Advice to Encinitas parents upset about yoga: Breath

As I noted on Wednesday on our Facebook page, for the past week the Encinitas parents who are upset about yoga being taught in public schools story has been the most viewed at the North County Times, the main paper in northern San Diego County that first reported on it.

It finally got bumped on Wednesday for a story about a McDonald’s being destroyed in a fire.

But there’s still life to this tale. A second columnist — this time from the much bigger U-T San Diego (San Diego’s main paper, which just bought the NC Times) — has jumped into the story with some fresh advice for the parents:


I described these parents in not the most flattering terms at one point because, well, this is an Ashtanga blog, I doubt seriously we are going to be a major part of the debate and because I’m familiar with north San Diego County’s history of reactionary religious activity. (While the humor of this piece is this all is happening in Ashtanga’s American home, at the same time the area in and around Encinitas is equally conservative as it is progressive.)

This columnist has taken a more measured tone, which I understand. (I’d wonder if off-line he might be a bit more animated about the issue.) Here are a few good points:

A group of families, maybe 40 altogether, is raising Cain with the Encinitas Union School District over free twice-a-week yoga sessions. Fired up by a local pastor and counseled by an Escondido lawyer, they believe yoga on campus amounts to spiritual indoctrination, a violation of their religious freedom.

In time for Halloween, the culture war is back with a full spinal twist.

In the early ’90s, you may recall, North County school districts were inundated with breathless reports that teachers were exposing innocent children to “dark” books, R-rated movies and witchcraft.


The simple truth for all us dummies is this: Hinduism is a religion; yoga is a body-based philosophy (or ancient science, if you will) that predates Hinduism.

Where do I get this?

Straight from Larry Payne, the L.A.-based co-author of “Yoga for Dummies” who, it turns out, also trained my wife to be a yoga instructor.


The mainstream cultural view of yoga as a secular exercise does not mean the Encinitas district has no obligation to monitor the program, funded by a half-million-dollar grant from the Encinitas-based Jois Foundation.

The district selected the nine instructors, Superintendent Tim Baird tells me, and developed the curriculum. It’s working with the University of San Diego and the University of Virginia to measure the new program’s effectiveness.


Board members, Baird says, are going to review the program as a courteous nod to the complaining parents. My guess, educated by some academic research and anecdotal research from last year’s pilot program at Encinitas, is that yoga helps create a good mood for learning. It’s as religiously seductive as gymnastics.

Yoga students must carefully listen to specific instructions and, perhaps most important, truly relax while exerting themselves in ways they never imagined possible.

Yoga, unlike other forms of P.E. based on team sports, is a break from the race to finish first.

My advice to the fearful Encinitas parents?


If you feel you have to pull your children from yoga classes, fine. But don’t make a federal case out of it.

My advice to the school district?

Bend if you must to mollify the religious worrywarts, but don’t break.

I should note that the first and at this point only comment on the piece (which is running online at the NC Times) is full-on dismissive: “Sorry, Logan and UT – we’ve already covered this ad nauseam…………yawn…….”

Maybe we’ll be able to put it to a rest, too. But I’ll keep my eyes on it just in case.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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