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Indian MP calls for yoga in schools

14th December 2010

An Indian MP is lobbying for compulsory yoga legislation that will affect all of the country's junior school students, meaning that the traditional techniques could be taught to children as young as five.

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Satpal Maharaj, a member of the country's ruling Congress party who represents the constituency of Garhwal in the Himalayan foothills, said he had decided to push for such legislation after visiting China.

He wants India's 217,000 junior schools to adopt yoga in their standard physical education programmes.

Maharaj said that, during his visit to China, he and other Indian delegates saw school children practising Tai Chi.

He said he believed that India should embrace the traditional art it gave to the world, namely yoga.

While Indian Muslims may end up objecting to the proposal, Maharaj insists that yoga is should not be seen as a Hindu invention, but as having an existence of its own.

The draft law also stipulates that schools consisting only of Muslims would not be required to practice yoga.

Because yoga is a process integrating various body postures into a single practice, physical the original Sanskrit word for yoga signifies unity or integration.

Scholars in the country believe that the practice of yoga existed by 3000 BC.

Archaeologists have found evidence of the various positions (called asanas) that compose yogic practice, and yoga is mentioned in India's oldest writings.

Maharaj said that newly emerging ailments like computer-related stress had come to India, and that teaching yoga to children would help reduce such ailments in adults.

He also said yoga would help children attend their classes.

Though both houses in India's parliament are currently at a standstill over allegations of fraud, the MP is certain that the project will have cross-party support.

Prakash Javadekar, a parliamentarian from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that leaders should not think of education as having only to do with school examinations.

He said he believed that good habits, proper nutrition, discipline, and physical exercise were also essential skills for life.

The bill states that the project would end up costing about £140,000 yearly, and about £280,000 during its first year.

India has also been constructing a videotaped database of 1,500 yoga postures, in order to protect its traditional knowledge from being stolen or copyrighted by people overseas.

National programmes have also taught yoga to troops in the Indian army, as well as to inmates in the country's jails.

The draft version of the law is called the Compulsory Teaching of Yoga in Educational Institutions Act.

 

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