I was reading an article this morning on a site I’ve started checking out regularly. The author was talking about how she and her family are practicing Christians, who made the choice to send their kids to public school. You can read the article here. I gathered from that piece that they like the idea of being in control of what their children learn about their faith, and appreciate that no religion of any kind is taught in public schools. (I imagine that last part is a large deciding factor in her school system choice, since Catholic schools in Ontario – maybe across the country – teach world religions starting in high school. Based solely on the piece I read this morning I assume that the author would not be comfortable with her children exploring other faiths.)
She was writing about being upset to discover that a yoga instructor came to the school and taught some basic yoga to one of her 3 kids. Her position is that yoga is a faith, that clearing your mind is not the same as praying, and is really just upset that any form of faith was taught in the classroom.
Is it just me? It’s possible – maybe it is just me. I thought that yoga had become totally mainstream and sanitized.
I was raised in a Catholic home. My Mom was a reader, Minister of the Eucharist (meaning she could administer communion alongside the priest), founder of the pre-school Sunday School program, and later the founder of the school-aged Sunday School program. I myself was an alter server, a reader, I sang in the choir, held the youth seat on the parish council, taught the pre-school Sunday School program and later founded a youth group. To say that my roots are Christian is a very fair statement.
I do not today call myself Christian, however, so maybe my perspective is skewed. The thing is, I do not see yoga as a faith. I get that it’s roots are, but so are the roots of Christmas and Easter, and how many of us still celebrate those holidays even though we don’t accept Jesus as our saviour? I see yoga as exercise. I see it as relaxation technique. I see it as a way to release stress that our daily lives bring to us consistently, that are proven to be killing us. And you know, even in my very Catholic upbringing, when we kids started to get out of control of wound up, my Mom would say, “Stop for a minute. Take a deep breath. Okay, and now take another deep breath.” She did that because she knew it would clear our minds of the craziness that was happening in there. She did not feel that in doing so we were “inviting the devil in” to quote one commenter from the article.
In my upbringing, I grew to understand that you need to still your mind to hear the voice of God. It’s in the quiet moments that God reveals Himself to you. I still believe this to be true. We need to calm the white noise in our heads – there is so much chatter there, all the time, that it’s a real gift when you are able to stop the noise for a moment. Yoga can do that, and that should be seen as a good thing.
I think though, more than my lack of understanding for her position that yoga is a faith, I am upset that this seemingly progressive woman, living in one of the most liberal provinces in our country (British Columbia) is so closed to diversity. From my perspective, your faith must not be very strong if it cannot handle a little discussion about other faiths. Some will say that it’s not her faith that she’s worried about – it’s her children’s faith. I hear that. Again though, it’s a great chance to reinforce your family’s values and to discuss the similarities and differences between the 2 faiths. In order for our society to move forward to a place of peace and acceptance, we need to be able to talk about what makes us different. Our children need to feel free to explore the world around them, and know that we want them to come and talk to us about what they discover. By telling the teacher (as the writer did), “Please let us know if you plan to do such a session again, so that we can take Graham out of school that day,” she is effectively cutting off any discussion and exploration. And to me, that’s just sad.
But what do you think? Am I over-reacting? Am I mistaken, and yoga is a faith system all it’s own, not something that can be used to cross a myriad of religions? Should the writer be upset? Help me see what you see, so my perspective can be broadened.