MASSENA, NY -- A high school in upstate New York has received community approval to offer its students a voluntary yoga program, provided that the program is not called yoga.
Massena High School has renamed its yoga program “Raider Relaxation” after the school’s mascot, The Associated Press reports. The program includes the same exercises that drew objections from parents and community and religious leaders earlier this fall. Some of those parents and leaders said back then that yoga promotes Hinduism and would violate the separation of church and state.
The compromise was reached during a recent meeting between parents and Superintendent Roger Clough, the AP reports. Clough said parents agreed to change the name of the in-class program and set up an after-school club to give interested students a deeper understanding of yoga.
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.