The government of Nepal is mandating yoga classes for all students in the country to promote wellness and exercise.
What was once a general elective class is becoming mandatory for the Nepali curriculum. The country will become the first in the world to require yoga when the new academic period begins next month, according to The New York Times.
Yoga will be taught as a required course alongside other essential subjects such as math, science, the Nepali language and English. History of yogic thought, along with teachings of Ayurveda and naturopathy, will be included in the required course.
"Yoga is our ancient science," Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, Nepal's education minister, said. "We want students to learn it, and we think this is the right time," the Times reported.
The requirement has given way to some criticism from Muslims in the region, as some believe the exercises and lessons maintain religious and ideological meanings that could reinforce the rise of Hindu nationalism in the country.
Activists in Nepal's Muslim community said they would oppose the mandatory yoga classes if students were required to do poses such as the sun salutation, a series of 12 moves dedicated to the Hindu god Surya.
Government officials said the sun salutation was a part of the new curriculum, according to the report.
The former president of the Nepal Muslim Federation, Nazrul Hussein, spoke about the mandate, saying, "Making anything mandatory that relates to one particular religion is against the spirit of the Constitution. We cannot do the sun salutation, and they should not link religion with health."
Hussein said that any mandatory practice relating back to one particular religion is "against the spirit of the Constitution."
Schools in the U.S. have also begun offering yoga in curriculums. Some colleges and primary schools require yoga classes, although the national policy does not enforce this measure.
In Alabama, a proposed house bill seeks to undo a 1993 ban on yoga in K-12 public schools. The proposed bill that passed the House and is currently pending in the Senate seeks to allow schools the option of providing extracurricular yoga classes to students, but prohibits chants and mantras such as "namaste."