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Religious, Community Leaders Want to Ban Yoga in New York High School

MASSENA, NY -- A group of parents and religious leaders in upstate New York want to stop yoga from being taught in public schools, saying the instruction violates boundaries between church and state, The Associated Press reports.

Two high school teachers began using yoga last year to help students relieve stress before exams. The teachers also were developing a district-wide program, but those plans were halted after parents and others in the community complained that students were being indoctrinated in Hindu rites.

The Massena (NY) Board of Education agreed to delay a decision on expanding the yoga program and asked the two teachers to demonstrate yoga’s breathing and relaxation techniques at the board’s next meeting on Oct. 14, the AP reports.

According to a statement on the Web site of the American Yoga Association, yoga is not a religion, although its practice has been adopted by Hinduism and other world religions.

“Yoga … has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed godlike figure to be worshipped in a particular manner,” according to a statement on the Web site. “The common belief that yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries. The practice of yoga will not interfere with any religion. Many American Yoga Association students who have practiced yoga intensively for many years continue to follow the religious traditions they have grown up in or adopted without conflict.”

This is not the first conflict that involved the teaching of yoga in schools and parents, religious leaders and community leaders. In 2002, parents in Aspen, CO, were successful in demanding the removal of yoga in the local curriculum. In 1999, the American Catholic Lawyers Association filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of parents in Bedford, NY, who were upset over instructional activities, including yoga classes. In Alabama, religious leaders pushed for a 1993 law prohibiting the teaching of yoga in schools, citing connections between yoga and Hindu religious training, the AP reports.

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