Is yoga too “religious” for schools?
One group, representing parents in Encinitas, Calif., happens to think so. The National Center for Law and Policy, a Christian legal defense fund, filed suit on behalf of offended parents yesterday against the Encinitas Union School District for teaching yoga in all of its nine schools. The complaint argued that teaching Ashtanga yoga as part of the district’s physical education program promotes Hinduism, in violation of the California Constitution.
“This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney,” said lead attorney for the plaintiffs Dean Broyles in a statement.
District superintendent Timothy B. Baird objected to the characterization of the yoga program as religious, telling the Associated Press, "We're not teaching religion. We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It's part of our overall wellness program. The vast majority of students and parents support it."
The school district’s yoga program arose out of a partnership with the Jois Foundation, an area non-profit promoting the benefits of Ashtanga yoga in school.
Yoga is taught in a growing number of schools nationwide due to the work of similarly minded organizations like the World Yoga Project and NYC-based Bent On Learning, which has introduced the ancient art to 16 schools.