Parents Object to Yoga Classes in Schools

Parents Object to Yoga Classes in Schools
By: Victor Chi

Ah, yoga. Great for clearing the mind, stretching the body and … indoctrinating youngsters into religion?

Well, some parents in a town near San Diego are so concerned about the religious aspects that they may sue the school district for providing free classes.

Mary Eady removed her son from the classes and told the North County Times, “There’s really a lot of unease among a lot of parents.”

The parents objecting to the introduction of yoga have hired a lawyer, who sent a letter to the superintendent of the Encinitas Union School District, claiming the classes are unconstitutional.

“There’s a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices,” attorney Dean Broyles told the Times.

Superintendent Tim Baird isn’t backing down, saying he expects the district’s trustees to keep the classes, which started in nine schools last month and are scheduled to be introduced to other campuses in January.

“Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths,” he said. “Yoga is part of our mainstream culture.”

While yoga can include spiritual components, the district said its classes have removed them to focus on fitness.

“Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress,” Baird said, “and yoga’s perfect for that.”

According to a report in February on NPR, 20 million people practice yoga in the United States.

The Encinitas program is funded through a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world.

“It’s not just yoga; it’s the background of who’s teaching it and how they were brought in,” parent Samantha Vigil told the Times.

In an interesting twist, the protests from the Encinitas parents come at the same time that the USA Yoga Federation is pushing for yoga to become an Olympic sport.

But there is controversy within the yoga community about whether turning the practice into competition is contradictory.

“With yoga, the mind-body-spirit connection is within,” Ha Nguyen, a yoga instructor in Virginia, told WUSA. “So, to have yoga as an Olympic sport, it’d be great to have coverage, but I don’t believe that is the true teaching of yoga.”