The Associated Press reports on yet another unfortunate decision made by a public school district:
A group of parents is bent out of shape by free yoga classes at schools in this San Diego County beachside community, fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.
“There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices,” the parents’ attorney, Dean Broyles, told the North County Times.
The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Ashtanga yoga. Some schools began classes last month and others will begin holding them in January.
The school district claims that it “has removed any religious content” from these yoga classes, but is this even possible? Consider the following from the Hindu American Foundation:
Yoga, from the word “yuj” (Sanskrit, “to yoke” or “to unite”), refers to spiritual practices that are essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism….
[T]here is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Both Yoga magazines and studios assiduously present Yoga as an ancient practice independent and disembodied from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity…Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.
If it is acknowledged by such an entity as the Hindu American Foundation that yoga cannot be separated from its religious origins, then it seems that the concerns of these parents are justified. The superintendent of this school district states in the AP article that, “Yoga is part of our mainstream culture.” While it may be true that yoga is widely accepted among the culture, that does not provide an excuse for this religious practice to be brought into the public schools—the very same schools, ironically, that often demonstrate hostility toward any display of the Christian faith.
Beyond these political themes, however, lie the dangerous deceptions of this “exercise.” Ashtanga yoga is identified as,
a system of yoga transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Source
Further study reveals:
Ashtanga yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:
Yama [moral codes], Niyama [self-purification and study], Asana [posture], Pranayama [breath control], Pratyahara [sense control], Dharana [concentration], Dhyana [meditation], Samadhi [absorption into the Universal]
The definition of yoga is “the controlling of the mind” [citta vrtti nirodhah] (Jois 2003 10)
The techniques noted above are dangerously similar to those of contemplative prayer and other practices of spiritual formation. As CRN has noted in the past, the goal of these disciplines often is to empty the mind, allowing one to enter an altered state of consciousness. In such a state, a person may be deeply vulnerable to demonic deception. One can only imagine the detrimental impact this could have upon small children engaging in yoga.
Such endeavors are not to be pursued by the Christian. For the believer, these presuppose that one must look outside of Scripture, and into himself, to find deeper meaning, truth and even a sense of the divine. Dr. Al Mohler sums up quite well why the Christian should not engage in such things as yoga:
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness. Source
In discussing Stefanie Syman’s book, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, Mohler shares some additional disconcerting information about this practice:
Syman describes yoga as a varied practice, but she makes clear that yoga cannot be fully extricated from its spiritual roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. She is also straightforward in explaining the role of sexual energy in virtually all forms of yoga and of ritualized sex in some yoga traditions. She also explains that yoga “is one of the first and most successful products of globalization, and it has augured a truly post-Christian, spiritually polyglot country.” Source
This AP story out of California, then, surely ought to be a reminder to Christian parents to be diligent and aware of what their children are learning in school. No longer is a parent’s greatest fear that his child may need help with math homework. Rather, parents must now wonder what type of demonic deceptions have been introduced to their children.