(Christian News Network) — More than 100 pastors recently signed a letter to the Ohio Board of Education, which was also sent to 39 school districts, to express opposition to yoga and transcendental meditation being taught in schools as they are rooted in Eastern religion and are a spiritual practice at their core.
The letter, signed by 105 pastors from various denominations, notes that yoga has been taught during school hours in Clear Fork, Galion, Lexington, Lucas, Mansfield and Shelby counties and asks for an assurance that such practices will be discontinued.
“Yoga is not merely an external physical practice with a purely physiological effect, but rather an internal spiritual practice advertised as being able to provide the power to change an individual and transform the world,” it reads. “Specifically, yoga’s ‘stretching’ and ‘breathing’ components, called ‘asanas’ and ‘pranayama’ in Sanskrit, are intended to be spiritually transformative.”
The correspondence points to various court decisions characterizing yoga as being rooted in Hinduism, including the 1988 case of Powell v. Perry, which concluded that “yoga is a method of practicing Hinduism,” and the 1995 case of Self-Realization Fellowship Church v. Ananda Church of Self-Realization, which spoke of the “Hindu-yoga spiritual tradition.”
The pastors further provide examples of classroom or physical education sessions that incorporated yoga, including where a Lexington language arts teacher allegedly taught sixth-graders how to “salute the sun god Surya,” or “bow to the sun,” as well as how to get into a “praying hands posture.”
In Plain School District, an elementary school is said to have created a “mindfulness room” that featured quotes from the Dalai Lama. Its yoga program was discontinued in 2013 following complaints from parents.
One of the groups behind in-school teaching cited by the pastors also teaches Reiki to its followers. Examples of general Facebook posts include, “We will use ushas mudra this week to support the awakening of new and creative possibilities in this new year. What are you ready to manifest in 2020?” “How is your third eye? Are you connected to your vision center?” “How will you raise your vibration today? Come play some yoga with us!” and “Take a screen shot and see what you the Universe wants to tell you.”
The letter also notes that those involved in Eastern religion refute assertions that yoga is not a religious activity. It cites Subhas Tiwari, professor at the Hindu University of America and graduate of Bihar Yoga Bharati University, who once said, “The simple immutable fact is that yoga originated from the Vedic or Hindu culture. Its techniques were not adopted by Hinduism, but rather originated from it.”
The pastors concede that while “[m]ost initiate yoga practice for exercise and stress relief,” for others, “spirituality becomes their primary reason for maintaining practice.” They point to a study of mindful yoga retreat participants, which found that “longer-term meditators were less likely to be religious monotheists and more likely to identify as Buddhist or with ‘all’ religions.”
Further, “[w]hile proponents of Eastern religion allege yoga brings benefits to student practitioners, our biblical faith tradition brings just as many, if not more, scientifically-proven benefits,” the clergy contend. “Yet, ironically in a nation with Judeo-Christian heritage, it is school sanctioned prayer, Intelligent Design curriculum and the display of the Ten Commandments that are strictly prohibited from public schools.”
They therefore ask that the school districts discontinue teaching yoga and transcendental meditation to students.
Signees include pastors Howard Burnett of Perryville Baptist Church, Floyd Allen of Philippian Community Church, Ron Smals of Woodville Grace Brethren, Paul Larson of First English Lutheran Church, Russ Smith of Shiloh Wesleyan Church, Dan Zediker of Mission Point Mansfield, Bill Strader of Bucyrus First Alliance Church, Sylvester Ginn of Hesed Agape Fellowship, Layton Broom of Paradise Hill United Methodist Church, and William Jordan of Faith Temple Church of God in Christ.
Read the letter in full here. View some of the pastors sharing their thoughts at the end of the article.
As previously reported, in a booklet entitled “Yoga: Exercise or Religion — Does it Matter?”, author Ray Yungen outlines that while many view yoga as harmless exercise, there is no denying that the practice is rooted in Eastern New Age religion.
“The word ‘yoga’ actually means to be yoked to or united in body, mind, and spirit with Brahman (the Hindu concept of God). It doesn’t get more spiritually obvious than that,” he outlined. “… Even the traditional Hindu greeting, Namasté, that is said at the end of yoga classes, is spiritual. When translated, it means, ‘The god in me bows down to (or salutes) the god in you.’”
“If you go to the fitness section of any bookstore and look in the yoga subsection, you will find references to the spiritual aspects of Yoga such as the chakra system, kundalini, etc. in almost every book on yoga. It is quite rare to find a book on yoga that does not incorporate spiritual concepts found in classic Hinduism,” Yungen explained. “To devout Hindus, yoga cannot be separated into physical and spiritual parts. Both are relevant to the practice, with the end desire being a profound religious experience.”
He said that some Christians have wrongly concluded that yoga can be adopted by believers as long as it is stripped of its pagan aspects.
“We live in an age where the acceptance of trendy practices, such as yoga, is hammered into us from every side, with the end result being an ecumenical generic inter-spirituality that fits everybody,” Yungen lamented.
“Believers in Christ have fallen prey to some dangerous ideas. One is that we feel free to draw from pagan sources. Or, as is popularly stated, we can chew the meat and spit out the bones. But this doesn’t make any sense from a biblical standpoint,” he said. “As a Christian, we can’t segregate into portions what part we think will do us harm and what part will profit us. If the foundational spirituality is contrary to God’s word, then it will be folly to interact with it.”