An Austrian primary school has been forced to scrap its popular yoga classes as one parent has complained on the grounds of religion. It is not known which religion the family in question belong to. The monthly yoga classes had proved a success with the majority of both parents and children, and were credited with improving concentration during classes, the Local has reported.
“We introduced children’s yoga and concentration exercises into gym classes. I presented the project to the headmistress and the district school inspector in advance and they were both happy with it,” explained Ingrid Karner, the children’s yoga teacher. “In Germany yoga has long been a part of the curriculum for children.
“All I heard was that according to the Bible yoga should not be allowed and it would lead the children in the wrong direction,” she said.
Headmistress Maria Hoffer confirmed to Kleine Zeitung that she and the majority of the parents had been happy for the children to incorporate yoga exercises into their gym classes, but as one mother had said that “she did not want her child coming into contact with yoga for religious reasons”, the class had had to be cancelled.
Other parents were furious at the decision. “What happened to tolerance and democracy?” asked Siegfried Kogler, who said that his daughter’s school performance had improved since taking part in the classes.
“Anything from the Far East that touches on the esoteric has no place in schools,” said district school inspector Helga Thomann, although she conceded that in principle, young children doing yoga was a good thing. She also said that drawing and painting Tibetan mandalas had evoked protest from parents.
American business Yoga4classrooms lists a range of benefits that practicing yoga can bring to children, including building confidence and self-esteem, developing discipline and self-control, and relieving tension and stress. “Math and reading are important, but students need these life skills as well,” said one of their clients, a primary school head teacher in Peterborough.
Although traditionally yoga has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, many modern variants of yoga practice do not have a spiritual element to them.