Yoga and religion on trial, oh my. The recap from the Encinitas yoga trial that began earlier this week comes courtesy of U-T San Diego writer Logan Jenkins and only confirms our deepest fears: we may all be bald from tearing our hair out by the end of it, IF it ever ends.
So far, the hair-raising trial that began on Monday has seen defendant, superintendant Timothy Baird take to the stand as well as Dr. Candy Brown a religious scholar who has managed to turn this lawsuit into a yoga witch hunt replete with conspiracy theories of spiritual trickery.
According to journalist Jenkins, Brown also, at one point, equated downward facing dog to the Bible, to which defense attorney relented, “I can’t match brain power with you.” After which, all their heads exploded and George Lucas came to explain the meaning of life.
Judge Meyer also had difficulty wrapping his head around it all, saying in response to Dr. Brown’s testimony: “We’re getting so esoteric it’s almost meaningless.”
Here’s more of Jenkins’s account from fly-on-the-wall pose:
From his body (and oral) language, it appears that Meyer, who’s disclosed that he’s done yoga (and has not converted to Hinduism), likely will rule in late June that the district is not promoting religion via its modified yoga program.
He may concede that there can be a spiritual response to yoga, but the same could be said of most any school pursuit — community service, sports, the Pledge of Allegiance.
After hearing what a slippery slope this customized “EUSD yoga” presents, Meyer performed a full shoulder shrug and side-to-side head swing (call it the Bewildered Judge pose) and said, “You might as well have every child home-schooled.”
Slippery slope indeed. Because this is more about yoga. It’s about the complexities and sensitivities around religious freedom and oppression, which, like the Second Amendment, we may never quite all agree on in this country. The parents suing the school believe no matter who you slice it, yoga stems from Eastern religion and is in competition with Christianity. And the culture wars continue.
Coincidentally, the attorneys defending yoga in this case argued, in a separate embattled case, against signs saying “In God We Trust” found in a calculus teacher’s classroom which made it to federal court. Lordie.
Yoga in public school could make it all the way to the Supreme Court. Is yoga anti-Christian? Are Christians anti-yoga? You can’t say it’s either, definitively. So how can they rule on this? We know one thing, we’re glad we’re not the judge.
Thank you for covering this story. As a school yoga teacher, of course I am concerned about this trial. I am heartened to know that Dr. Chris Chapple will take the stand.
I’m a judge. And I teach Judicial Ethics to other Judges.
My curriculum includes, in addition to the Model Code of Judicial Conduct, references to the Boy Scout Pledge, the Ten Commandments, the Fifteen Commandments (Mel Brooks, hah!) Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code, the Yamas and Niyamas, Kinky Friedman and Bob Dylan.
Ethical conduct is not the exclusive province of any religion — and ethics is not religion. It’s just being a decent human being.
When this case is over, I’m sending a fan letter to Judge Brown. But he should be ready to rule from the Bench.
Like we say in my court when we’re done: “We are in recess, Namaste”
Let’s also throw in what makes a RealtorⓇ different from any old run-of-the-mill real estate agent …
Imagine yogis guilty of spiritual trickery! That’s never happened before. Ever! Yogis never delve into mystical realms or seek to manipulate sacred energies to exercise control and influence over other people’s minds. No way. They’re really just like accountants, focused on the here and now, on what you can see and touch; the robes, the chanting, the invocation of the tantra, the Kundalini, that’s just hooey! They don’t really mean any of it.
All deep mind-body practices subvert ordinary consciousness, and are inherently invasive and intrusive. Unless parents are teaching their own children yoga, it’s definitely opening your children up to undue influence. At a bare minimum, I would want a tougher licensing of yoga teachers and in the short term, all teachers in this program might be certified specifically to work with children.
The Yoga Alliance is developing such a certification. It’s disingenuous for the Alliance to testify on behalf of the Ashtanga program unless it is also insisting that this certification be in place for all teachers in the Encinitas program. It really wouldn’t surprise me if the Alliance isn’t even mentioning the issue. That organization would do anything for more money and recognition.
Beyond that as a parent, would want children to be exposed to a range of mind-body practices, including Pilates, Tai Chi, Qi Qong, and others, not just force fed yoga because of over-zealous parents and a foundation with ready cash and its own well-documented corporate expansion agenda.
And any conscious dance-based mind-body movement practice (with the notable exception of Gaga, which is not even ALLOWED to be taught to children 15 and under–because children naturally move in Gaga ways; and there is no need for any redundant or overstimulating “education”), as well …
“Certification” for 15 minutes of asana 3 times a week?
Then certification for folk dance instructors! Let’s certify janitors!
Certification for everyone!!
US of America, where everything is uniform and lovely:
“And the children go to school,
And the children go to summer camp
And then to the university,
Where they are put in boxes
And they come out all the same’
Just like their officially-certified yoga instructors!
You’re comparing applies and oranges. Care of the soul is far too important to be left in the hands of untrained spiritual bimbos and priestess wannabes. Go back to the origins of yoga. It’s a sacred trust, and there is a sacred process of transmitting the teachings to all, regardless of age. Otherwise, go into a different line of work. Maybe restaurant hostess?
Also, once you enter the realm of public space and authority, and relying on public resources, you are no longer providing a private good. You are proving a public one, subject to public regulation, monitoring and oversight. That is, if it’s really the public you care about. With yogis, one can never really tell.
I wonder if these school-based yoga teachers are even subject to a criminal background check? Anyone know? Yes, they have the yama and niyamas but that doesn’t mean squat to these folks. Trust me. A background check is the bare minimum for anyone operating in this environment, with access to children. God knows, they could be rifling through the kids’ belongings or worse. Who knows? Even part-time janitors pass basic checks. If they don’t want a background check – I know what an outrage, an attack on yogic freedom – then they can work somewhere else?
Hey Stewart- I can’t help but chime in here because I actually know the teacher who teaches the specific class that the child who’s parents started this lawsuit was initially attending. She emailed me last week a few days before she was set to testify. I know for a fact that she is a highly trained teacher who is studied extensively and has taught kids long before the schools program was envisioned. She was teaching at my center when the Encinitas program was developed and moved there to provide additional training to the teachers participating. All the teachers who are teaching these kids have been well trained to work with kids and on ensuring the appropriateness of what is being presented in the public sphere. Your insinuations here are based on fallacious reasoning. Yes, there are a lot of bad yoga teachers out there and we don’t want them teaching are kids. But that is not happening here. If yoga teachers are self-policing themselves and ensuring quality outcomes then they should be commended, not lumped in with all the other crap. And it should be noted that the overwhelming majority of parents, children, and teachers at these schools are exceedingly happy with the results they see from inclusion of these yoga classes in the curriculum. And those with religious beliefs that they feel are being compromised can easily choose to op out. No one is being force fed anything.
while i can’t speak to this program, when I have worked near children in the past, a background check was required — both at the Y and the public school where I taught after school.
in both instances, I was only teaching adults, but because I would be ‘around’ children, the background check was required.
in our kids yoga program, we are training school teachers so that they can add these skills to their curriculum. they are already vetted by the school.
The origins of yoga?
You mean adding a nationalist Indian slant to school gymnastics programs in the 1930s?
You mean taking boys and cutting their frenelum so they can learn to swallow their tongues?
Since no one can agree on what yoga is I don’t see how the judge will be able to rule on anything but this particular program. Your comments seem to have more bearing on how you feel other people are inadequately teaching yoga than they do on this case.
I compare apples to oranges all the time. Especially this time of year because neither is typically available fresh here in San Diego, apples being harvested in late summer/autumn and citrus in late winter/early spring.
I also compare Volvos to Vokswagens.
And dogs to cats.
But Stewart, really, “the care of the soul”?
Catechism doesn’t belong in public schools. Pray elsewhere.
You are hilarious!
And someday, we will live in a world where people accept individual responsibility for their own actions and their own decisions, and stop insisting that everyone else in the country be deprived of an option for something just because THEY don’t think it’s appropriate in some manner. If you don’t like it or don’t think it’s appropriate for your child, then opt out. Don’t insist that everyone else feel the same way that you do and don’t take away our options to do something different. I, of course, will be practicing my yoga breathing while I wait for the advent of common sense and personal responsibility. I know, it will be a long wait.
Good lord, people. Of course it’s a religion! Of course it’s indoctrinating children away from the one true path of Christianity. Is there really any question that those things are true?
Walk into any yoga class in Santa Monica and switch out the music CDs without telling anyone. Put a few Mormon Tabernacle Choir hymn selections up there and see how quickly the class clears out. Watch the teacher have an apoplectic fit.
The most amazing part of this debate is that the Christian conservatives are exactly right. Yoga is a religion. Pilates is not a religion. Stretching by any other name is not yoga.
And I own a yoga studio for a living.
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