If you’ve been following the news, you may have heard that parents are all abuzz in the Encinitas school district after the district introduced a mandatory yoga program to the students (read the article here). One of the main reasons the parents are in opposition is because of their belief that yoga has religious connotations. This same argument has been waged by religious leaders world wide at some time or another (just recently in the local news paper).  

Trying to be as open minded as possible – people who think that yoga contradicts their religious beliefs or that the act of yoga is a religious practice have completely missed the point. Yoga may encompass a larger idea of how we should live our life to achieve a higher state of being (who wouldn’t want something more than this existence?), but the yoga that is practiced in the US is mostly just poses. This is only a tiny sliver of the entire pie. Practicing the poses, or asana, will help you to calm and quiet your mind, which may lead to you to a more spiritual place – but it is not a religious practice.

I have studied some yoga philosophy, but I do not give sermons from my mat. As yoga teachers, I don’t think our purpose is to do so. But to encourage my clients to judge themselves less or practice patience with themselves and others? I truly don’t see how that can negatively affect the spirituality of a person. I know many people who claim a religion and could improve upon these points. When did learning to love ourselves become a religion? Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe I’m with Bob Marley – but I don’t see the harm in seeing love as my religion. 

Now on to the idea of yoga in schools – hopefully your childhood/teenage/adolescent years were enjoyable. I had a wonderful childhood and yet school was not the place that fostered it. I watched in 7th grade as one of my best friends was taunted and teased to the point where the police had to get involved. I too was bullied by older girls (though not to that extent). Don’t you think an activity that fosters not only a healthier body, but improving yourself would profoundly affect how teenagers interact with one another? Which is precisely the reason why there should be mandatory yoga in all schools, nationwide.

We have spent too long creating a culture where apathy, for both yourself and others is not only widespread, but also accepted and it is not ok.

Encinitas should educate themselves on what yoga is and what it is not – and take the opportunity to improve their town and the future leaders of their community.