The American Yoga Association reports the word yoga means “to join or yoke together” in an effort to bring body and mind into harmony.
“In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world,” AYA claims.
Who could possibly be offended by such goals?
That would be New Mexico State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado. The Republican from Los Lunas declares he is concerned yoga could be seen as a gateway to Eastern religion. Parents of public school children should be notified, he says, and given the option of alternative activities before yoga is practiced in school physical education classes.
Stop the madness.
The issue came up recently when an Albuquerque elementary school teacher spoke to a legislative study committee about student health, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The teacher said she refers to her class exercises as “stretching or mat work” rather than yoga because she doesn’t want to give the impression that religion is involved.
Two points come quickly to mind:
• Yoga is about exercise, breathing and meditation, not a platform for worshiping Buddha.
• So what if it did lead to spiritual awareness? Couldn’t it bring one closer to a Christian God as easily as to Buddha or Allah or Mother Nature?
We’re as concerned as anyone about state-sponsored religion — no matter the religion — being pushed on public school children without parental permission. But how, exactly, Rep. Baldonado, are breathing techniques promoting a religion?
Baldonado is a Christian who home schools his children. He is correct when he says, “We have the authority, the charge from God, to raise our children as we see fit.”
But no one can reasonably expect to shelter their children from diversity in a public school, whether it’s other students’ religious beliefs or, in this case, exercise routines.
The strongest Christians we know do not fear challenges to their faith. They embrace those challenges and use them to achieve a greater understanding of other faiths and their own.
We like the words of psychiatry professor Emmanuel Teney:
“As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”
We have nothing to fear from yoga either. It can only make us stronger.
Breathe in, Rep. Baldonado, and breathe out. It will help you relax, with or without a mat.