Indian MP pushes compulsory yoga in schools

An MP in India is lobbying for a law that will make yoga compulsory in the country's junior schools, where he says it will help with discipline, fitness and dealing with "computer-related stress".

Satpal Maharaj, 59, from the ruling Congress party, said a recent trip to China had inspired him to push for the law, which would take yoga into India's 217,000 junior schools where children begin their education at around five.

"We saw school children practicing Tai Chi Chuan (martial art) with great discipline in China and I thought, 'We gave yoga to the world but we are ignoring it in India and we must bring it into our schools'," Maharaj told AFP.

Yoga, which in the Sanskrit language means "union" or "integration", involves the practice of numerous physical postures called asanas and is usually combined with long meditation sessions.

Indian scholars believe yoga dates back 5,000 years, based on archaelogical evidence of poses found inscribed on stones and references to Yogic teachings in the ancient Hindu scriptures of knowledge, known as the Vedas.

Maharaj, who represents the constituency of Garhwal in the Himalayan foothills, said yoga could help schoolchildren and teachers to deal with age-old problems as well as contemporary ailments.

"Western diseases like computer-related stress have come to India, and yoga at an young age will help reduce these ailments - and besides, it will also encourage children to attend class," he said.

The draft law, called the Compulsory Teaching of Yoga in Educational Institutions Act, states "our modern education is missing out on yoga education and is, therefore, incomplete without it".

Maharaj said he was sure of cross-party support for his project in parliament once business resumes there.

Both houses of India's parliament are at a standstill because of protests led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a multi-billion-dollar telecom fraud that has embroiled the government.

"We must not think of education only in terms of school examinations," said Prakash Javadekar, a BJP parliamentarian who backs Maharaj's project.

"Essential skills for quality life are good habits, discipline, nutrition and physical exercise in various formats," he told AFP.

The proposal could run into objections from Indian Muslims, the country's largest religious minority, however, though Maharaj argues that yoga should not be seen as Hindu in origin.

The BJP, which governed India for five years until 2004, faced severe opposition after it tried to blend poems purportedly rooted in religious Hindu scriptures into school textbooks.

The draft law, however, stipulates that yoga would not be imposed on "minority institutions" - an euphemism for exclusive schools for Muslims.

The project would lead to annual expense of one billion rupees (220,000 dollars) and a one-time similar amount for its introduction, according to the bill, a copy of which is with AFP.

Yoga is one of India's most famous exports to the world and its popularity is being fanned by celebrity gurus and television shows.

Millions practice the postures in classes or in private in the West, but often without the religious rituals that originated in India.

In its motherland, yoga is also seen as rising in popularity as clubs and associations sprout up across the country alongside private and state-funded provincial and national centres to train yoga teachers.

"Until recently the new generation ignored yoga as religious mumbo jumbo, but times are changing," Indian Yoga Federation Secretary Niren Mazumdar told AFP.

India's top yoga guru Baba Ramdev draws Bollywood celebrities, politicians and sports stars - as well as tens of thousands of people mainly from the the affluent middle class - to workshops in various Indian cities.

To protect its traditional knowledge from being stolen or copyrighted by overseas practitioners, the country has also begun videotaping up to 1,500 yoga postures as part of a national database.

It has also found innovative uses for yoga, including helping troops in insurgency-hit Kashmir to relax and reforming inmates in Delhi's notorious Tihar Jail.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    SEN KS1 Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Qualified and experi...

    KS2 Teacher

    £21588 - £31552 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Exceptional teacher ...

    Year 5/6 Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to be part ...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star