It’s nearly a wrap in the Encinitas yoga trial

Nine hours of arguments this week focused on this question: Is yoga religious?

And with that, the trial involving the Encinitas school district, the Jois Foundation and kids doing yoga in school is over, well except for the judge’s ruling.

The Coast News has a solid round up of things:

Attorney David Peck, representing 150 EUSD families, wrapped up the defense’s case Wednesday morning. He said that equating yoga with religion means other school programs could theoretically be sued.

“Think of the slippery slope implication we would be faced with if any type of physical exercise that someone perceives to be religious, or incorporates into their religion, is banned from the public schools on constitutional grounds.

“There are sects out there that consider running to be religious…and certainly nobody is suggesting that we ban running from the schools,” Peck said.


Broyles affirmed that because practicing yoga is inherently religious, the court should end EUSD yoga right away.

Jack Sleeth, another attorney representing EUSD, countered that the defense submitted testimony from a scholar as well as three written declarations from experts who argue yoga can be secular. Further, he said Brown’s testimony isn’t credible since she believes chiropractic care and acupuncture are religious.

He added that the minor connection between EUSD’s program and Hinduism doesn’t make yoga religious.

“The Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn is linked to Druidism, as practiced in England before the Roman conquest,” Sleeth said. “But it would be nonsense to say that the president can’t put out Easter eggs.”

Reading through this piece, I can see where the question of whether yoga is religious would end up with a “no.” However, it sounds like the opponents of this program routinely returned to the argument that Ashtanga is “the most religious of all yoga practices.” Here’s more:

He went on to argue that the Jois Foundation, a group that provided a $533,000 grant for the yoga program as well as cooking and other classes, bought its way into EUSD schools to spread religion.

He said the Jois Foundation has deep roots in Hinduism, tracing back to Patabhi Jois, an Indian yoga instructor who taught yoga periodically in Encinitas for 20 years beginning in 1975.

“He is very clear: The practice might appear physical, but this is very wrong, it produces a spiritual transformation,” Broyles said of Patabhi Jois.

And Broyles said it’s troubling that the grant proposal for the program specifies the Jois Foundation should train and approve the yoga teachers.

That — in my unexpert opinion — could lead to a narrow ruling that might make it more difficult for the Jois Foundation to go into other schools. My guess, if I have to guess, is that the judge will rule in favor of the school district and allow the program, but insist that the Hinduism be scrubbed out — which it sounds like it has been.

Here’s my favorite tidbit from the piece:

Broyles said that there’s plenty more proof of yoga’s religious nature. The sequence of poses in EUSD classes mirrors Ashtanga yoga, a particularly religious kind of yoga. And he said some children spontaneously chanted “om” during yoga classes, even though that wasn’t part of the planned lesson, and they weren’t instructed to do so.

“It shows they’re connecting it to something more than physical exercise,” Broyles said.

The judge plans to issue his ruling on Monday.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

One thought on “It’s nearly a wrap in the Encinitas yoga trial”

  1. What a moment. A judge (and Bikram follower at that) gets to decide what is Yoga. Where are the Hindus? Who cares about the facts? Real Yoga is Hinduism. Of course, there have always been those who are out to denigrate somebody’s culture and religion.

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