Panel Discussion: Is Yoga a Religion?


Join us to hear from a panel of authors, scholars of Sanskrit and South Asian studies along with leaders in the kids yoga community to further discuss the question, is yoga a religion?

Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to submit questions to ask our panelists.

Panelist include: Lakshmi Nair, Dr. Shyam Ranganathan, Melissa Shah, Pooja Virani. Dr. Rashmi Bismark is the moderator for this panel.

When?  Saturday, June 19 from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST (we encourage LIVE participation but this discussion will be recorded for those who can’t join – registration to access the recorded is required prior to June 19)

Tiered Pricing: $15, $25, $35 + scholarships available 



As a kids yoga or mindfulness educator have you wondered about the following:

  • Yoga’s relationship to religion, including Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism?
  • navigating conflicts with the culturally dominant religion might prevent you from freely teaching the full spectrum of yoga practices?
  • how to teach yoga appropriately in a secular setting?
  • how to engage in cultural appreciation vs appropriation when teaching yoga to kids or teens?

Join us to hear from a panel of life-long yoga practitioners, scholars, educators, and authors to discuss the question, is yoga a religion? Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to submit questions to ask our panelists.

Panelist include: Lakshmi Nair, Dr. Shyam Ranganathan, Melissa Shah, Pooja Virani. Dr. Rashmi Bismark will be moderating.

When?  Saturday, June 19 from 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST

We encourage you to participate in real time but if you aren’t able to join LIVE, a recording will be available for replay for 30 days after the event for those who have registered prior to June 19. 

Who should take this workshop?  This panel discussion is for anyone who is interested in diving deeper to explore the question, “Is Yoga a Religion?” Whether you are a yoga student, teacher, or merely curious, we invite you to join with an open heart and mind.

Cost for Participants: 

  • Regular = $25
  • Supporter = $35 (register yourself and support our community pricing)
  • Community = $15 (no questions asked discounted registration)

No one will be turned away for lack of funds. If our community registration is a hardship, please reach out about full scholarship opportunities by emailing

Group discounts are available for schools, studios, or programs. Email for more info and include the # of participants in your group.

Circle Members Attend for Free!
Are you a member of the Kids Yoga Conference Circle? For $12 a month, you receive free registration to our monthly workshop (10 per year) + other benefits. Learn more + apply for membership.  

About the Moderator + Panelists: 

Rashmi BismarkRashmi S. Bismark, MD, MPH (she/her) is a physician specialized in Preventive Medicine who leads mindfulness-based programming tailored to individuals and communities. A life-long student of yoga, she teaches meditation and contributes to curriculum for global yoga teacher trainings via Yoga Medicine®. Inspired by her experiences sharing contemplative practices with her own multicultural family, Dr. Bismark writes stories that aim to bring classical South Asian philosophies to life for kids and their grown-ups. Finding Om is her award-winning, picture book debut.

Lakshmi Nair – Lakshmi Nair is a proud member-owner and co-founder of Satya Yoga Co-op. She is a yoga educator, engaged in reclaiming the pre-patriarchal, non-hierarchical indigenous resilience and resistance of her ancestral tradition of yoga and creating spaces for herself and others to authentically engage with the practices of yoga for self and collective healing and liberation.  In 2014, Lakshmi created a yoga immersion and teacher training program exclusively for BIPOC in Denver, Colorado.  Since 2014, Satya Yoga Immersion has grown into Satya Yoga Cooperative, the first BIPOC owned and operated yoga co-op in the country.  Since she began teaching yoga, Lakshmi has been offering yoga to all age groups from infants to elders.   The year that Trump was elected, her son experienced an incident of racist bullying on the first day of 3rd grade.  Lakshmi began volunteering in her son’s classroom by teaching 30 min of yoga and then was offered a paid position to teach for the whole 3rd grade once a week.   Lakshmi lives in Littleton, CO, 5 min away from Columbine High School.  For Lakshmi, teaching yoga to kids is about more than teaching mindfulness tools, it is about peace education. Peace education in a world where she has never been able to drop her children off at school without fear.

Shyam RanganathanDr. Shyam Ranganathan (MA South Asian Studies, MA and PhD Philosophy) is a field-changing researcher, scholar, author and teacher of philosophy, and an expert in the neglected traditions of Indian moral philosophy, which covers practical questions of how to live, what to aim for, and what we should value—including Yoga.  Dr. Ranganathan is a trained scholar and researcher of philosophy and is author, editor and translator of over 50 peer reviewed, scholarly works (including Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy MLBD 2008 and 2017; the Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Ethics 2017; and Hinduism: A Contemporary Philosophical Investigation, Routledge 2018).  A specialist in translation, having written his PhD dissertation on the topic of how we can understand texts without projecting our beliefs onto them, Dr. Ranganathan translated Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra (Penguin 2008). After over 20000 teaching hours and 3000 students, in 2019 , Dr. Ranganathan founded Yoga Philosophy (YACEP and CYA-RYSGOLD), a scholar practitioner initiative, to bring anti-colonial, anti-Eurocentric, research based knowledge about Yoga and Philosophy to practitioners.  Shyam is a E-RYT-500 and CYA-RYT Gold. He is a member of the Department of Philosophy, and York Center for Asian Research, York University, Toronto.

Melissa Shah – Originally from NYC, Melissa grew up in the public school system, and experienced firsthand the often lack of space for play and connection to self. She was fortunate enough to have yoga as a part of her family culture, and started practicing at an early age. This inspired her to study yoga more deeply in her 20s and begin teaching kids. Having taught kids yoga in all sorts of spaces, her favorite environment is in the classroom – in their daily habitat.

Melissa strongly believes in adapting yoga to the individual and their environment, so that it can be a normalized part of their day and feel accessible to them. Her yoga teaching background is diverse, with training in various therapeutic traditions, prenatal, kids, and trauma. Melissa also holds a Master of Public Health in Health Policy, which fuels her passion to serve causes that are making positive changes in population health. Melissa serves as program director of wellemental

Pooja Virani – Pooja Virani is a Pain-Free Movement Specialist and Social Justice Consultant on a mission to spread joy, foster equality, and help people reach their highest potential. She is certified in Kripalu Yoga & Meditation, Kids’ Yoga, and Acroyoga. She has practiced yoga for over 15 years and taught it all over the word, most recently in Bali, Indonesia. Pooja specializes in Rehabilitative Yoga for Injury Prevention & Pain Relief, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC Yoga, and Social Justice Education for Yoga Teachers, Community Leaders, and Businesses.

Pooja believes in “yoga for everyone” and aims to make yoga accessible and inclusive to all people – regardless of your race, age, gender, sexuality, previous experience, or ability. Previously she worked as a Nonprofit Management Consultant and International Development Specialist, taught in rural and urban low-income schools, volunteered for the PeaceCorps and AmeriCorps, hosted a community radio show, and ran an Experiential Education company.

Additional information

Tiered Pricing

Community $15, Regular $25, Pay it Forward $35

Event Details

Date: June 19, 2021

Start time: 02:00 EDT

End time: 03:30 EDT

Venue: Zoom

Phone: 571-358-9642