An elementary school in Encinitas, California, is tempting the devil by having its kids do yoga:
...when Mary Eady visited one of the yoga classes at her son's school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.
"They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises," she says.
Those looked like religious teachings to her, so she opted to keep her son out of the classes. The more Eady reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders' beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more she's convinced that the poses and meditation can't be separated from their Hindu roots.
"It's stated in the curriculum that it's meant to shape the way that they view the world, it's meant to shape the way that they make life decisions," Eady says. "It's meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves."
Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.
"And then the question becomes — if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal?" Broyles says. "I mean, that's the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program" [Kyla Calvert, "Promoting Hinduism? Parents Demand Removal of School Yoga Class," National Public Radio, 2013.01.09]
Marinating children—isn't that what Baptists do?
The National Center for Law and Policy is all about protecting and promoting religious freedom... as long as said freedom spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ. But expose kids to yoga, and you're pitching them into the fires of spiritual warfare.
I'm not exaggerating. Check out the NCLP's quickie-quote sheet telling Christians not to do yoga:
- Christians should not worship or bow down to idols; the Bible teaches that idols are connected with demonic activity (Exodus 20:4-5; Psalm 81:9; Isaiah 2:8; 44:19; Micah 5:13; Romans 1:22-23, 25; Acts 7:43; 1 Cor. 10:20-21; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 5:21; Rev. 9:20).NOTE: Yoga asanas (or poses) inherently acknowledge and depict the worship of Hindu gods and myths. See “Information for Parents: The EUSD/JOIS Foundation Yoga Program”
- Christian meditation involves focusing on scripture and thoughts about God, not emptying your mind as yoga meditation and Hinduism promotes (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:15, 23, 48).
- The spiritual realm (angels & demons) although unseen is very real (Mark 16:9; Romans 8:28; Eph. 2:1-3, 6:10-20; 1 Tim. 4:1).
- As Christians, our battle is not just against the physical/material realm but is also in the spiritual realm (Eph. 2:1-3; Eph. 6:10-20).
- Christians must refuse to submit to the government when it attempts to force them to violate their religious beliefs (See Daniel 3:1-18 (Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego refuse to bow to the King’s idol); Acts 5:29 (“We must obey God rather than men!”)) [National Center for Law and Policy, "Can Christians Practice Yoga?"].
The NLCP is freaking out over what we could view as simple, healthy physical activity. Yoga does help kids with autism. Yoga can relieve stress, improve flexibility, and strengthen your heart... as long as you don't tie yourself in knots. Parents in Encinitas are seeing practical benefits for their kids:
Despite the controversy, most parents, like Monique Cocco, are happy with the classes. She says her children don't come home with a newfound knowledge of Hinduism.
"Absolutely not — no. What my daughter tells me is she did the pancake today and she lays down and then she cracks up because it's so funny," Cocco says.
Cocco hears from teachers that kids are calmer and more focused after yoga, so the teachers can spend more class time on lessons, instead of settling kids down the way they sometimes have to after traditional gym classes [Calvert, 2013.01.09].
However, some Hindus argue that you can't have purely physical yoga, that true yoga must acknowledge its philosophical and religious roots. Consider this exhortation from the Himalayan Academy:
The fact that yoga is pursued by many non-Hindus is irrelevant to its validity as a Hindu practice. The roots of yoga, its scriptural origins, are Hindu. The stem of yoga, its practice, is Hindu; and the flower of yoga, mystical union with God, is Hindu. Yoga, in its full glory, is entirely Hindu. Practice at your own risk! [Himalayan Academy, "Is Yoga Hindu or More Universalistic?" 2011.09.08]
Our little girl has a yoga video that has her practicing stretching and balance without mentioning any gods. If West Elementary incorporates that godless "health yoga" into its curriculum to make the kids more physically and mentally fit, I'm o.k. with that. But if her yoga teachers start shouting, "This activity is entirely Hindu!" then yes, I'll have a freak-out right alongside the NCLP...
...the same freak-out that I will have if her history teacher starts shouting, "America was founded by Christians! America, in its full glory, is entirely Christian! America is the flower of union with God!" Hmm, that's funny: when I was having my freak-out last winter over Rep. Steve Hickey's call to all public schools to create Bible classes or to integrate Bible studies into their literature and history classes, a call for state-imposed Christian bias that our Legislature eagerly embraced, the NCLP didn't utter a peep.
Come on, NCLP: if you can see the clear religious motivation of the Jois Foundation funding the Encinitas yoga classes (even though Jois rep Russell Case says they are just good Christians who dig yoga), you should be able to see the clear religious motivation of South Dakota's theocratic legislators... and you should be just as outraged.