Calif. Judge Rules Yoga In Public Schools Not Religious
Third-graders at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif., perform chair pose with instructor Kristen McCloskey in December 2012. Kyla Calvert for NPR
Earlier this year, we told you about some parents in the San Diego area who were suing the Encinitas Union School District to stop yoga classes because they believed the ancient Indian practice had religious overtones. Well, today we have a decision in that case: A judge ruled that the school district was not teaching religion when it offered elementary school students yoga classes.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer said in Monday’s ruling that yoga is a religious practice — but not in the way it was taught by the school district. The Associated Press reports:
“Meyer said the school district stripped classes of all cultural references including the Sanskrit language. He noted that the lotus position was renamed the ‘crisscross applesauce’ pose. The judge said that the opponents of the yoga class were relying on information culled from the Internet and other unreliable sources.”
An attorney for the parents, Dean Broyles of the National Center for Law and Policy, said they will likely appeal.
As reporter Kyla Calvert noted on Morning Edition last January: “The whole wellness program is supported by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation. The Encinitas-based group promotes a kind of yoga called Ashtanga, which was introduced to Encinitas from India in 1975 by founder Krishna Pattabhi Jois.”
Kyla spoke to one mother, Mary Eady, who kept her son out of the classes because she believes yoga’s poses and meditation can’t be separated from their Hindu roots.
“It’s stated in the curriculum that it’s meant to shape the way that they view the world, it’s meant to shape the way that they make life decisions,” Eady said at the time. “It’s meant to shape the way that they regulate their emotions and the way that they view themselves.”
Eady and other parents worked with the Escondido, Calif.-based National Center for Law and Policy. As Kyla reported: “Opponents worry that the class will be adopted in schools across the nation. They point to the Jois Foundation’s funding of researchers at the Universities of San Diego and Virginia to study whether the yoga classes affect things like attendance, behavior and student achievement.”