sending you back to church, Nic, for a bit more practice. Looking for the god within, whether in yoga, TM, or some other inward movement, is worship of self. It's the old story from Genesis to Revelation, and has nothing to do with containing the obesity problem, which can be handled many other ways, such as turning off the TV, computer and unplugging kids so they can move and play. Bringing religion into the curriculum under the guise of health or science or history is wrong when you aren't honest about the motives or outcome.