The separation of school and meditation. And religious indoctrination?
A storm’s been a-brewing on the west coast for the past few months over yoga taught in school, but it’s maybe not what you think. Parents aren’t wishing their kids would participate in more yoga and reap the potential benefits many other children’s yoga classes have shown to provide like better focus, better self-esteem and better grades, and yes, less stress (not to mention help with preventing bullying and benefitting kids with autism). Nope, a group of parents in the typically liberal Encinitas, CA are raising hell over an opt-out Ashtanga based yoga program taught for free at the district elementary schools over fear of religious and mindfreak brainwashing.
Letters, lawyers and school board meetings later, the small group of opposing parents, propelled by the head of a local conservative advocacy group (the buzz began at local evangelical churches) are still adamant about the yoga classes pushing Hinduism and violating the First Amendment, they claim. An online petition has been launched to remove the program. Meanwhile a counter petition was posted to protect it, currently with 2,715 signatures.
Parent of a first grader, Mary Eady, is convinced the classes will turn the kids into devotional yogabots.
“They’re not just teaching physical poses, they’re teaching children how to think and how to make decisions,” Ms. Eady said. “They’re teaching children how to meditate and how to look within for peace and for comfort. They’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.”
Note she is saying this negatively. But could you argue with her statements?
Can yoga poses be separated from spirituality? It’s something gyms and yogapreneurs have been trying to figure out for years. One can’t deny that Ashtanga yoga, Jois Yoga and most traditional yoga has philosophical roots, just read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Yamas and Niyamas certainly say a thing or two about how one might go about making decisions, how to look within to find peace and comfort and how to use tools for many things beyond stretching. Isn’t asana a tool in itself? And thank goodness for that, right 20 million other Americans?
The parents’ legal representative is Dean Broyles, the president and chief counsel of the National Center for Law and Policy, a nonprofit law firm that champions religious freedom and traditional marriage. He is poised to sue the school board if they do not heed the concerned requests. In his argument, he posits that it would be the same “if we substituted for this program a charismatic Christian praise and worship physical education program.” Which is just. No.
The superintendent Tim Baird still stands behind the program.
“That’s why we have an opt-out clause,” Mr. Baird said. “If your faith is such that you believe that simply by doing the gorilla pose, you’re invoking the Hindu gods, then by all means your child can be doing something else.”
But folks like Mrs. Eady are not satisfied.
“Yoga poses are representative of Hindu deities and Hindu stories about the actions and interactions of those deities with humans,” she said. “There’s content even in the movement, just as with baptism there’s content in the movement.”
There’s content in the movement sounds like a great yoga slogan. Or bad potty humor.
Russell Case, a representative of the Jois Foundation providing the grant and training for the yoga program, said the parents need not fear.
“They’re concerned that we’re putting our God before their God,” Mr. Case said. “They’re worried about competition. But we’re much closer to them than they think. We’re good Christians that just like to do yoga because it helps us to be better people.”
For goodness’ sake.
We’ll keep you updated.
Further reading: School Wellness: The Latest Frontier in the Culture Wars? – HuffPo
- Parents Threaten to Sue Over Free Yoga in School
- Lawsuits, Copyrights and Yoga: A Letter from Greg Gumucio on His Case vs. Bikram
- New 2012 Study Tells Us How Many Millions More Do Yoga and How Many Billions of Dollars It’s Worth
- YoGirls Program: Academia-worthy Yoga for Minority Teen Girls in NYC
- Can Yoga Help Stop Bullying?