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Yoga (meaning union or yoke) is the practice of accessing and integrating all aspects of our true nature — body, mind, and spirit.  As yoga becomes more popular in schools through physical education classes and after-school programs, that popularity comes with controversy. Although many adults like the benefits of yoga, some parents feel that the practice might have a religious association and, like prayer, shouldn’t be allowed in a public space. They argue that yoga is an offshoot of Hinduism and that it disseminates religious and meditation principles with its use of “om” and “namaste” chanting. Some also believe that the asanas, or postures, such as the sun salutation, are a form of Hindu religious worship. To dispel this notion and avoid any religious or cultural messages, most yoga teachers focus on the benefits of the exercises and use generic terms, instead of the Sanskrit names, for the poses, renaming them cat, bridge, table, tree, downward-facing dog, volcano, and so forth. Yoga’s rising popularity can be attributed to its basic stretching advantages and improved body awareness, with the added component of a mind-body connection.

Despite the controversy, yoga is beneficial to kids in many ways. Because children encounter emotional, social, and physical challenges or conflicts, a dedicated and intentional yoga practice that includes breathing techniques, behavioral guidelines, and physical postures can be incredibly valuable for them, De Collibus says. She also believes that yoga is something children can practice anywhere and that the breathing, the concentration, the poses, and the way kids learn to act or react to situations, will lead to constant self-discovery and inquisitiveness. Plus, yoga is portable, and no mat, special clothing, or special pillow is absolutely necessary.

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