Times 2

MP wants compulsory yoga in Indian schools

By Pratap Chakravarty

NEW DELHI 2010 (AFP) - 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.

An Indian student of a yoga college show off her skills during a function in Bangalore.

"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 a 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.

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