259: Yoga in Schools with Crunch Ranjani

Should yoga be taught in schools? Recently an Alabama law banned yoga in schools and, inspired by a discussion in our Facebook group, our team member and resident writer Crunch Ranjani (she/her) wrote a fantastic article exploring all the elements of this debate. In this episode, she talks all about her process in creating the article, her research and her personal experience as a South Asian born to a Hindu family.

Crunch  is a content creator for purpose-driven health and wellness professionals. She believes that we need more diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities – so she loves working with business owners who do too. She helps them create valuable content that makes a positive impact in the world so that they have more time and energy to create change in their communities. 

Crunch helps us to understand all the elements of the conversation around yoga and religion, including whether Sanskrit is a religious language, the connection between Hinduism and yoga, and why dividing out parts of yoga to make them more palatable to a white audience is harmful. 

This is an open and honest conversation about cultural appropriation, the importance of having these discussions as yoga teachers and of understanding how our actions can be harmful to the tradition of yoga, and to the South Asian yoga teachers and students in our communities. 

If you have wanted to learn more about cultural appropriation in yoga, or if you are new to this conversation and want to understand more, this is a great episode to understand the nuances of this important topic.

Key Takeaways:

[4:45] Shannon introduces her guest for this episode – Crunch Ranjani.

[8:37] What is the work that Crunch does, and who does she do it for?

[10:04] What did it feel like to write an article on yoga in schools? 

[11:39] Is the ban on yoga in Alabama schools still in place, and why is it there? 

“The whole idea that Alabama is legislating certain aspects of what parts of yoga are ok in schools, and what parts are not, is what is really problematic about this whole bill.” Crunch Ranjani 

[12:55] What highlights about yoga in religion came up during Crunch’s research?

“It seemed to be that a lot of people were conflating yoga with religion because it has historically Hindu roots.” Crunch Ranjani 

[13:34] Crunch explains some of the links between Hinduism and yoga.

[15:45] When this thread was posted in our Facebook group, there was a lot of discussion around why Yoga might be connected to Hinduism, and understanding more about how cultural appropriation has worked. Crunch talks more about that. 

“This is not progress, it is a form of cultural appropriation.” Crunch Ranjani 

[18:32] Shannon pops in with some ways that our sponsor OfferingTree can help support your yoga business, especially with time zones and Zoom links. 

[20:28] One of the things that was put forward in the Alabama bill was to allow yoga in schools but to ban using Sanskrit. How did Crunch feel about that? 

“To me, it seems really strange that you can say that a language is religious or not religious because to me language is a way to communicate with people, it is not necessarily religious in and of itself.”  Crunch Ranjani 

[21:01] Crunch shares which other languages are connected to religions and why it feels like a double standard.  

[22:12] Is there a separation between church and state in all US states or just Alabama? 

[25:41] Why is it that yoga is not allowed? Is it based in fear and if so, why?

“If you are not sharing yoga in all of it’s forms, why are you even calling it yoga?”  Crunch Ranjani 

[28:10] If we allow some parts of yoga to be taught, could that be seen as progress?

[32:55] Crunch explains why separating out parts of the practice of yoga is harmful. 

“Should we not consider this pain and this harm over the benefits that white people will get from practicing a simplified version of yoga?” Crunch Ranjani 

[34:57] Why could the practice of gifting statues of Hindu or Deities as part of our yoga practice also be harmful? 

[36:08] Crunch shares a great analogy on how we can and do change behavior when someone feels harmed or hurt by our actions. 

[37:24] Shannon pops in with a quick message from Allison of the Yoga Teacher Conf to hear more about the social justice sessions that are taking place at the Conf. 

[39:13] How does Crunch feel about the article now it is out in the world and what would she like readers to take from it?

“Maybe it is worth questioning personally, for anyone that feels that fear –  what exactly are you afraid of?” Crunch Ranjani 

[40:02] Please leave comments below the article, beneath this podcast episode or in the Facebook group to share your takeaways on this topic. 

[40:48] To find out more about Crunch’s work, or to hire her, you can find her through her website, or message or follow Crunch on Instagram.


Gratitude to our Sponsors, OfferingTree and Yoga Teacher Conf

OfferingTree Logo

Yoga Teacher Conf Elevate Denver 2022 logo