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Trial Date Set for Parents’ Lawsuit Against Encinitas School Yoga Program

in Lawsuit-asana, YD News, Yoga Feuds
Dec. 11, 2012: Fourth grader Miguel Ruvalcaba holds a pose during a yoga class at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif. (AP/Gregory Bull)

Dec. 11, 2012: Fourth grader Miguel Ruvalcaba holds a pose during a yoga class at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif. (AP/Gregory Bull)

Hold onto your school lunches, a trial date has been set for the civil rights case pitting parents against the Encinitas Union School District over free yoga classes. Their time in court will come May 20.

As a refresher, a lawsuit, Sedlock vs. Baird (school superintendant), was filed earlier this year by two parents claiming the Ashtanga yoga curriculum offered at the district’s schools “unlawfully promotes religious beliefs” and violates the U.S. Constitution, the suit alleges. The yoga program is made possible by a $533,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation.

Dean Broyles, attorney for the parents suing (and the president and chief counsel of the National Center for Law and Policy, a nonprofit law firm that champions religious freedom and traditional marriage) also had a problem with the White House hosting a Yoga Garden. Via The Wall Street Journal India.

He said many Americans who practice yoga want to be viewed as spiritual but not religious. However, claims that yoga is a mere physical exercise that doesn’t cross the line to Eastern religious beliefs and practices are dubious at best, Mr. Broyles said. He believes that yoga poses are worshipful acknowledgements of Hindu deities and have been shown to have a religiously transformative impact.

“Let’s be honest, if the White House was actively promoting a Christian-based exercise program, I am confident there would be a huge public outcry and they would change the program. But because yoga is based in Eastern mysticism, which is not well understood, many tend to try to disingenuously downplay its religious aspects,” said Mr. Broyles.

As a counter, over 100 students from the nine schools at EUSD and their parents that are for yoga in their schools joined together to form the “Yes! Yoga for Encinitas Students” association. Represented by David A. Peck, an attorney from Coast Law Group, the group recently filed an ex parte application March 28 to intervene in the case.

It should be noted that the judge presiding over the case, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer, admitted he’s a regular yoga practitioner which could prove interesting (either way).

Stay tuned.





16 comments… add one
  • CardiffKook

    The Yoga Garden looks very threatening, don’t you think? http://youtu.be/OKJKWkwzzXE

  • jill

    I believe any ritual, any practice that promotes peace, interconnectedness, unity and love should not only be allowed, but should be encouraged. Yoga is a personal practice that helps center and calm with the unity of breath and movement. With all the violence and bullying in our schools, I think we could use a little more unity and love. We are privelaged to be allowed to make our own choices, if yoga is not for you, don’t do it; but don’t take it away from people who do.

  • Budokai

    As innocent as it seems on the surface and as healthy as it is… yoga IS based on religion, REGARDLESS of whether or not you practice if only for the health benefits, makes no difference. It doesn’t belong in public schools or in anything related to or supported by the American government. Ever heard of INDEPENDENT after school programs? Move the yoga class there, it’s that simple. If this program were in ANY way related to Christianity, people would be OUTRAGED. No room for a double standard in this case, sorry.

    • Prem

      @Budokai – if yoga “IS based on religion” – which religion are you claiming it is based upon? If you say “Hinduism” I would argue that things are not so black and white. First of all, modern postural yoga is a synthesis of Indian and Western “physical culture” exercises (see Yoga Body by Mark Singleton). I know of no Hindu Temples in the U.S. that include “yoga” in their practices, although some may offer yoga classes. Finally, in terms of things that are “based on” religion–where do we draw that line? The days of the week come from Norse and Roman gods, the pledge that children are required to say in most public schools contains “under God,” our money has “In God We Trust,” school holidays are structured around religious holidays, our history is full of references to religion. Postural yoga’s relationship to religion is akin to saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes. I think it’s ridiculous to deny something that is so beneficial to people due to religion-based ignorance. Some religious people are already trying to dumb our kids down by denying science and attempting to have Creationism taught in public schools, claiming that “evolution is the religion of Darwinism,” and things of that nature. There are on-going violations of the “separation clause” to this day–where REAL sectarian proselytizing is taking place in public schools. (See ffrf.org or google “Northwest Rankin High School” for current examples.) Teaching kids some yoga doesn’t even come close to these sorts of things. HOWEVER–if one wanted to teach Yoga in a more “new age” or “metaphysical” way, including Sanskrit texts, references to chakras, mantra, and things of that nature–then yes–an after school program WOULD be more appropriate.

      • Chris

        Quote : HOWEVER–if one wanted to teach Yoga in a more “new age” or “metaphysical” way, including Sanskrit texts, references to chakras, mantra, and things of that nature–then yes–an after school program WOULD be more appropriate. : EndQuote.

        Prem, there is nothing at all New-Age about the 5000-year-old Hindu Religion.

        The physical Yoga-Asanas form just the first, rudimentary aspect ( one ‘Ang’ in Sanskrit) of the ancient Hindu Science of Yoga, whose ultimate aim is to ensure the Union of one’s Soul ( Aatma in Sanskrit ) with the Divine.

        It is only in the West that the 5000-year-old Wisdom of Hinduism is termed “New-Age” and “Alternative” !!! For this foolish notion, we have people like Deepak Chopra to blame.

        Hinduism is very ancient, yet very relevant, bringing Spiritual Nourishment to Billions today, as it has over the last 5000 years.

        And Yoga is all-Hindu, all-the-time ! So, anybody who so much as dabbles in Yoga is, indeed, dipping his / her toes in the deep, ancient pool of Sublime Wisdom that is Hinduism. For some, this is all good, for others, not so much !

        • Prem


          You sound like someone with a political agenda. Are you aligned with The Hindu American Foundation by any chance?? They have a partisan interest in “reclaiming yoga” for Hindus–because they believe it has been stolen by the West (when it was actually co-created by the West). While there is certainly a way to connect postural yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and a few other texts — the physical yoga most commonly taught in the West is a SYNTHESIS between classical hatha yoga and European gymnastic exercise. Most of the poses taught today didn’t even exist before the 1920s, with many getting their ancient-sounding Sanskrit names from BKS Iyengar and a few others. Hinduism may be 5,000 years old, but what is taught as “yoga” in the US is much more recent and far from being “Hindu,” no matter how much some Hindu political organization wants to claim otherwise. As far as “dipping one’s toes” is concerned–Americans already do that without going near a yoga class. Hindu thought strongly influenced the American Transcendentalist writers, and is infused in the work of Emerson, Thoreau, and others. If Christians want to freak out over “Hinduism” being taught to their kids–they may want to start with a 7th grade English class. I dare say there’s far more “Hindu Thought”there (in the writings mentioned), as well as from later movements like “New Thought” and the works of William James and Aldous Huxley, than what one would find in a physical yoga class. The whole story is ridiculous–ban these writers first, if you really want to keep “Hinduism” away from the kiddies!

          • Chris


            It’s 2013 !

            In the year 2013, are you still saying things like, “Yoga was co-created in the West” ? Sheesh !

            Yoga is entirely Hindu in nature, and Indian in origin. There is nothing to debate here.

            What the West has created, meanwhile, is “Yoga, Inc.”, with its $20 / hour tuition-fees for Yoga-classes, LuluLemon, etc. It’s clever, but it’s not Yoga !

  • Semper Fi

    Yoga shouldn’t be forced on people. People should come to it seeking for more.

  • telojo

    Those parents have anything else to do than wasting their time in litigious matter? Have they talked to their children? How they react on classes, do they want to be there or not? Those are the most important things, not what they believe it’s happening. And no, yoga is what you want to be, and if it is not religion for you, it’s not. And if it is religion for you, then you have the religion in your head. I’m pretty sure the source of the suit is their own selfish imposition.

  • nicolem

    As a someone who considers herself a very content and devout Catholic, I have NO issues practicing yoga. The Catholic faith has traditions of meditation (although the techniques are different), as do many other faiths. Perhaps not every Christian would want to seek Nirvana, but certainly the Christian can redirect their mind toward seeking a connection with God while trying to hear Him speak. While I can’t speak for other faiths, it has always struck me that while there are some Hindu underpinnings of yoga, yoga is so flexible that there is a way to view and incorporate it from any faith or worldview. I’m not sure how it can be so questionable to become more in touch with your own body and seek to broaden out your senses to the world around you….

  • Let this case be a reminder to all of us integrating yoga and mindfulness into schools that it’s essential for us to follow a protocol of professionalism. We need to educate parents about what we are doing first. And, we must modify the yoga practices to meet the needs of schools, which includes offering yoga in a secular approach.

  • Elizabeth

    Let us not forget that asana practice–poses–is the majority of the “yoga” to which they object…and that physical yoga poses are relatively latecomers to the yoga world, derived in large part from sources outside of India, including British physical culture (Christian) and gymnastics.

    • Chris

      Elizabeth :

      Huh ?

      The Yoga-Asanas are very much a part of the 5000-year-old Hindu Civilization of ancient India.

      More than 2000 years ago, a learned Hindu sage of ancient India, Rishi Patanjali compiled the prevailing Yogic Knowledge and Wisdom of India, and put together a magnificent, scholarly treatise, the “Yoga-Sutra”. All the Yoga that the world knows today springs forth from Rishi Patanjali’s “Yoga-Sutras”.

      There is nothing at all Christian about Yoga. Yoga is all-Hindu, all-the-time ! So, anybody who so much as dabbles in Yoga is, indeed, dipping his / her toes in the deep, ancient pool of Sublime Wisdom that is Hinduism. For some, this is all good, for others, not so much !

      • Prem


        Let’s come at this from a different angle. First, whether it matters to you or not, I’ve read Patanjali (in translation) and I have much respect for Hinduism–it is rich and inclusive. Hindus can much more easily incorporate JC than most Christians would Vishnu or Hanuman. But–imagine if the kids were taught the exact same exercises–but it was called “Body Play” instead of “yoga,” (the word meaning “union” that in itself contains spiritual overtones). And all the poses had English names, no Sanskrit. And let’s pretend that they don’t even know that “yoga” exists–there are just these cool, fun poses and exercises. Would the kids still get the benefit they’ve been getting thus far? I dare say that they would. Demanding that yoga be conflated with the practice of the Hindu religion could ultimate deprive thousands, maybe millions from the benefits of yoga (because they wouldn’t want to “betray” their religion–if Yoga = Hinduism). I think that’s a pretty poor trade-off just to service some hurt egos of nationalistic Hindus who are sad-faced that their culture isn’t getting its “due.” Why not compromise–and have yoga embraced as “Indian” without muddying the waters by provoking hyper-sensitive Christians with exaggerated claims? These children could enjoy the real-life benefits of yoga today, and make up their own minds about what religion they wish to practice when they are older. Parents have the “right” to program their kids–but I think ANY religion would be practiced more authentically if were a choice, and not a duty, or simply the only thing one knows. But that’s just me. I think the world would be a healthier place if more people did yoga and meditated–and I don’t mind making >a few< compromises for sensitive people in order to make it happen.

        • Chris


          Absolutely. Yoga is ancient India’s gift to ALL of mankind. Everybody is welcome to practice it, and derive its full benefits.

          Having said that, the originators of Yoga should be given their due.

          Should Yoga be disingenuously labelled as ” non-Hindu” in origin, just so that some “hyper-sensitive Christians” may continue to derive the immense benefits of Yoga, and yet not feel guilty of having partaken in a “Pagan” custom ?

          Consider, for instance :

          In Mathematics, the number-system, the decimal-system and the concept of Zero were all formulated by the Hindu mathematicians of ancient India. All of these wonderful scientific advances were imbibed by the Arab Islamic barbarians who invaded India, starting from the 9th century. Eventually, this mathematical knowledge of ancient Hindu India was transmitted to the West by the Arabs. The numerals that the West refers to today as “Arabic Numerals”, are in fact, referred to by the Arabs as “Hindu Numerals” !!!

  • This is absolutely ridiculous, PC run amok. As we all know, yoga is more about physical and mental health than religion. People need to chill out.

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