Austrian school bans yoga for 'religious reasons'

A school in Dechantskirchen, Austria, has removed a monthly yoga program from gym classes after a mother complained the practice was too "religious."

By Ben Hooper
Thousands of participants gather in Times Square to Practice Yoga in New York City. (File/UPI/John Angelillo)
Thousands of participants gather in Times Square to Practice Yoga in New York City. (File/UPI/John Angelillo) | License Photo

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DECHANTSKIRCHEN, Austria, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Officials at an Austrian elementary school said yoga lessons were stricken from the curriculum due to a complaint from a parent who cited "religious reasons."

Ingrid Karner, who taught yoga to students once a month during gym classes at the school in Dechantskirchen, told the Kleine Zeitung newspaper the classes had been popular with students and their parents until one parent's complaint led to yoga being banned from the curriculum.


"All I heard was that according to the Bible yoga should not be allowed and it would lead the children in the wrong direction," Karner said.

She said her lessons were approved by officials prior to being taught to the children.

"We introduced children's yoga and concentration exercises into gym classes. I presented the project to the headmistress and the district school inspector in advance and they were both happy with it," Karner said.

"In Germany yoga has long been a part of the curriculum for children," she said.

Maria Hofer, headmistress of the school, confirmed the classes were canceled after a mother complained to the district that "she did not want her child coming into contact with yoga for religious reasons."


Yoga exercises originated with spiritual practices related to Hinduism and Buddhism. There are several different forms of yoga being practiced in the modern day, some with more religious connections than others.

The decision comes just over a year after a San Diego judge ruled the Encinitas Union School district in California could continue teaching yoga to elementary school students. The parents of two district students had filed a lawsuit alleging yoga is inherently religious and would indoctrinate children, but Judge John S. Meyer ruled physical yoga poses are not inherently religious, and the curriculum did not include any background spiritual instruction.

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