Open your mind to new things

By Hayley Devitt

Fear of the unknown keeps one from opening up to new experiences.

To some, fear of the unknown should inhibit others from experiencing something that is good for them and, oh yeah, requires legal action as well.

As of February, a couple in San Diego is suing their children’s school district for offering an Ashtanga yoga program which they are calling “inherently and pervasively religious.”

Usually, in this kind of situation, adults are outraged that their tax dollars are being spent on something they do not approve of. However, what Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock are protesting is the district’s decision to accept a grant that pays for the program, as they view the new (to them) form of physical activity as a violation of religious freedom.

Although yoga practices are rooted in ancient Indian tradition and are a big part of Eastern culture, most yoga classes in the United States are taught without the religious or spiritual components. Taking part in yoga activities has been scientifically proven to create higher levels of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), which have a calming effect within the brain, according to

It is even outlined in a document on the school district’s website that the yoga classes were funded through a grant from the Jois Foundation with specific instructions that all schools in the district implement only the physical components of yoga movement and breathing. All references to spirituality and mysticism as well as Sanskrit mantras were to be left out.

Furthermore, the couple who filed a lawsuit had the option of keeping their child out of yoga class; no one was forced to participate. I think that these parents passed judgment on a practice they know very little about and made an irrational decision by suing the school.

Incidentally, I attended a yoga class at NIU’s Recreation Center and had a chance to speak with the instructor about yoga being taught in elementary schools.

“I wish I would have learned that young,” said registered yoga teacher Kristin DeMint.

DeMint said some classes designed for children incorporate storytelling to make the poses easier to remember.

There are also practical benefits for children learning yoga. In addition to teaching young students to relax, DeMint said the practice is “really good for attention and focus.” That being the case, I think yoga would be a great alternative to prescribing behavioral meds to kids who can’t sit still in class, especially in an age in America where parents want kids to get more active.

The goal of the lawsuit is to reinstate the usual physical education curriculum. So rather than helping kids relieve the stresses of school through yoga, they are given more stress by way of running in circles and being pelted with rubber balls.

I remember what gym class was like in grade school, and it was not a positive time of day for kids who were not liked. Pressures having to do with body image, physical strength and social acceptance could be laid to rest with a nurturing and non-aggressive activity like yoga.