Administrators at an elementary school in Georgia are making changes to yoga practices for students, after parents complained such practices encouraged non-Christian beliefs.
Bullard elementary, in Cobb County, is one of a number of schools across the US and in Georgia to offer yoga and other mindfulness practices rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism as stress management methods for students.
Some parents at Bullard, however, felt the introduction of yoga was akin to pushing Hinduism on their children, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“No prayer in schools. Some don’t even say the pledge [of allegiance], yet they’re pushing ideology on our students,” one mother, Susan Jaramillo, told 11Alive, an NBC affiliate. “Some of those things are religious practices that we don’t want our children doing in our schools.”
School leaders held a meeting with parents. In a subsequent email to parents, principal Patrice Moore said the issue “created a distraction in our school and community”.
“While we have been practicing de-stressing techniques in many classrooms for years, there have been some recent practices associated with mindfulness that are offensive to some,” Moore wrote.
Bullard is now making changes to how students go about the practice. When they go through the yoga moves, they will not say “namaste” or put their hands by their hearts, because the term and gesture are derived from Hindu custom.
Students will also no longer be allowed to color mandalas, spiritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Cheryl Crawford, a yoga instructor who has taught at several Atlanta-area schools,told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution yoga was not an exercise that encouraged any religious faith.
“It’s a way to get children aware of their breath patterns, their tendencies and habits,” she said. “Often times they’re focused outwardly, they’re not focused inwardly.
“It helps them if they’re very worried … and to use that energy to do something else.”