For many people, the idea of relaxing COVID-19 mandates such as social distancing and mask wearing are a welcome relief. But for some, it will not be so easy to go back to pre-COVID norms. In fact, some fully vaccinated Americans are experiencing anxiety around going back to a mask-free world. Ed Hirt, a social psychologist and professor at Indiana University, says when people are uncertain, they often look to their immediate environment for guidance and validation. He says while this is human nature, people need to be comfortable making a decision that works best for them, even when it differs from what others around them are doing. It can be difficult and scary for people to change their behavior, especially after 18 months of wearing a mask and after undergoing such a traumatic experience as the pandemic. But while a mask mandate is a mandate, Hirt says when it’s over, you can wear a mask anytime you want to, if it makes you feel safer and more comfortable.
Yoga has been a form of meditation for hundreds of years and has been practiced in schools as exercise for more than 30 years. But when Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill lifting the state’s 30-year ban on teaching yoga in public schools last month, critics began weighing in. Christian conservatives said yoga classes might lead students to convert to Hinduism and others suggested it was a way to sneak religion into the classroom, which is a violation of the First Amendment’s establishment clause. But IU Professor of Religious Studies Candy Gunther Brown says that focusing solely on yoga's religious roots distracts from the question of what is going on now. To focus on the roots suggests this is a past connection and deflects from what’s going on now and what’s going on in classrooms, she says. When it comes to the first amendment, Brown says the question isn’t if someone is going to become Hindu or Buddhist or Jain or some other religion because they do a certain practice. Constitutionally, the question is whether there is an endorsement of religion over non-religion and if a practice is deemed to be an endorsement of religion, then that’s not constitutional. Brown says there have been constitutional challenges to yoga in schools, but none have reached the Supreme Court. When it comes to parents deciding on whether to allow their children to participate in yoga, Brown says the best thing is for parents to become informed about the specifics of what’s being taught, not just on the history but the larger context. Read articles that are well researched and thorough that give explanations of the whys. She says take the time to do the research and see if there’s a fit.