Once again, ignorance of yoga puts the practice at risk in schools. This time, it was an elementary school in Georgia. The children have been practicing yoga as a de-stressing method and mindfulness generator for years. The controversy arose when parents found out that the children were using the word, “namaste.”
Believing it to be a way of indoctrinating their children into another religion, several parents used social media and direct contact with the school to say they didn’t want an ideology of which they didn’t approve being taught in the school. The principal issued an email of apology to the parents and removed the practice of saying namaste from the yoga classes. She felt it was the best thing to do to prevent a peaceful, de-stressing and mindfulness practice from becoming a stressful and unnecessary distraction in the school and larger community.
Removing the single word from the school’s practice doesn’t really bother the students or principal. The yoga practice will continue, as it has shown to improve academic performance, ability to stay focused, and behavior. Unfortunately, the children have learned that namaste means “the goodness in me sees the goodness in you,” and removing that one little word deprives them of the opportunity to express to each other how connected they are. Maybe some really sassy, activist 1st grader will continue to say it undercover!
Misunderstanding yoga has been a problem recently, from elementary schools to college campuses. As the practice was originally intended to be exported from India to the rest of the world, claiming cultural appropriation is simply ignorant. Fearing the use of the word namaste is an attempt to force a foreign ideology on elementary students is similarly uninformed. A fear of the “other” drives these misunderstandings, which is doubly unfortunate because our connectedness is what makes yoga truly beautiful and beneficial. Open your eyes, folks, and do some research before responding out of ill-informed beliefs.