In contrast, Molly Heery, a primary school teacher and youth leader, suggests that while it’s important to recognise yoga’s history as un-Christian, children shouldn’t have to be limited to just activities that overtly “open their hearts to God”.
“Biblically we know and are taught to spend time with Jesus as much as we can, but it’s also known that we should and often do worship God in whatever we are doing,” she explains. “Whether I’m walking down the street, making a sandwich or doing yoga, if you know Jesus, you’re doing it in the glory of God. Through this mind-set, every activity becomes what you make it.
“At its core, yoga is a Hindu practice and holds connotations with that faith. But, as long as you’re clearly explaining to children where it comes from and crucially why you are doing it – in this case as a form of calming exercise and not necessarily worship – it can be done. Children can then make their own minds up about how they feel about it.
“Sometimes I get told not to teach Harry Potter to my Christian children because of its links with witch craft and magic, but that doesn’t stop me, a Christian woman, from doing so and appreciating it as a piece of literature. I strongly believe that if you avoid teaching children about opposing views, you risk them becoming intolerant.”
Pete agrees. Despite his faith, he admits that he always allows his children “to come to their own decisions” rather than expecting them to meet and agree with him. Because of this, he feels removing yoga would be “indoctrination”, and may leave young people confused when they are faced with such practices as adults.
“I always allow my children to make their own decisions about Jesus because I trust that God will speak through me and will work in whatever way needed,” he adds. “I’m always happy for my students to be exposed to lots of different arguments and activities to keep them informed of all the options before they form their opinion.
“From my experience as a youth leader, when you stop children from making their own decisions on what they believe about different practices, it causes problems in adulthood – when they’re faced with new things, often they can’t justify their faith and are left in crisis over their religious identity, having not formed their own mind early on.
“If you allow them to explore things like yoga, which is linked with another religion but is also just a great form of relaxation, you allow them to make that choice. You can’t indoctrinate them into pursuing Jesus as then it’s not genuine faith. For it to be effective Christian meditation, they have to choose to do so themselves.”
What do you think? Should we dissuade our children and young people to take part in practices like yoga?
Jess Lester is deputy editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work.