Just what exactly made the Encinitas yoga program a target?

Here are a few news stories from just the past two days:

This list doesn’t include an equal number of pieces touting yoga’s benefits for cancer-survivors, seniors and others.

So the question is: Why did the Encinitas schools yoga program, funded by a $533,000 grant by the Jois Foundation, set parents off? Why aren’t parents in Vancouver upset? Or parents in Westfield, New Jersey? What’s different?

What’s in the water there? Anyone have any ideas?

To add some insight, here’s a letter to the editor in the North County Times on the Encinitas program (about a piece we linked to earlier):

I can’t believe the audacity that Matthew T. Hall suggests in his article (“Elementary yoga poses no threat to religion,” Local, Oct. 21), that yoga is not religious indoctrination. When Transcendental Meditation (one form of yoga) fell flat as the “Spiritual Regeneration Movement,” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi changed its name to “The Science of Creative Intelligence.” With that new and deceitful name, it has become a success worldwide. It is one of the most ancient religious practices of Hinduism and Buddhism, which has now become widely accepted in the West as the “Science of Yoga.”

“There is a growing missionary spirit in Hinduism, a small army of Yoga missionaries is ready to go the West. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes,” is a quote from an editorial in Hinduism Today titled “An open Letter to Evangelicals,” by its editor, Reverend Palaniswami, a Hindu monk.

Individuals like Matthew Hall all protest that they are teaching the science of yoga, health, etc., not religion. This is totally a lie. Yoga and other seemingly harmless practices are mysticism, plain and simple, no matter how innocent they may wish you to think otherwise. Parents are justified and wise to protest this in public schools. – G.C. Hardin, San Diego

Related to all this is the petition floating around supporting the program. You’ve probably seen it. If you Google “petition Encinitas” you’ll find it.

While I am convinced the law firm behind the opposition effort is finding things in the yoga program to be upset about and unfortunately ignoring all of yoga’s potential benefits (see the stories above) in the process, I actually would caution against signing the petition unless:

  • You are absolutely convinced that the “religion” has been taken out of this yoga program. I haven’t seen enough to know if that’s the case, and I can’t help agreeing with a basic premise of the opposition here: Ashtanga is rooted in the spiritual/religious. I think a better model for yoga in schools is Bent on Learning, for instance, which seems to emphasize the physical much more — more of a flow basis, if we can make that distinction. Again, i just wonder what led to this program’s becoming such an issue. Is it just the particular group opposing it? Why the Jois program? If it turns out there were legitimate concerns, I wouldn’t want to exacerbate the problem — and I do believe in the separation of church and state.
  • You are convinced that a petition from a bunch of yogis is going to be effective. Speaking as someone who works on coalition building and with city councils and school districts, I’m doubtful that’s the case. The people who will be effective here are parents in the school district who support the yoga program. Outside influence will not be welcomed, and a bunch of yogis writing in might play into the “religion/cult” idea that is implicit in some of the opposition language.

My suggestion if you want to have an impact on this situation: If you know parents in Encinitas, get them to write to the school superintendent and its board members. Get businesses in the community to support the program. Action by locals will do more good than anything else.

That’s my two cents. I, of course, think yoga programs for school children is a positive thing, but they have to be introduced and designed wisely. This situation is proof of that. And all the other programs that are operating without controversy are proof it is possible — unless somehow Encinitas is at the front edge of a brewing battle.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

3 thoughts on “Just what exactly made the Encinitas yoga program a target?”

  1. Oh hahaha! I don’t know why this amuses me so much, but I went to Westfield High School! They didn’t offer yoga then, but we could play golf for credit.

    This whole thing needs to go away. It’s the Jois Foundation’s involvement, clearly. Sigh.

  2. I have to disagree, but for othr reasons. My child is doing yoga in an Encinitas school. They are doing it at the expense of P.E.. I feel that P.E. is infinitely more valuable than yoga, especially so with K1-6th graders. From what I can gather, most of the kids don’t take Yoga seriously at all. They think it’s a joke. SOme are sore after 20 minutes. NOT GOOD.
    Question: had a grant been donated for Origami instead of Yoga, would our school district be mandating an Origami class? Probably yes. The district has been bought, hook, line and sinker. This is pure politics.

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