The yoga program that sparked major controversy in Encinitas not too long ago has expanded to even more schools in San Diego and now New York City. Remember the huge lawsuit? Ultimately, concerned parents were unsuccessful in proving yoga was inherently religious and the program was able to carry on in the Encinitas Union School District.
The original grant of $533,000, funded by the Sonima Foundation (formerly Jois Foundation of the Ashtanga ilk), is part of a three-year study out of University of San Diego, and has since been increased another $1.4 million to expand the yoga program within the Encinitas school district. But the intention was never to stop there. Sonima aims to be the biggest provider of yoga-in-school programs in the country, maybe more.
The program, which is secular in nature – stripped of the sanskrit and signs of spirituality – is now in three inner-city NY schools: Harlem Village Academy charter school, Broome Street Academy for homeless children and East Community High School. This is news, but Sonima is certainly not the first to bring a yoga program to NYC schools – Bent on Learning and Lineage Project have been doing it for years, along with other, smaller organizations – but it is perhaps the most well-developed and well-funded. They’re certainly the most famous.
So far it’s been all good news. After one year of the program, teachers and administrators in Encinitas report improved behavior and focus, better test scores and attendance, and an overall positive outcome.
“Campus behavior is improving,” said Leighangela Brady, assistant superintendent of educational services. “Student achievement and emotional wellness is all being positively affected by yoga in our schools.”
The study has seen positive results as well:
Scott Himelstein, director of the Center for Education Policy and Law at USD, said the first year of a three-year study on the program has shown several positive effects on students.
Compared with students who did not practice yoga, students who did the exercises had more flexibility and had more core strength in the state fitness exam.
Himelstein also said the study found that students who were less fit liked yoga while they may not have liked other activities.
There’s really no question that yoga has helped kids become the best version of themselves. Meanwhile, an appeal from Dean Broyles representing the disapproving parents, still remains pending.
Check out the video from the Sonima Foundation on the their program in Encinitas: