Yoga and the Politics of Classification

I have been doing martial arts since I was five years old.  I currently am a student in Shen Lung Kung Fu.  As a student of Shen Lung Kung Fu you read such texts as the Dao de Ching, Confucius, and the Art of War.  Many people would consider at least some of these a religious texts; however, you do not have to be Confucian or a Daoist.  In fact most are not, though some have adapted principles or ideas they found and have adapted them to their own particular belief system (whether religious or not).

This is one reason I found the court case over whether or not schools could have yoga rather interesting.  I have no stake in whether or not yoga is particularly religious or not.  When I think “lotus position” I think “eh that sounds painful”, but I suppose someone might just as easily think “religion”.

I once had a nice conversation over a cigarette with William Arnal, head of the department of Religious Studies at the University of Regina.  He told me “anything someone claims to be religion is up for grabs”.  If I take that seriously than anything could or could not be religious depending on who you ask.

The question then becomes, “What is at stake in calling something religious?”  In court cases like the one involving yoga, what is at stake is people’s religious or cultural identities and very real legal ramifications.  Beyond legalities people’s identity is at stake.  I bet I could find someone who is a practitioner of yoga and considers it religious just as much as I could find the opposite.  Is it not part of the opponents religious views as Christians  that yoga is religious?  Maybe I can see Jesus in yoga.  Maybe the fact that the opponents see it as religious says more about their identity than the identity of the kids in the yoga classes.

So if anything could be religious or non-religious depending on who you ask, then do concepts such as separation of church and state become meaningless?  Perhaps, but how that concept is applied at least reinforces my own particular politics.



About Zach Price

Religious Studies major; Black Belt in Isshin Ryu; student of Shen Lung Kung Fu; Avid Guitar, Banjo, and tin whistle enthusiast; Episcopalian; professional choral singer; gamer; Whovian; etc. etc. etc. and so forth and so on.

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