Protesting Yoga in Schools, But Welcoming Bible Study


When is touching your toes just touching your toes, and when is it an effort to indoctrinate small children in Hinduism?

That is the question that emerged from reporting in the New York TimesFox News, and the Guardian on the threat of a lawsuit by a group of public school parents in Encinitas, California over a yoga class in a public elementary school.

But the most compelling aspect of the controversy has nothing to do with the religious nature of yoga, or with the fears of parents. Rather, the case raises serious questions about the separation of church and school, and about the many religiously-driven programs that are already active in public education, even in Encinitas. As it turns out, there is so much religion in public education today that the fuss over yoga is like worrying about a stain on your blouse when your trousers are covered in mud.

There are two important ways to think about the issue of yoga—or other potentially religiously-inspired content in public schools. The first test has to do with the content of the program; the second has to do with the connection of the sponsoring organization to the curriculum being presented.

Mary Eady, one of the parents organizing against Encinitas’ yoga program, described to a Times reporter what she sees as religious content: “They’re teaching children how to meditate, how to look for peace and for comfort… It’s meant to shape the way they regulate their emotions.” She characterized the “Sun Salutation,” a basic series of yoga poses in which the student stretches his or her hands to the ceiling, as “a movement sequence that worships the sun god Surya,” and claimed that “yoga, including its physical practice, is very religious indeed.” Her legal representative, Dean Broyles, chief counsel for the Escondido-based National Center for Policy and Law (NCPL), is even more adamant, asserting that the Sun Salutation constitutes sun-worship.  

Written By: Katherine Stewart
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  1. The believers never cease to amaze me of their intolerance.

    In India, there are a lot of Hindu nationalists who protest that promoting/celebrating Valentine’s day is a western corporate propaganda to push Christianity on Hindus. Years ago, When I was at school, there were similar protests against teaching kids how to make Davids star in arts and crafts class.

    What is wrong with the believers? Good memes get copied and passed on, get over it!

  2. The problem is that in many Western countries yoga is not just considered a physical exercise but that it is deeply integrated into the new age movement, alternative medicine and other pseudo religious claptrap.

    Googling and clicking the first random non wiki site on yoga it is touted a ‘miraculous practice’ that ‘transforms’ the user – they even include several miracle healings. As a bonus, it turned out one of those was supposed to be in Encinitas as well, which puts further doubts on this being just a PE class.

    No one, not even the Christian groups, would have cared if this was just another fitness program.

  3. Well if they won’t stop spouting shit about the “spiritual” side of their stretching exercises that’s what you get.

    Is Hinduism the one where your wife is supposed to jump on your funeral pyre? Religion poisons everything, even exercise.

  4. As a mental and physical discipline yoga sounds fine but when they try yogic flying they are just arseing around.

  5. Remember, there is a big difference between kneeling down and bending over (Zappa).

  6. The more rigorous yoga classes (such as Bikram) owe a lot of their influence to aerobics exercises, and specific types of yoga can be an excellent workout. Like any other phenomenon springing from ancient origins, yoga can and does have cult-like followings in places, but that’s hardly reason to condemn the practice as a whole; one should just be careful about what exactly the content being taught in schools happens to be. Striking a pose is not worshiping the sun unless someone believes that they are, in fact, worshiping the sun.

    Here’s an article on a book that has some good food for thought on this. For what it’s worth, if after any objective analysis this class turns out to be simply a PE program, then I submit that the lawsuit is being brought to bear by the same sort of whackadoos that think you’ll go to hell if you play Dungeons and Dragons or go see a metal concert.

  7. If people have an issue with Hinduism sneaking into their child’s exercise program, perhaps they should try removing paganism from their holidays.

  8. …rising tide of neo-paganism

    How to get students on a board to surf far, far away from these insidious christian groups (Cru, Focus on Family, until the dragon is slayed?

  9. I honestly had no idea that yoga was a Hindu thing. I’ve done it once and thought it was more of a Torquemada thing.

  10. Yoga initially works on the physical level but the longer you do it the more benefits you find – such as relaxing your mind, an inner peace. It does not contain anything that’s religious – unless someone intentionally put it. It comes from East but has nothing to do with faith. Sun salutation has 12 names of Sun and it’s rediculous to compare it with worship of Sun God. Some people are too crazy to reason.

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