Let's stipulate from the start that yoga is, as Merriam-Webster states, "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."
There's also a "No. 2 definition" in that renowned dictionary: "A system of physical postures, breathing techniques and sometimes meditation derived from yoga but often practiced independently, especially in Western cultures, to promote physical and emotional well-being."
We imagine the people who take classes in yoga studios, in Gadsden and elsewhere, are focusing on that second definition. They're focusing on the physical benefits of the practice, as noted by the American Osteopathic Association: reduction in chronic pain; increased flexibility; increased muscle strength and tone; improved respiration, energy and vitality; a balanced metabolism; weight reduction; cardio and circulatory health; improved athletic performance and protection from injury.
All of those are good things -- so why are we bringing this up?
A document recently was shared online -- we imagine by someone wanting to make the state look bad -- referencing what's permitted and what isn't in Alabama's public schools. That "no-no list" includes "any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga."
That document had been posted to the state Department of Education's website but has since been removed. State Superintendent Eric Mackey called it "outdated" and said it wouldn't be enforced as long as he's running the department.
We doubt that's not a green flag for teachers to try to mesmerize students into behaving or concentrating on their classwork.
There's one exception -- yoga. It remains verboten in the state's physical education handbook, which cites its Hindu and religious origins and connotations.
The same mindset is present with meditation. It's OK for students if it's "secular," defined as involving "alert, reflective and cognitive contemplation." It's forbidden if it's linked to the "mystical traditions of the East," and involves "focusing on deep breathing and a mantra, or repeated word or phrase." We imagine the buzz at the average public school in Alabama isn't "OMMMMMM" but is "please let me stay awake through this class" or "please let me remember what I studied so I can pass this test."
We really don't have an issue with the notion that public schools shouldn't be involved in religious indoctrination or proselytizing regardless of the denomination. (We'll go to the mat and stay there to defend the right of students to, of their own volition, demonstrate and practice their faith on campus.)
We do have an issue with something else contained in Department of Education documents. They say Alabama P.E. teachers may instruct students on yoga poses, exercises and stretches as long as the "course is not called yoga."
So it's OK to use the physical benefits of the practice to help students feel better and get into shape (rewind to the multiple editorials we've written about childhood and adolescent obesity rates). Just don't use the "y" word.
We know folks who are fearful of kids having their heads turned by ANYTHING, especially when religion is involved, will disagree, but this is just silly.
Yoga has become about as generic as bubble wrap (yes, that started as a brand name). There has been no horde of yogis seeking converts in the exercise studios we referenced. There won't be any in Alabama's public schools, either, if people call what goes on every day by its name.
Look at it this way: Do you think some coach thought up the stretching exercises players do before every game?
You may have noticed that meteorologists and climatologists define seasons differently from “regular” or astronomical spring, summer, fall, and winter. So, why do meteorological and astronomical seasons begin and end at different times? In short, it’s because the astronomical seasons are based on the position of Earth in relation to the sun, whereas the meteorological seasons are based on the annual temperature cycle. The Astronomical Seasons
People have used observable periodic natural phenomena to mark time for thousands of years. The natural rotation of Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which we define seasons with two solstices and two equinoxes. Earth’s tilt and the sun’s alignment over the equator determine both the solstices and equinoxes.
The equinoxes mark the times when the sun passes directly above the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls on or around June 21, the winter solstice on or around December 22, the vernal or spring equinox on or around March 21, and the autumnal equinox on or around September 22. These seasons are reversed but begin on the same dates in the Southern Hemisphere.
Because Earth actually travels around the sun in 365.24 days, an extra day is needed every fourth year, creating what we know as Leap Year. This also causes the exact date of the solstices and equinoxes to vary. Additionally, the elliptical shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun causes the lengths of the astronomical seasons to vary between 89 and 93 days. These variations in season length and season start would make it very difficult to consistently compare climatological statistics for a particular season from one year to the next. Thus, the meteorological seasons were born.
The Meteorological Seasons
Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar. We generally think of winter as the coldest time of the year and summer as the warmest time of the year, with spring and fall being the transition seasons, and that is what the meteorological seasons are based on. Meteorological spring includes March, April, and May; meteorological summer includes June, July, and August; meteorological fall includes September, October, and November; and meteorological winter includes December, January, and February.
Meteorological observing and forecasting led to the creation of these seasons, and they are more closely tied to our monthly civil calendar than the astronomical seasons are. The length of the meteorological seasons is also more consistent, ranging from 90 days for winter of a non-leap year to 92 days for spring and summer. By following the civil calendar and having less variation in season length and season start, it becomes much easier to calculate seasonal statistics from the monthly statistics, both of which are very useful for agriculture, commerce, and a variety of other purposes.
The natural rotation of Earth around the sun forms the basis for the astronomical calendar, in which we define seasons with two solstices and two equinoxes.
Meteorologists and climatologists break the seasons down into groupings of three months based on the annual temperature cycle as well as our calendar.
Heart disease is an equal opportunity killer. It's the No. 1 cause of death for both men and women. But a new study of more than half a million cases of heart attack victims rushed to Florida emergency rooms between 1991 and 2010 suggests a person's sex plays a surprising role in whether they are likely to survive a heart attack.
Researchers divided the cases into four categories: male doctors treating men; male doctors treating women; female doctors treating men and female doctors treating women. Only one category was statistically distinguishable: men treating women, where the risk of the female patient dying rises roughly 12 percent.
The why remains unknown, but the study poses troubling questions about the treatment and health outcomes of women in emergency rooms.
But don't count on finding a female emergency room doctor: Women make up just 25 percent of emergency doctors in the U.S.
Scott La Fee