Par­ents com­plain about yoga in NY school

The Covington News - - Religion -

MASSENA, N.Y. - A north­ern New York high school is putting ex­pan­sion of a class­room yoga pro­gram on hold af­ter par­ents com­plained their stu­dents were be­ing in­doc­tri­nated in Hindu rites.

The Massena Board of Ed­u­ca­tion agreed to de­lay a de­ci­sion and asked two teach­ers who have been de­vel­op­ing the year-old pro­gram to demon­strate yoga’s breath­ing and re­lax­ation tech­niques at the board’s next meet­ing on Oct. 14.

“I never thought this would be such a con­tro­versy,” board pres­i­dent Julie Rea­gan said Thurs­day.

“If the school board felt there was any hid­den re­li­gious ac­tiv­ity be­hind the mo­tives of our two in­struc­tors, we cer­tainly wouldn’t al­low that. There is ab­so­lutely none of that. The teach­ers are well in­tended and try­ing to of­fer an as­pect of fit­ness in the class­room that re­laxes and read­ies the chil­dren for bet­ter learn­ing,” Rea­gan said.

But the crit­ics say yoga vi­o­lates church-state bound­aries and has no place in the class­room.

“ We are not op­posed to the ben­e­fits. We can un­der­stand the ben­e­fits. We are op­posed to the phi­los­o­phy be­hind it and that has its ties in Hin­duism and the way they were pre­sent­ing it,” said the Rev. Colin Lu­cid of Cal­vary Bap­tist Church in Massena.

Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher Martha Duch­scherer and Kerry Per­retta, a Span­ish teacher, be­gan us­ing yoga in their class­rooms last year to re­lieve stress be­fore ex­ams. They’ve been at­tend­ing con­fer­ences and de­vel­op­ing a pro­gram across the district.

“It’s a great al­ter­na­tive in­struc­tional strat­egy for chil­dren that are over-stressed or who need to re­lax a lit­tle bit,” said Rea­gan, a pro­fes­sor of class­room man­age­ment cour­ses at the State Uni­ver­sity of New York at Pots­dam. “I feel bad for the teach­ers, who wanted to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and found it was work­ing, and wanted to share the suc­cess.”

One hun­dred schools in 26 states use yoga in the class­room to re­lieve stress, Rea­gan said. Fed­eral funds and grants are avail­able to ed­u­ca­tors who are go­ing for yoga cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, she said.

“It’s been a lit­tle dis­cour­ag­ing that this pro­gram has taken on a neg­a­tive tone,” said Duch­scherer, who has taught in the Massena district for 11 years. “ The in­ten­tion was never to teach re­li­gion ... It was to in­tro­duce re­lax­ation tech­niques.”

The Water­town Daily Times first re­ported that a small group of vo­cal par­ents raised con­cerns about the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state, say­ing at a board meet­ing last week that the district should not ex­pose their chil­dren to Hindu rit­u­als.

Lu­cid said it was “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” to do yoga in the class­room and that it should be of­fered as an af­ter-school ac­tiv­ity. Al­though the pro­gram is vol­un­tary, he said, “How many kids are go­ing to get up and leave the room?”

Lu­cid has a child in the high school, but not in one of the classes do­ing the yoga. He said he spoke out on be­half of con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers and as a con­cerned par­ent.

“It’s been blown way out of pro­por­tion. Peo­ple have made it a re­li­gious war, and it’s not a re­li­gious war. We are ba­si­cally con­cerned par­ents, say­ing we don’t want our chil­dren par­tic­i­pat­ing in some­thing that could cause them more stress and con­fu­sion,” Lu­cid said.

Lu­cid said that even in its most ba­sic form yoga is tied to Hin­duism.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Yoga As­so­ci­a­tion, that is a com­mon mis­con­cep­tion. Yoga ac­tu­ally pre­dates Hin­duism by many cen­turies, al­though it has been adopted by Hin­duism, as well as other world re­li­gions.

“ Yoga is not a re­li­gion. It has no creed or fixed set of be­liefs,” ac­cord­ing to the as­so­ci­a­tion’s Web site. “ The prac­tice of yoga will not in­ter­fere with any re­li­gion.”

There are more than a hun­dred dif­fer­ent schools of yoga, a word that means “to join or yoke to­gether,” and refers to bring­ing the mind and body to­gether in a har­mo­nious ex­pe­ri­ence. The most com­monly prac­ticed, at least in the United States, is hatha yoga, which en­com­passes phys­i­cal move­ments and pos­tures, plus breath­ing tech­niques.

Pope warns against agres­sive con­ver­sion ef­forts

VAT­I­CAN CITY - Pope Bene­dict XVI cau­tioned Ro­man Catholic bish­ops in for­mer Soviet re­publics on Thurs­day against ag­gres­sive means of gain­ing con­verts, an is­sue that has com­pli­cated at­tempts to rec­on­cile his church with Or­tho­dox Chris­tians.

A Vat­i­can en­voy to Moscow, mean­while, re­ported progress in im­prov­ing re­la­tions be­tween the two com­mu­nions that could one day pave the way for a pa­pal visit to Rus­sia.

The Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church has ac­cused the Vat­i­can of poach­ing for con­verts. The Ro­man Catholic Church con­tends it is sim­ply looking af­ter its tiny flock in for­mer Soviet na­tions, where Or­tho­doxy is the pre­dom­i­nant Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tion.

In gen­eral, such coun­tries do not for­bid Or­tho­dox worshippers to con­vert to Catholi­cism, but Or­tho­dox au­thor­i­ties have com­plained about other faiths.

For in­stance, the U.S. State Depart­ment re­cently re­ported that re­spect for re­li­gious free­dom in Ta­jik­istan has de­clined over the last year.

That was ev­i­dent on Thurs­day when Nozirdzhon Buriyev, a spokesman for the for­mer Soviet repub­lic, said a court has or­dered the ban­ning of the Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses in the Cen­tral Asian coun­try. He said the group was found by a mil­i­tary court to have breached re­li­gious leg­is­la­tion and il­le­gally im­ported faith lit­er­a­ture.

At the Vat­i­can, Pope Bene­dict XVI thanked an au­di­ence of vis­it­ing bish­ops from for­mer Soviet re­publics in Cen­tral Asia for hav­ing worked to keep “the flame of faith lit, de­spite the tough pres­sures ex­er­cised dur­ing the years of the athe­ist and com­mu­nist regime.”

But while the pope urged the bish­ops to keep the Chris­tian faith alive, he said he wanted to re­mind them that “the Church never im­poses, but freely pro­poses the Catholic faith.”

“ That is pre­cisely why any form of pros­e­ly­tiz­ing, which forces, or in­duces and at­tracts some­one with in­op­por­tune sub­terfuge to em­brace the faith, is pro­hib­ited,” Bene­dict said in his speech.

Ten­sions with Or­tho­dox leaders af­ter the demise of Soviet Union pre­vented Bene­dict’s pre­de­ces­sor, John Paul II, from re­al­iz­ing his dream of a pil­grim­age to Moscow.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.