The growing popularity of Yoga now includes children, with an increasing number of schools offering courses on the spiritual and physical discipline.
Voice of America (May 20) reports that both private and public schools offer yoga classes, although these courses tend to stress the “relaxing” effect of the technique more than its Hindu content. The introduction of yoga into the public schools has generated some controversy, as parents concerned with the Eastern religious identity of yoga charge that it infringes on the separation of church and state.
Gretchen Maisch, who has helped introduce yoga in Washington, D.C. area schools says that while traditional yoga may involve Hindu spiritual principles, the classes combine exercise with storytelling based on messages about love or honesty or courage. She adds that yoga is a healthy way for children to deal with fear and uncertainty in the world.
Maisch leads students to chant for peace (using the Hindu word “shanti”) in the world and their own lives.