Public schools in rural, conservative areas are starting to ban yoga. In fact, the entire state of Alabama has, throughout their K-12 public education system.
As the subject of this post indicates, they have a point. A very good point, in fact. Yoga is not merely a physical activity; it is very much part of the Hindu religion. Schools should not be in the business of imposing compulsory religious practices on children. This is as true for religious practices popular in left-wing and countercultural circles as it is for ones popular in conservative, traditionalist ones.
Yoga proponents cite studies that show yoga is beneficial for children. This is largely irrelevant. There are studies that show regular churchgoers live longer. There are studies that show people who pray regularly are healthier than those who don’t. If “it benefits children” is a blanket excuse for crossing the church-state barrier, then congratulations: you’ve just made the case for compulsory Christian prayer in public schools.
There is a way to bring the benefits of yoga’s physical activity to children without violating the separation of church and state: study the yoga poses, use them to design a religion-neutral calisthenics program, and have students do that instead of yoga in gym class.
If a child’s parents feel strongly that traditional spiritual yoga would be beneficial, they are free to enroll their child in the privately-run, privately-funded, after-school yoga program of their choice—much like Christian parents are free to enroll their children in their church’s Sunday School program.
Fair’s fair—no special rights for Christians or New Agers.