‘Young students file out saying the traditional yoga goodbye of “Namaste”‘

As we all know, the key points of contention in the lawsuit involving the Encinitas school district and the Jois Foundation are whether yoga is inherently “religious” and, if so, should be taught in schools — in a state-sanctioned arena, so to speak.

In their public statements, leaders from the Jois Foundation and teachers involved in the yoga classes have said, repeatedly, that they have taken all the Sanskrit and Hinduism out of what they teach. In many ways it is a stretching class with an emphasis on mental focus and breathing.

Yoga without the religion, so to speak.

Of course, the opponents aren’t buying that. You can see their arguments here.

Having seen an example of the Jois class, I can say it sure looked like stretching with some breathing involved. No chanting. No bows to the guru. As such, it is hard to see the problem, unless you are convinced that you can’t take the Hinudism out of yoga and distill it into the “science” of yoga.

Now, in the case of a different set of yoga classes for kids in Greenwich, Ct. … well…

It’s a yoga class for kids — or more specifically a YogiSays class — and these youngsters, ages 5 to 12, are getting to know yoga, courtesy of the Greenwich Department of Social Services and YogiSays instructor Miss Brooke.


“It’s great for kids in need and in crisis. They learn soothing techniques through postures and breath work,” she says. “They live in a very fast environment. Here, they’re learning to be still. This is the whole point why yoga was `invented.’ They can control their rhythm and breath and heart rate. It all comes together. It’s a union of mind and body.”

All on point so far? Nothing much different from the Jois classes? Let’s keep going…

As she goes around to each child, she places her hands on their ears, shoulders and forehead where she positions a “bindi,” a small decoration between their brows, that serves as a “third eye,” a place they connect to to relax.

She ends the class with, “Miss Brooke will see you soon.”

The young students file out saying the traditional yoga goodbye of “Namaste.”

“It means a bow to your true self,” she tells them as she shows them how to press their hands together, fingers pointed upwards, in front of their chests.

I can only imagine the reaction that would have received in Encinitas.

My concern with the Jois lawsuit is, of course, that it is intended to set a precedent that would force the separation of yoga from public settings, the effective elimination of yoga. And if the very non-Sanskrit/non-Hindu classes going on in Encinitas end up being tossed out, it is difficult to see how ones that appear to cut closer to a Hindu foundation wouldn’t be the next (and easy?) targets.

Oh, and if you’re wondering… yes, this is the Greenwich where Jois Yoga has another of its studios. So is it a big stretch to think that geography alone could put this program on a radar? I don’t know. It just seems like maybe an unfortunate coincidence. (The program described also runs in school systems in Greenwich, Darien and Westchester, according to the story.)

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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