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					Yoga in Schools: The Ethical
Concerns about its Religious
      Maureen A. Davin, Ed.D.
Yoga is Becoming More Popular in
• Yoga Ed
• Yoga Kids – Yoga Beez and Yoga Kids
  Grow Up
• U.S. Yoga Association – Kids’ Yoga
• 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
  quotes. Its founder
  Laurette Willis was
  featured in
  Newsweek and Time
              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
• 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
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 |
 CHICAGO — 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
• Yoga means union or
  to yoke.
• Yoga is strongly
  connected with
• Trinity – Brahma (god
  of creation), Vishnu
  (god of sustaining),
  and Shiva (god of
  destruction and lord
  of yoga)
• 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
• Effort made to hide the
  true purpose of yoga
• Packaged as a fitness
  activity but never
  intended as an exercise
            Styles of Yoga
• 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
               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 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.
• 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
• Prana travels through
  the body by way of
  72,000 nadis.
Traveling Through the Chakras
• As Kundalini rises
  up, she passes
  through the different
• If a student can cause
  Kundalini to arise to
  the crown of the head,
  Kundalini will unite
  with Shiva, her
  spiritual spouse.
• 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 are finger
  movements used in yoga.
• The prana generates from
  the fingers when they are
  positioned in certain
• Each finger is said to
  release certain types of
  energy and certain finger
  position will energize
  different chakras in the
       Meanings of Mudras
• Gran Mudra – Wisdom & knowledge
• Shuni Mudra – Patience & discernment
• Surya Mudra – Revitalization & energy
• Buddhi Mudra – Communication
• Venus Lock – Love & Sexuality
• Prayer Mudra – Used for prayer
• 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
• 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
  Mantras have Spiritual Meanings
• ‚Om‛ – hidden creator
• ‚Ong Nama‛ – I call upon the infinite creative
• ‚Om Nama shiviaja‛ – Salutation to the Hindu
  God Shiva
• ‚Sohum‛ – I am the universal self
• ‚Om Namio‛ - Salutation to the so-called Divine
• ‚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.

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