How the Encinitas yoga controversy is on the cultural war’s cutting edge

In my search for remarks from either the Jois Yoga Foundation or the Encinitas Union School District, I tripped upon something even better regarding the controversy surrounding yoga in schools.

This whole debate might be right on the cutting edge of America’s long-simmering culture war.

That’s the premise of scholar (to bring some counter weight to the lawsuit’s professor) Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, who teaches at The New School.

In a piece back when this controversy was still new (i.e. in December), she suggested that wellness programs, such as what Encinitas has implemented with the Jois Foundation, could be the next front on the education culture war. From her piece:

But the Encinitas yoga battle is more than just a new skirmish in an old fight waged by familiar combatants; it represents what will likely be a new theater of war in the educational culture wars in the 21st century.


Moreover, historians remind us that yoga’s well-scrubbed image today – think wholesome spectacles such as children doing yoga on the White House Lawn to celebrate Easter – elides the practice’s overtly spiritual and erotic origins. On the other end of the political spectrum, the field of Fat Studies argues the whole “obesity crisis” that provides the rationale for many wellness programs – including that in Encinitas – is fundamentally flawed, based more on our cultural aversion to fat bodies than on any objective health criteria.


If the wellness movement suggests a newly fraught educational politics, so too does this funding situation. Nationwide, budget constraints are making public districts increasingly dependent on private initiative, especially for offerings such as wellness, which despite their popularity are usually deemed as “enrichment” rather than as a core academic need. As outside groups step in to fill curricular gaps and districts have fewer resources to shape these interventions, wellness programs are likely the next theater of battle in our ongoing but evolving educational culture wars… in which the earnest claim of the Encinitas superintendent that “it is just physical activity” sounds ever more naïve.

My day job involves dealing with public funding streams, so I can attest that there is a growing desire among public officials, both elected and those who might be called “community leaders” (such as principals or superintendents), to find alternative funding streams — or at least supplemental money. Grants such as the Jois Foundation’s $533,000 probably sound good to you. They sound even better to cash-strapped public agencies. And so, as Petrzela’s article suggests, it only seems logical that there will be more programs like the Encinitas yoga one that somehow ruffles someone’s feathers.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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