Benedictine College in Atchison plans to rename its yoga courses after spiritual and cultural concerns were raised, a university spokesman said this week.
Its recreational yoga courses will be reworked to ensure they are solely focused on physical exercises, said Steve Johnson, director of marketing and communications.
The content of academic courses won’t change.
“We’ll continue the classes so they’re still offering the physical challenges and benefits of yoga, but we’re changing the name in the catalogue so it’s a class without spiritually and culturally sensitive content,” Johnson said. “The content was never religious in nature, but some people took it that way, I guess. That’s where the confusion came.”
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Both changes will come after the spring 2017 semester has ended.
Merriam-Webster offers two definitions of yoga online. When capitalized, it is defined as “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”
Without capitalization, yoga is defined as “a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.”
An April 5 article in the student newspaper The Circuit said that concerns came from students, alumni and faculty.
The Rev. John Riley, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, said in an e-mailed statement that yoga is more than just exercises, breathing and meditation.
“It is a mind and body practice developed under Hinduism, the goal of which is spiritual purification that will lead to a higher level of understanding and eventually union with the divine,” Riley said. “It is for these reasons that Catholics are alerted to the dangers of the practice of yoga and are encouraged to look for other exercise alternatives that do not incorporate a spiritual dimension.”
If Catholics want a spiritual alternative to yoga, they should look for something like Pietra Fitness, Riley said, which uses Christian prayer and meditation in the Catholic tradition along with stretching and strengthening.
Prominent Hindu cleric Rajan Zed issued a news release Saturday, saying that Hindus are urging the college not to “abolish” yoga.
According to the release, yoga has roots even before it was cultivated by Hinduism.
An online petition started by Benedictine students asking the college to “bring back yoga” had 98 supporters earlier this week.
Josh Olson, a junior business marketing and management major, said he was frustrated with lack of communication from the college administration.
An athlete, Olson has done yoga since high school to help prevent injury and alleviate stress.
The fact that the college isn’t getting rid of the classes entirely is a “step in the right direction,” Olson said, but he isn’t proud of the school’s actions.
“It seems like a PR move to me, like we don’t want to step on anyone’s feet,” Olson said. “I don’t see the sense behind it.”