Yoga in America
Yoga in America
Chapter 3 explains how yoga won an American audience as marketers advertised health benefits and downplayed religious associations, while gesturing toward spirituality. Although many people perceive yoga as secular, religion and spirituality are pervasive in the contemporary yoga scene, including “Christian yoga” and yoga-based “health and wellness” programs in public universities and K-12 public schools. School-yoga advocates who defuse objections by subtracting religious-sounding language claim to have won a “Vedic Victory.” Some who argue that yoga is appropriate for public schools because it is secular also argue that yoga should be exempt from sales taxes because it is spiritual, and therefore protected as free exercise of religion by the First Amendment. Surveys—importantly Yoga in America studies commissioned in 2012 and 2016 by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance—suggest that many practitioners have spiritual experiences and that longer-term, more frequent practice correlates with spiritual motives. Yoga has attracted enthusiasts and provoked controversies worldwide, including in India, because it has religious and spiritual associations—and political and financial implications. Certain Christians and Muslims, among others, view compulsory participation as violating conscience. The chapter argues that yoga epitomizes the blurred boundaries between the secular and religious in American public life.
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