A New Mexico legislator has voiced concern during a meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee in Santa Fe that stretching during school physical education activities is really yoga and could possibly introduce children to Eastern religions.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Ann Paulls-Neal, a teacher at the Albuquerque elementary school, spoke to the committee about student health and obesity.
Paulls-Neal pointed out that to her class exercises are considered stretching or mat work instead of yoga because she doesn't want to give the impression that religion is involved.
Rep. Alonzo Baldonado expressed concern.
The Los Lunas Republican said parents should be notified and given the option to opt out, or their children should be offered alternative activities because yoga is linked to Eastern religions.
State Sen. Bill Soules, a Onate High School teacher in Las Cruces, said he has heard opinions of yoga, about it being based on religion, but said he had never heard of schools using it for anything more than exercise that would make kids stronger and healthier, according to the Farmington Daily-Times.
"It's a concern of the far right," said Soules, a Democrat, who serves on the legislative committee with Baldonado.
Soules said algebra is taught in public schools without any disputes, even though it also had religion-based roots.
Though the hearing ended with arguments about yoga and religion, Paulls-Neal and other teachers brought their worries about obesity in kids to the Capitol.
The head of a nonprofit progressive advocacy group took issue with the questions Baldonado raised at the meeting.
“Of all the things a legislator could focus on to get our public schools back on track, Rep. Baldonado chose this one as his most important,” said Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM.org. “Even for conspiracy theorists, this one seems far-fetched. How he thinks a rudimentary stretching routine meant to improve physical health could lead students to join a religious cult is beyond me.”
Baldonado said he wouldn't want his own home-schooled children to be exposed to non-Christian practices.