Public School Yoga Program to Continue Despite Parental Objections

Although parents have expressed vocal concern that a yoga program in place in five Encinitas, California schools are religiously inappropriate because of the practice’s Hindu roots, organizers of the program say the it will continue and expand to all nine of the city’s elementary schools.  Proponents of the program say that it is part of an important physical education and healthy living program designed to help kids care for their bodies and regulate their emotions.

More from the local public radio station, KPBS.org:

Schools across the country are focusing more on teaching students to make healthy choices. Encinitas Superintendent Tim Baird said yoga is just one part of the district’s physical education curriculum.

“We also have a nutrition program, we also have a life skills program where kids learn about perseverance and responsibility,” he said.

The whole wellness program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation. The Encinitas-based group promotes a kind of yoga called Ashtanga.

But, when Mary Eady visited a yoga class at her son’s Encinitas school last year, she saw much more than a fitness program.

“They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth,” she said, “and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercises.”

Those looked like religious teachings to Eady, so she opted her son out of the classes. The more she reads about the Jois Foundation and its founders’ beliefs in the spiritual benefits of Ashtanga yoga, the more convinced Eady is that it can’t be separated from its Hindu roots.

“It’s stated in the curriculum that it’s meant to shape the way that they view the world, it’s meant to shape the way that they make life decisions,” she said. “It’s meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves.”

Eady is part of a group of parents working with Dean Broyles, president and chief counsel of the Escondido-based National Center for Law and Policy.

“And then the question becomes – if it is religious, which it is, who decides when enough religion has been stripped out of the program to make it legal,” he said. “I mean that’s the problem when you introduce religion into the curriculum and actually immerse and marinate children in the program.”

Eady and the other parents want the classes made completely voluntary and moved to before or after the school day. They say school officials haven’t responded to their specific concerns.

Image: Child doing yoga, via Shutterstock

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  1. by simi

    On January 10, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Perhaps these children should gave the chance to be introduced to many different religions and cultures from around the world, it doesn’t seem like it could hurt to remove them from their parents bubble for at least a couple of hours a day.

  2. by nina

    On January 10, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    I agree with the parents protesting. If it’s meant to ‘shape the way they think or feel’ and it’s from another ‘religion’, why force it on kids who already have a ‘religion’. There are many stretching exercises that can be done without religious philosophy. If they don’t allow ANY Christian religion or philosophy then this should not be allowed either. It’s not the school’s responsibility. Stick with math, Science, English and history and that’s it. Leave the rest to the parents.

  3. by Jay

    On January 10, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Nina, sorry to say but CHRISTIANITY is not the only religion, whether you meant to or not, you threw the spotlight on “Christianity”, which makes you absurd. Choose your words better next time.

  4. by Hanks

    On January 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    “can be successful at channeling the hyperactivity of young minds. This system can also be used as a vessel for helping calm ongoing chatter of the mind, reducing stress and teaching extroverted personalities to redirect their attention to their internal experience.” When they say that they want to shape the way they think and feel they don’t mean with religion they mean with inner reflection and breathing. Giving thanks for the sun for it’s its warmth isn’t worshipping the sun it just helps you realize to be thankful for the everything thats surronds you and to not take things for granted. I’ve done yoga and have never felt like they where trying to teach me a religion. Though I’m sure the parents who are protesting have no problem forcing their religions down their children’s throat. Only difference is the sun really does give us warmth and “god” is imaginary.

  5. by Erica

    On January 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    It sounds to me like they are being taught to appreciate nature. Our bodies depend on the earth and the sun to survive. If god created the sun then why not appreciate it and thank it. Why should any person appreciate only the creator and not the things that it created. I’m not religious and i Do yoga. Never once did i feel as if i was being taught about religion. Instead I felt I was taught about relaxation and awareness of my body and it surroundings. Its a great way for kids to exercise and stretch, as well as relax and clear there mind of any stress.

  6. by Yasmin

    On January 10, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I agree with Simi and Erica. I definitely would like the option available in my daughters school.

  7. by Masha

    On January 11, 2013 at 12:25 am

    I’m glad other out there recognize this practice as a religious one and are thinking about what is ultimately best for their children (their eternal salvation.) I agree with Nina if the school insists on it it should be left for before or after school optional activity.

  8. by Kattie

    On January 11, 2013 at 7:15 am

    The sun gives life to plants, and we eat plants thus our lives are sustained. That’s not religious belief; that’s nature. I’ve done Yoga, too, and it’s about relaxation and self-awareness. I’d love for my children to have these classes, especially if it would eliminate stress and calm emotions. It’d be a nice break to a hectic school day. It’s sad things can’t be appreciated with an open-mind.

  9. by April

    On January 11, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Good Grief. To consider taking a wonderful, energizing and uplifting practice like yoga away from young kids who would certainly benefit from the practice because of a few words makes me sick. If the teacher simply changed those few words, would parents like this who apparently have WAY too much time on their hands to dissect sentences happier? If you have never taken a yoga class and felt the pride you have for what you can do with your own body and breath then you really don’t get it. Try to take a class before making such rash decisions!

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