Teaching Yoga to kids at school is great. They come without that bag full of preconceptions adults normally drag along to class, are open-minded and absorb quickly. They don’t even have the problem of feeling stiff, rather the contrary, they are so overly flexible that teachers needs to pay great attention not to overstretch their growing bodies. Ever tried sitting in Lotus for more than ten minutes? Kids don’t even see what’s difficult here.
So it’s great news that more and more schools are adding Yoga classes to the curriculum. BUT. In essence, what is taught here is not Yoga. It’s some stretching exercises followed by a relaxation.There’s no “OMing” and you don’t say “Namaste”. You don’t bow your head. And don’t even think of bringing your palms together in prayer position.
Prayer position. That’s exactly the sticky point here. Schools are in a really tricky position – nothing that is even borderline religious is allowed by law or tolerated by parents, which brings us back to the question: Is Yoga a religious practice? There’s a really interesting article discussing the issue in the NYT, where it says:
Perhaps a teacher accustomed to working in other settings inadvertently puts hands together in a prayer position, for instance. “It is easily explained, and fixed,” Ms. Ford said. “We weed it out quickly.”
Weeding it out? Fixing it? Wow, there must have been something wrong with Yoga in the first place then? Glad we fixed it. (OK, I stop here…) What is really worth discussing to my mind is the following:
Is it better to teach a stripped-down version of Yoga, without any deeper meaning, just so that kids get an introduction even though it fails to make the point – or not teach it at all and preserve its beauty and wholeness?
What do you think?