After wading through three pages of the expert witness, Candy Gunther Brown’s C.V., I find it disturbing that she has little to no credible background in Eastern Religious studies.
Her entire tour through college has been dedicated to American History, literature and American Civilization, including a focal point of analysis centered on, “American Religious History & culture from the 1600s through the present.”1. Her perspective is drawn from British Colonialism and a Protestant-Christian perspective — it’s myopic and biased at best. In reviewing her deposition statements, there was one in particular which I found of interest:
“Historically, yoga has been closely associated with religious traditions of India that today, are identified as Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain.” Her biased assumption is — Therefore, present day Yoga teaches Buddhist, Hindu and Jain Religious aspects to all who participate in classes.
If we are to base yoga on its past history, then Christianity may as well be in the comparative mix, too. Therefore, it could be said that:
“Historically, Christianity has been closely associated with accusing women of being witches and burning them at the stake in the New America and Europe.” — Therefore, present day Christians burn all women who may act like witches.
Needless to say, neither of these lunatic assertions are anywhere near the truth. Moreover, Ms. Browns’ statement is a classic definition of hyperbole. Since the expert witness studied American Religious History from 1600 to the present, I’m sure she’s aware of the Salem Witch Trials that took place from 1692 to1693, with more than 200 people being accused of practicing witchcraft, by people who were of the Christian faith.2 Fortunately, over the course of time, the township deduced that the trials were a mistake, and compensated those families that were convicted, and or executed. Since then these trials have become synonymous with paranoia and injustice — much like the hysteria which has been brought forward by the Christian parents and their attorney, over the yoga classes offered in the Encinitas School District.
The point to be made is this; how Yoga is presently taught in America, is quite a departure from how it was relayed back in the day, or in India for that matter. Also, Americanized Yoga, by in large does not put forward the religious connotations that true Eastern Yoga does — it’s very mainstream, which allows it to be more accessible for those who are of varying faiths, and don’t want to participate in the chanting or religious nomenclature. Moreover, the number of Americans who practice yoga on a regular basis, two or more times per week, just keeps increasing. According Sports Marketing Surveys USA, which was conducted on behalf of The Yoga Journal, “in 2012 8.7 percent of U.S. adults, or 20.4 million people, practice yoga. Of current non-practitioners, 44.4 percent of Americans call themselves “aspirational yogis” —people who are interested in trying yoga.” 3
Additionally, there are numerous studies, which have all pointed to the benefits of yoga, with the latest research suggesting that yoga stimulates rapid gene expression, and therefore increases immunity. 4 Furthermore, the study cited that the yogic breathing had “antidepressant effects in clinical settings and was comparable to the antidepressant drug Imipramine in its efficacy.” 4 Certainly, the sky rocketing rate of anti-depressant use in the U.S. has been well documented by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), “the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400 percent between 1988 and1994 and 2005 and 2008.” 5
The positive effects of regular yoga practice have been well researched, and understood for many years. In a day when pills are the first go to option from physician to patient in order to treat depression, isn’t it time we begin to embrace a physical practice that is proven to stave off depression, lower the stress response, improve digestion, and boost feelings of wellbeing. As adults, many of us are leading by example and doing yoga on a regular basis, and the majority of us, myself included, have not been influenced to convert to any Eastern religion as a result of taking yoga classes. Because we’re adults, we have a choice to practice yoga, and we need to give kids the chance to participate in yoga classes as well. What better way to accomplish this than to have a yoga program as part of a schools’ curriculum, therefore, allowing children to experience firsthand what stretching and breathing can actually do for their mind as well as their body. It’s a lifestyle tool, that can be incorporated throughout their lifetime, and bring the children of Encinitas School District the benefits of health and wellbeing, without the drug interventions that are all too commonly prescribed. We need to keep the yoga program accessible for all children in the school district. As for those parents who choose to tell their children not to participate in yoga because of their religious beliefs, then opt out. But don’t ban the program from the majority of children and families who believe differently than you.
LoRayne Haye M.S. C.N, is the CEO of Eating-4-Energy.
1. Deposition of Candy Gunther Brown: Hired expert witness for the court trail of Sedlock vs. EUSD 2013
2. Blumberg, J. “A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials-One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon.”(10-24-2007) Smithsonian Magazine accessed on line 5-27-2013. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/brief-salem.html
3. The Yoga Journal: Sports Marketing Surveys U.S.A. Survey of how many people in 2012 practice yoga. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america\ on line access 5-27-2013.
4. Qu, S. et al. “Rapid Gene Expression Changes in Peripheral Blood Lymphocytes upon Practice of a Comprehensive Yoga Program.” (4-2013) PLoS ONE 8(4): e61910. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061910.
5. Wehrwein, P. “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans.” (10-20-2011) Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School.