Yoga in the Secular World

| 10/6/2008 1:06:13 PM


A controversy erupted recently in upstate New York, when public high school teachers tried to use yoga to help students relax before tests, the Associated Press reports. Parents and community members, including a Baptist minister, alleged that the program blurred the line between church and state and might indoctrinate students into Hinduism.

The immense popularity of yoga in secular society could render its religious provenance moot, but Mollie Ziegler at GetReligion points out, “whether or not yoga can be divorced from Hinduism, to the Hindu it certainly is a religious discipline.” Ziegler quotes yoga experts who argue that the practice’s secularization has stripped away its mental and spiritual components and focused solely on the body, robbing yoga of much of its power by re-branding it as a get-fit-quick regimen. The AP article hints at this tension, but never tackles it, causing Ziegler to write, “it's just a weak story all around.”

For more on the rocky relationship between yoga and the press, read Robert Love's "Fear of Yoga" from the March/April 2007 issue of Utne Reader. 

Photo by Angela Sevin, licensed by Creative Commons.

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