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What is Religion? What is Yoga? School Yoga Trial Seeks Answers

in YD News


“What is Yoga?” Or how about, “What is religion?” These are the questions waiting to be answered at the trial of the yogallennium where parents are suing their children’s school over free yoga classes claiming it is unconstitutional religious indoctrination. Oh, the growing pains of society.

Opening remarks on Monday came from San Diego Superior Court Judge (and coincidental yoga practitioner) John Meyer overseeing the proceedings who asked, “What is religion?”

It’s a smart, or at least interesting (necessary?) way to begin, as we will likely see painstaking struggles to define both yoga and religion, their connection and separation, in this trial as we spiral down the rabbit hole.

“Are you an expert on how to define religion?” plaintiff attorney Dean Broyles asked the defendant, superintendant Timothy Baird who was first to the stand. Baird admitted he was not, to which Broyles proceeded by questioning how he could then define the school’s program as nonreligious.

The trial continued with the first expert witness, Indiana University professor and religious scholar Dr. Candy Brown who was reported to have provided a “complex” definition of religion, but a rather simple answer about her views on Asthanga.

 “If you asked me what’s the most religious form of yoga, I would pick Ashtanga as my No. 1,” expert witness Dr. Candy Brown testified.

Brown also testified that she believes there’s a “conspiracy at work to trick students into a spiritual practice through yoga,” Fox5SanDiego.com reports.

And that, ladies and genteels, is how this case is going to go, simultaneously blowing our minds while we tear all our hair out.

The trial is expected to continue this week and perhaps into the next century. Read more about pre-trial declarations from experts for both sides and further details of the lawsuit.

[Via U-T San DiegoFox5SanDiego.com]



Yoga Goes On Trial Today: Encinitas Case Pitting Parents Against School Yoga Classes and ‘Religious Indoctrination’

17 comments… add one
  • Chris

    Yoga is inextricably interwoven with Hinduism. Yoga is indeed Hindu. Anybody who engages with any aspect of Yoga is indeed dipping his toes in the sublime pool of Hinduism. For many of us, this is all good.

    Hinduism is the most inclusive religion on earth, going so far as to say that every living soul can ultimately attain Godhood, and that the Self and the Divine are not two different things.

    The vast, deep river of Hinduism flows quietly and peacefully, making available its cooling, nourishing waters to any who seeks to quench his or her Thirst. The peaceful mighty river of Hinduism has flowed for 500 years, nourishing Billions of Souls, but has never once breached its banks and cruelly flooded its surroundings to thrust its waters upon those who did not seek it. In 5000 years, there has not been one Hindu terrorist, one Hindu Conquistador or one Hindu Inquisition.

    Anybody who embarks on the quest for Self-Realization is already a good Hindu. Thus, one might belong to a Christian Denomination, and still be a good Hindu.

    Indeed, there is reason to believe that JC may have been the World’s first Semitic Hindu.

    JC journeyed to India in his youth (the missing years of JC’s life, that the Bible won’t talk about), and apprenticed himself in the Gurukuls and Ashrams of the learned Hindu Rishis (sages) of India. There, the excellent pupil JC imbibed the ancient Hindu philosophies from his Gurus, and himself became an enlightened, self-realized soul – a Mahatma, a true Yogi. The enlightened JC then traveled back to the Middle East to preach to his people the wisdom he had acquired in India.

    JC’s teachings are very much in consonance with Hinduism :

    (1) “As you sow, so shall you reap ” —> This is JC’s exquisite way of stating the Hindu law of Karma.

    (2) ” Let him throw the first stone, who has not sinned ”.
    This is JC’s recognition of the fact that all souls (Aatmas) present on this earth are present on the earth, only because these souls are as yet, not without sin.
    The Hindu philosophy of Reincarnation (Punar-Janam) believes that the soul (Aatma) is indestructible, and undergoes several cycles of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth. If properly guided, an Aatma attains a higher-state-of-being in each successive life, until that Aatma ultimately becomes self-realized and sinless, and attains Moksha ( Liberation from the cycle of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth). Thus, any Aatma that is actually present on this earth, is, as yet, not without sin, and is at only some intermediate point along this Great-Journey towards becoming a self-realized soul.

    (3) There is much evidence to suggest that JC was a vegetarian, which would be in tune with the Yogic Principle of Ahimsa.

    (4) After surviving the Crucifixion, JC sought safe-haven in his Alma-Mater India, and once again journeyed to the Kashmir region of India, where he lived to a ripe old age. JC is buried in Kashmir. ( Kashmir is the land of the ancient Hindu sage, Rishi Kashyapa. The name Kashmir comes from the Sanskrit “Kashyapa-Meru” ( Kashyapa’s Lake) ).

    (5) Being a self-realized Soul, JC recognized that there are several different Paths to Enlightenment. Thus, JC never said peevish things like, ” I am the ONLY WAY” ( meaning, I am the only ticket to Heaven). These mean-spirited statements were, after JC’s passing, disingenuously inserted into the Bible, and falsely attributed to JC, by the Vatican (the Marketing Department of the Unholy Roman Empire) as part of its Empire-Building-Strategy, via the Giant Pyramid Scheme of Catholicism.

    • James

      I wish you had spent more than 6% of your (otherwise wonderful) post on the relevant topic rather than stating your thesis and then abandoning it.

      I now feel like I understand how Hinduism may have influenced Christianity. Unfortunately, I understand nothing about how or why yoga is “inextricably interwoven” with anything.

      Despite what I suspect is a considerable knowledge disadvantage, I’ll attempt to join the discussion.

      Yoga is not a religion. It is a tool. A religion must have an element of faith. And “faith” is the act of accepting something as true despite having no evidence. As a Christian, I accept that God exists even though I can’t prove it. This doesn’t bother me because if I could prove God’s existence then I wouldn’t have “faith”; I would have “fact”. And there’s nothing particularly special about a fact beyond its literal meaning.

      As I write this, I recall that some of my yoga instructors have asked me to find divinity within myself during practice. I suppose that pokes at the idea of Yoga being a way to access a deity. But I think it’s simply an option. I don’t think a Yoga practice requires a belief in a divinity or requires the practitioner to accept anything as true. Faith is an option in yoga and not a requirement.

      A religious group’s use of a physical act as part of its service does not necessarily bestow a sacred status on the act. When I was a kid I remember these muscle-guys on TV preaching Christianity. A quick Google search suggests I may have seen “The Power Team” or something – it’s not important. The point is that these guys used weightlifting as a vehicle to practice their religion. The fact that they consider weightlifting to be a spiritual experience doesn’t dictate what weightlifting means to someone else. Similarly, when I see kids dunking each other in a river they probably aren’t performing baptisms. When I give in to my dog and break off a piece of bread for him, we aren’t having communion. An act may be separate (and secular) from a religious intent.

      Most yoga postures are rooted in Hindu lore. It’s hard to argue against that. The Plaintiffs in the Encinitas case are claiming that by merely performing a posture I am worshiping/honoring/acknowledging a Hindu god. I disagree. The story behind the Eagle posture, for example, is a tale of courage and expansion (and shrinkage). I think the story is more of an instruction than a sermon. I have to compress my joints and my body to squeeze through a ring (I can’t quite remember the whole story) and then expand to my full size and power. I don’t mean to suggest that all of Hinduism is one giant anecdote. The story of David and Goliath has been used anecdotally many times in a secular setting and it still retains its sacred roots. Some kids learn a story about a bunny rabbit while learning to tie their shoes. This story is meant to help the kids perform the act. It doesn’t mean that the child is acknowledging the existence of some bunny who happened to have an adventure similar to the act of tying shoes. It’s an instruction.

      In my opinion it comes down to context. Yoga can be a vehicle by which you practice your faith or by which you practice no faith. Just because Yoga has the ability to be used in different ways doesn’t mean that it is necessarily being used in any particular way. Yoga has the ability to be extricated from religion.

      Even if Yoga isn’t a religion, any discussion involving religion is complicated. It can be difficult to accurately express your thoughts while trying to keep a comment short enough to be read. I hope I’ve given you enough to understand my point of view even if I haven’t given you enough to agree with my point of view.

      • Sam Louise

        Hi James
        Take Chris’ ramblings about Jesus of Nazareth with a grain of salt. It is all bollocks. Chris is a hindu nationalist sympathizer and can spin tales like a strong tornado. All of it based in ideology.

        • James

          Thanks for the heads-up. What he said about the possible links between Christianity and Hinduism doesn’t particularly bother me; I was much more concerned by the bold thesis statement that Yoga is “inextricably interwoven” with something and then a complete lack of evidence (anecdotal or otherwise) supporting it.

          • Chris

            Hi James,

            Yoga is inextricably interwoven with …. Hinduism. There is no need to present any evidence about this, as there is no dispute about this fact. Yoga is Hinduism’s gift to Mankind. So, dabbling in Yoga does indeed make one a dabbler in Hinduism. And, for many of us, that’s the icing on the cake !

            Meanwhile, I give you Dr. Sam Louise, YD’s self-appointed Police-Chief, and my greatest YD-nemesis. She has a Ph.D. in religion from some Canadian University, but still naively refuses to even look at historical-factual-evidence that proves that Islam is about 18 times worse than Nazi-ism (The Nazis killed 7 Million Jews, Islam’s banner is ” Billions and Billions Exterminated “).

            You still have to admire how she scientifically and clinically demolishes all of my carefully-laid-out arguments, by simply pronouncing it all “Bollocks” !

          • James

            Yoga’s involvement with religion is clearly disputable. The fact that this issue has gone to court (and it will be appealed and go to the SCOTUS, I assure you) is evidence to prove that there is a dispute.

            I’ve already written about my definition of “religion” and how yoga objectively fails to qualify. Since then I’ve thought about what would happen if yoga really did have roots in Hinduism and here’s what I’ve come up with:

            The argument that yoga is inseparable from Hinduism because they share common roots falls apart as soon as you apply that rule to a similar situation: Christmas trees.

            It’s pretty well known that Christmas trees have roots (haha, get it?) in pagan religions/festivals. Knowing this, Christians will still decorate a tree this December and use it to celebrate a Christian holiday. The pagan taint has been removed and the symbol has been re-purposed. I don’t understand why yoga can’t receive the same treatment. There is clearly a precedent for using a formerly-religious symbol (or act) for a purpose which is not of it’s original use.

            Christmas trees were interwoven with pagan religions. They were extricated. Yoga was interwoven with Hinduism. It can also be extricated.

            It is possible for a person to practice yoga as a secular activity.

            As for Sam’s description of your ideas as “bollocks” I’m not sure what to think. Your arguments that Christianity is interwoven with Hinduism sound good but I don’t have the knowledge to dispute them. As for your arguments that yoga is interwoven with Hinduism, I repeat that you haven’t made any. I fail to understand how you can declare yoga’s inextricable interwoven-ness with Hinduism. Surely you can persuade someone as stupid as me if you will only think so lowly of me as to walk me through your thought process.

            As I said earlier, I’m less concerned with us agreeing with each other; I’d rather that we understand each other.

    • Sam Louise


      There is no Reply button after your latest post to James so I will respond to your comments about me from this post.

      Unless you were born yesterday, any and all bold and broad statements MUST be backed up with facts. Otherwise, this statement of mine “Green unicorns founded Hinduism and are today still controlling the minds of all Hindus” would be able to stand as is. It is simply laugable when you state, “There is no need to present any evidence about this, as there is no dispute about this fact. ” What school did you go to? I doubt any teacher would have told you such an erroneous thing.

      You are only embarrassing yourself with your ludicrous claim that I ” naively refuse(s) to even look at historical-factual-evidence that proves that Islam is about 18 times worse than Nazi-ism (The Nazis killed 7 Million Jews, Islam’s banner is ” Billions and Billions Exterminated “. There is not a person on this site who would agree with you. If you can offer proof of this please do. Are you a fan of conspiracy theories? Is that why you make such crazy statements? I can’t think of any other reason for such nonsense.

      BTW: please don’t speak so condescendingly about Canadian universities as if they are not as high in quality as other countries’.

      • Chris


        Islam is dripping with the blood of Billions and Billions of innocents. Islam has been an evil Killing-Machine for the last 1400 years, and the Hindus of India have borne the major brunt of this murderous pestilence.

        Please do visit the History Department of your own Canadian University, and conduct some research on how Islam was spread, from its birthplace in Medina, Arabia – ALWAYS by the Sword of Islam, dripping with the blood of innocents. The Zoroastrians of Persia (present-day Iran) meekly submitted to the ArabicPlague and became Moslems, while the Hindus of India have been valiantly staving off the ArabicPlague and holding on to their ancestral, homegrown religion, at an unimaginable expense to themselves.

        Sam, how is it that you never ever offer any scientific evidence to refute my assertions about Islam ? Is research done differently in Canada then ?

        • Sam Louise

          Oh no, no, Chris. You do not get off that easy. I asked YOU for proof. You tried this before – asking me (or other posters) to go do your research for you. We want to see YOUR research. You made an extraordinary statement. Now back it up. It is a good thing you are not in academia. I can just see you in front of your thesis committee telling them “nope. I’m right. You guys go and look it up.”

          See Chris, that is how discussions transpire. Someone makes a claim, backs it up and then someone responds.

          Either produce proof or back down from your nonsensical statement.

          • Chris


            In the year 2013, are you saying that Yoga is NOT born of Hinduism ? Are you saying that Hinduism is NOT the Mother of Yoga ?

            If you are indeed saying such uninformed things, be careful, for your Canadian University might yank your Ph.D. 🙂

          • Sam Louise

            Well Chris, I see you are not going to answer the question. Rather, you are going to keep dodging the issue in hopes we will all forget.

            Either you are unable or unwilling to engage in a proper discussion. The onus is on you to back up your claims. Until you do, there is no where for this conversation to go.

  • Chris

    Hi James,

    I was trying to say that the Hindu origin and nature of Yoga are already well-established.

    I was also trying to show that centuries ago, America may have already come into contact with Hindu philosophies, via the teachings of JC.

    Yoga itself has been in the US for decades now, and America has derived enormous physical, mental and spiritual benefits from Yoga.

    Apart from the very occasional Yoga-rogue, Yoga has been nothing but beneficial and enlightening for large numbers of Americans, even as the Catholic Church scrambles to shield guilty members of its clergy from charges of sex-abuse.

    With all this being the case, what then is the point of lawyering-up and dragging Yoga to court ?

    Like with the peaceful, gentle river of Hinduism itself, the diligent seekers can always seek out Yoga, while the others can choose to leave it be.

  • This is a controversial trial which I know would go on until the kids become adults. I’m a yogini too and it all depends on someone’s view if they see yoga as a religious activity or just some means to get healthy. For Indians, where it originates, it can be considered a religion, as for me I view it more as a fitness activity. I’ve been a devoted yogini for a couple of years now and I’ve seen kids doing yoga before. Some parents even encourage their kids to do this activity with them: http://balinisports.com/tips-for-yoga-classes-with-your-kids/.

  • Rather than a religion its more of a way of life, especially in the east. I ‘m happy to see kids get involved in yoga. Anything to get them away from the addiction of mind numbing TV and computer games.

  • Chris

    James, it’s like this :

    The Vedic (Hindu) religion evolved 5000 years ago in present-day India. Yoga was one of the Vedic-Sciences developed by these highly evolved people of ancient India.

    For instance, this Vedic civilization also developed Astronomy and Mathematics – ( the numerals we refer to as Arabic-numerals are referred to by the Arabs as “Hindu numerals”) the decimal system, the concept of Zero, etc.

    Thus, Yoga was an integral part of the Vedic (Hindu) religion and culture. There is nothing to dispute here, these are scientific historical facts. Thus, Yoga is Hindu in origin and in nature (Much like Tae-kwan-do is Korean in origin, and Karate is Japanese in origin).

    Since the Hindu religion is so profound, it speaks directly to the heart of, and holds appeal for, almost any thinking human on earth. Thus, Hinduism, and its component, the Science of Yoga, appeal greatly to the Western-mind, and have found ready acceptance all over Europe and North America. Thus, Yoga is Hinduism’s gift to Mankind, a fact we must not fail to acknowledge, even as we continue to derive enormous physical, mental and spiritual benefits. from the regular practice of Yoga.

    Hinduism is the Mother, and Yoga is the offspring. Hence, the expression, “Yoga is inextricably interwoven with Hinduism”. So, why would anybody even attempt to extricate Yoga from its Hindu roots ? There have been some laughable attempts at this ( ChristYoga, anyone ? ), which should serve as cautionary-tales for anyone attempting to separate the child from its wise Mother !

  • Chris

    Sam and James :

    The ancient Hindu sage Rishi Patanjali who compiled the “Yoga-Sutras” was born in (southern) India in approximately 200 BC, and was a Hindu, just like all the other Indians around him in 200 BC.

    Rishi Patanjali did not “invent” Yoga, he compiled together, with great scholarly rigor, the ancient wisdom of Yoga practiced by his people, from 3000 BC (yes, 3000 BC).

    All the Yoga that we know and love today can be traced back to Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras.

    And THIS is how we know that Yoga is born of Hinduism, and traces its origin to the Hindus of ancient India. What gave it away ? Was it the Sanskrit-sounding names of the Asanas ( er, I mean, Poses ) ?


    Sam, James, I have some questions for you :

    1) How do we now that Christianity is linked with Christ ?
    2) How do we know that Christianity arose in the Semitic Regions ?
    3) How do we know that Karate is Japanese in origin ?
    4) Can we / should we extricate Christianity from Christ ?

    C’mon, guys ! I mean, really !

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