Here’s the key point with the new lawsuit challenging yoga in schools

We posted the full text of the press release earlier announcing the filing of an appeal of the ruling this past summer that the Sonima Foundation-funded (originally Jois Foundation) yoga program in the Encinitas Union School District did not violate the First Amendment and therefore was an OK physical / child development activity.

You can get to that by scrolling down the page a bit or clicking here.

Here’s the key point: a revision by the judge to his initial ruling that agrees that the school’s yoga poses are “identical” to Ashtanga.

And that then brings the case (in my fairly educating reading) back to this fundamental argument: Is Ashtanga inherently a religious form of yoga?

I think this development, for most yoga teachers — especially those involved with kids, and double especially for those involved with kids in school or on school grounds — is a positive one. It would seem to make the case about Ashtanga, specifically, and less about yoga in general. Obviously that’s because the argument that yoga is inherently religious is a tough one to make. It may have evolved from a religious culture but it has loosened itself since.

I’m tempted to make the analogy with reading and writing. Should we not teach children to read because Moses came down from the mountain with the 10 Commandments, written by God?

There are plenty of descriptions of yoga as science and as uprooted from a Hindu foundation. There are more, fairly contemporary, descriptions of Ashtanga as being about seeing God, reaching Samadhi, etc.

Although there is plenty that uproots Ashtanga from that, too. And thus — bring in the lawyers.

What I’m trying to say is that this case seems to be developing more narrowly, rather than more broadly, and so the question of whether yoga can be taught in schools seems more likely to be off the table. It might be a more narrow question of: Is the Encinitas program Ashtanga-based, and, if so, is Ashtanga religious?

In addition, media (mainly the UT San Diego) are reporting that the attorneys are vowing to go all the way to the Supreme Court, if needed. I’m not sure that the narrow case I’m outlining above would get to that level, however.


The appeal likely won’t be heard until the middle of next year or later.

I have not yet seen any response from the district, Sonima or the supportive parents.


Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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