Hindu group comes out in support of Encinitas schools yoga program
The Universal Society of Hinduism has come out in support of the Encinitas Union School District for introducing yoga to its students via the Jois grant, the organization announced on Monday.
This is a noteworthy development because this is the same group that tends to act in support of what I’d call a more traditional Hinduism and an accompanying yoga — in other words, a yoga that is rooted explicitly in the Hindu faith and its intellectual traditions. (It was the group concerned about the Dreamworks version of the Ramayana, for instance.) In other words, sort of all the things about which the parents who have threatened a lawsuit over this program are complaining.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, the group’s president, even goes a step further, saying all school districts in America should add yoga to their curriculum.
I’d say, depending on how much this gets picked up, we may have another elevation of this story. We’ll see.
For the most part, though, the Universal Society’s statement stresses the physical benefits of yoga — which the Encinitas school district has been pointing to, as well. Here’s a piece of their release:
Rajan Zed noted that besides other benefits, yoga might also help deal with the obesity crisis faced by the country. According to United States National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply, and get rid of stress. About 16 million Americans, including many celebrities, now reportedly practice yoga. It was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.
That last sentence might the type of statement that riles things up more, however — the word “soul” would seem to be a loaded one. As we noted in our last piece, the attorney advising the parents is with the National Center for Law & Policy, a not-for-profit law firm that focuses on “the protection and promotion of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, parental rights and other civil liberties,” according to the group’s website.
So you can see where the Universal Society of Hinduism’s adding its voice might not sit well there.
As a reminder, the heart of the issue is a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation for the Encinitas schools to teach students yoga twice a week. The district has said repeatedly that all the religion has been taken out of the classes (I assume right down to the Ashtanga opening chant) but parents remained concerned — with a lot of their focus on the Jois Foundation and whether it is an evangelical organization.
As soon as I’ve posted this, I’m going to reach out to the National Center for Law & Policy and see if they want to comment to an audience of Ashtangis and yogis. I’ll keep you all apprised of how that develops.
Update: Here’s a link to the first Associated Press story I’ve seen on this. It’s starting to spread…
Posted by Steve