Does teaching yoga violate a separation of church and state?
Downward dog and modified cobra are yoga moves. Are they religious? A court ruled today they are not.
In a case being watched by local physical education instructors who teach yoga in public schools, parents were suing a public school district near San Diego to stop yoga classes. They believed the yoga classes had religious overtones and violated the required separation of church and state.
Today a judge ruled the school in Encinitas was not teaching religion when it offered elementary school students yoga classes.
The yoga program was funded completely by a $500,000 grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation.
The foundation’s website says its goal is to promote wellness and health for young people in under-served communities.
The specific type of yoga – Ashtanga – was offered and one students’ parents said that was a way to “indoctrinate” children.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer didn’t see it that way.
Meyer noted that the school district stripped classes of all cultural references including the Sanskrit language, and even changed the names of some of the yoga poses. Instead of the “lotus” position, kids learned that yoga move as “crisscross applesauce.”
Yoga instructor Jennifer Nicole Brown, demonstrated some of the yoga positions in court. She admitted the children did some chanting in the earlier versions of her class, but it was removed because some parents complained.
The district says it has received “thousands” of letters of support, urging them to continue offering the class in the fall.
Dean Broyles, an attorney for the parents, says they will likely appeal the ruling.
The parents would have gotten support from a Seattle pastor who has written about yoga, saying yoga stretches and poses are sinful.
Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll wrote a couple of years ago there is “nothing wrong with stretching, exercising, or regulating one’s stress through breath.”
But in studying the roots and history of various yogic practices, he comes to the conclusion that “Christians must reject yoga” if they’re doing it as an act of worship in any way.
He goes on to say, there’s no way to do yoga without being spiritual.
By LINDA THOMAS