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Yoga And The Law

Commentary by Roger Oakland

Imagine you are standing before a judge in an American court room. You have been accused of assaulting another person and are expecting to spend time in jail. Suddenly you hear the judge say, “instead of jail, your sentence will involve anger management. For your penalty, I’m sentencing you to yoga classes - based on the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. When it’s over, report to me and I’ll see how well you are doing.”


If you think this scenario is foolishness, then think again. It happened in the U.S.A. in January of 2004. As the Houston Chronicle reported: “Man ordered to take yoga classes as part of probation.” [1]


Isn’t it amazing? When it comes to the Ten Commandments and the law of the land, the American court system has made a clear statement – keep them separate. In a recent case, a judge was fired because he refused to have a plaque with the Ten Commandments removed from his court room. However, when it comes to Eastern religion being promoted in the court room, there’s another set of rules. Yoga is in!


The sentence given by the judge came as a surprise to James Lee Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman who was expecting to spend time in jail for slapping his wife. When interviewed, he said, “I’m not very familiar with it (yoga). From what I understand it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss.” [2]


In order to find out what a “yoga-sentence” would actually involve, Darla Magee, an instructor of yoga, was interviewed by a reporter. She recommended that Mr. Cross should take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing, including a variety of postures – forward bends, back bends and twists. “Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have,” she said. “It’s a spiritual cleanse.” [3]


How fascinating! While the judge who sentenced Mr. Cross seems convinced yoga is for exercise and well-being, an instructor who teaches yoga claims yoga has a spiritual side.


I agree with the instructor. The main purpose of yoga exercise is to place the recipient into an altered state of consciousness as a means of opening the door to the realm of the spirit. But what spirit? Ask the Hindu gurus, or Buddhists like the Dalai Lama who practice yoga and claim that it has helped them on their pathway to godhood.  


If a judge sentenced someone to read the Bible, the ACLU would immediately intervene. So how can a judge sentence someone to practice yoga? It seems to me there needs to be an investigation.


So what lies ahead in the future? Where will this lead? What about the possibility that someday the courts may rule that Christianity is an elitist belief system that promotes Jesus as the “only way”? What if a judge rules that speaking out against Islam is a hate crime? What if yoga classes are determined to be mandatory in all schools in order to calm children and help them to be more creative?


Impossible you say. Based on current trends, it may not be too far away.


Roger Oakland
Understand The Times


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