Parents Complain that Encinitas School Yoga Program is Religious

Parents Complain that Encinitas School Yoga Program is Religious

The age old question of Yoga and Hinduism has reared it’s head again. Ironically, this time it is in my home town of Encinitas, California.

A group of frustrated parents complained this past Tuesday to the Encinitas Union School District that the school’s Yoga program is religious indoctrination. From North County Times:

 “Yoga practices and poses are not merely exercise; they’re religious practices,” said Marsha Qualls, who has a student at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, calling the techniques “a kind of prayer.”

“I will not allow my children to be indoctrinated by this Hindu religious program,” said Andy Vick, who has three daughters at Mission Estancia. “Because of this, you’re forcing me to segregate my children.”

The classes are held twice a week and were funded by a grant from the Jois Foundation which is located in downtown Encinitas. (Jois was actually founded by the grandson of Pattahbi Jois, the creator of Ashtanga)

The school board said it would be investigating the the Yoga program more thoroughly due to the complaints, but that  ‘ There are no religious aspects to the lessons, which were put together by educators with the district’ said Assistant Superintendent David Miyashiro.

Not Religion in Yoga, but Rather Religion in Parents is Causing Controversy

I can’t imagine that a school district would allow anything overtly religious to be taught to children these days. There have been so many flare ups of religious controversy throughout the country, it’s difficult for me to see anyone teaching children to make offerings to Ganesh or anything like that in a Yoga class. I have a feeling that this might be the parents pushing their kids to embrace Christianity, and has nothing to do with Yoga per se.

In any case, I don’t think the neighborhood or other parents would be too thrilled with the program getting cut. That kind of stuff would be a hard pill to swallow for such a liberal Yogi town such as this.

But then again, you never know.

Do you think that Yoga is an inherently religious activity? Post your comments below!

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Matt Caron
Matt is an enthusiastic Yoga teacher and life voyager. He enjoys reading, writing, practicing and meditating. He is the owner and editor in chief of theyogablog.com, a site created with the thought process of bringing together the Yoga community in a collaborative way. Matt strives to inspire conscious living and conscious dialogue; not only for others, but for himself.

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  • Frank Martin

    I think it depends on how you approach it. Its entirely possible to approach it from a purely physical vantage, teaching only the hatha poses. You get an incomplete picture of the practice, but especially in a situation like this its inappropriate for a yoga teacher to be doing much of anything beyond the physical aspect. Though I do think its possible to include practices like pranayama without getting into religious territory.

  • Elaine

    Yoga is older than Hinduism,it’s a philosophy and I doubt the schools are incorporating all the limbs of yoga, so why don’t they call it stretching and breathing? It is so healthy and helps the students in so many ways.

  • kat

    of course it isn’t not anymore..in it’s inception sure and maybe still in the East but here in the West, especially in the states no it’s not religious in nature. I do think the writer hit the issue on the head and parents are trying to force their children to believed their close-minded versions of Christianity. very pathetic if this school district bows to these extremists.

  • LaPortaMA

    RE-LIGION == TIE BACK (to); YOGA=yoke. Pretty close, really, BUT
    Yoga is NOT “a religion” — too often misunderstood as “denomination”
    Yoga is a spiritual practice; let’s not pretend it isn’t.
    Too bad about the misunderstanding.
    But just for the record, yoga is not a Hindu practice, either, now is it?
    Not really, as it is OLDER than any current religion.
    the 8 limbs or Patanjali’s yoga sutra would probably NOT meet the definition of religion.
    Some fuss-bucket got a goat up their butt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hollyskodis Holly Skodis

    I teach to kids in a public school and I had one student not want to do it because we brought our hands to namaste and he thought it was religious and he is an atheist. So the next class I talked about different mudras and allowed the kids to pick one every time we did a sun salutation. I then showed them another option of samasthiti. They love learning sanskrit and the boy who didn’t like yoga remembered the named samasthiti. We now shout it every time we return to that pose.

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  • Rob Taylor

    As a parent of a child in the Encinitas school district, this saddens me greatly. I’m not the biggest fan of the Jois foundation, but they have given our community an amazing gift. Saying that it leads to Hinduism is like saying practicing Karate leads to Shinto.

    My child loves the yoga practice at her school. I only wish I had the opportunity to start my practice at that age.

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