A 4yoga student, Susan James, asked if we were aware of a recent news story from the San Diego area. This story describes protests from parents of children enrolled in a school yoga program and their accusations that this program is indoctrinating their children into the Hindu religion.
I think that the view expressed by the parents in the article shows a lack of deeper understanding of the meanings of yoga and Hinduism. Both are ancient traditions that are rich and complex in the depth of their meaning, and I do not believe they are simply grasped, especially if one’s knowledge is based on what is seen in the modern culture and media coverage.
Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati, a teacher of traditional yoga, writes in the third paragraph of “Yoga, Hinduism, and Physical Fitness“:
The other diversion is the view that Yoga is but one aspect of a religion known as Hinduism. Modern Yoga practitioners and teachers often face the assertion by people in their community that they are practicing or teaching Hinduism. However, few of these modern Yoga practitioners realize that it is extremely questionable whether there even exists a singular, unified religion known as “Hinduism”. Rather than being religious, the word “Hindu” historically was a geographic, social, and cultural term. The Indic history is one of tremendous diversity of principles and practices, and has only recently in history been invented into the concept of a single, homogenized “religion” called “Hinduism”. If there is, in fact, no unified religion known as Hinduism, then it can hardly be accurately claimed that Yoga is part of that religion, much less that Yoga itself is “a religion.”
By clicking on the link to the article quoted above, you can connect to Swami J’s website and find much more information about the traditional practice of yoga. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org, as well, for additional resources about yoga.
From my perspective as a teacher of Hatha yoga to middle- and high-school-aged adolescents at the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center, in Bowling Green, KY, I see the benefits of this practice to this population to be tremendous based on the feedback from the students themselves.