Yoga is not Religious According to Judge

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The Encinitas Union School District in North County, San Diego, is teaching yoga to its students instead of traditional forms of exercise. Monday a judge ruled that yoga is not religious.

Parents of two children, in the nine school district, petitioned the court to cease the teaching of Ashtanga yoga, claiming it was a form of religious indoctrination. Judge John S. Meyer ruled in favor of the school district
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All nine schools participate in the program during the physical education portion of the school day. It was made possible by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation.

The foundation said it was eager to promote health and well-being for the youth of the community.

“We want them to feel that they don’t need sugar and video games to fill some kind of vacancy that they might feel,” said Russell Case, who helped recruit yoga instructors for the program and works for the Jois Foundation. “We want them to feel that they can get that from exercise.”
Case said he agreed with the plaintiffs, and the foundation did not want religion taught in school either.

Jack Sleeth, attorney for the school district, said that the goal was to help create a healthy lifestyle that helps students reduce stress and align their bodies.

Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Timothy Baird testified that the district did make some decisions to change some of the names of the poses.

“Initially, we made a conscious decision to remove some cultural context,” Baird said.

Jennifer Nicole Brown, who was the first yoga instructor hired by the school district, said that when some of the parents complained about ‘chanting,’ she removed it from the class curriculum. There are now 10 instructors in the school district.

Case said the foundation has received more than 5000 letters praising the program. Other school districts are looking into adopting similar yoga training.

The Judge’s ruling makes it clear that yoga is exercise, and not a religious practice.

Alfred James reporting

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