Even in Ashtanga’s home in America, people fear yoga’s evil influence on kids

Let me see if I can sum up your impression of Encinitas, Calif.

Pretty chill. Relaxed. Open-minded. Not judgmental. Experimental. Tolerant.

I’m with you. After all, Encinitas is where Paramahansa Yogananda set up his cliff-side Self Realization Fellowship retreat, which remains a major fixture in the community. It even gets mentioned on Encinitas’ official webpage. And this is where Pattabhi Jois first taught in America in 1975, and where he returned to repeatedly during his first years of contact with Americans. (Check out Tim Miller’s history of Ashtanga in Encinitas.)

So, would it surprise you to learn that parents of students at Encinitas public schools are upset that yoga is being taught there?

I thought so. But that’s the way things are, according to the North County Times:

A group of parents complained Tuesday to Encinitas Union School District trustees about a new yoga program, calling it religious indoctrination.

District officials said there is no religion involved. Still, the school board said it would look more closely at the program and revisit it at a future meeting.

District officials have started the program at half of the schools over the last couple of months with a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, an Encinitas-based group that promotes Ashtanga Yoga. The plan is to start it at the district’s other schools in January.

You caught “the culprit” behind this, right? The story goes on:

Seven district parents and a lawyer spoke to the board Tuesday, saying they thought the program pushed Hinduism on children and violated religious freedom.

“Yoga practices and poses are not merely exercise; they’re religious practices,” said Marsha Qualls, who has a student at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School, calling the techniques “a kind of prayer.”

Some of the parents said they have already asked to have their children removed from the classes.

“I will not allow my children to be indoctrinated by this Hindu religious program,” said Andy Vick, who has three daughters at Mission Estancia. “Because of this, you’re forcing me to segregate my children.”

Vick said some of the children who are pulled from the yoga classes are ostracized and bullied, comparing the situation to Nazi Germany.

You read that correctly: It’s like Nazi Germany. I hope my sarcasm is coming through.

School leaders are insisting there is no religious aspect to the program, but that doesn’t mean that the elected school board members aren’t quaking and want to learn more about the program. “‘I thought the parents brought up a lot of good points,’ Trustee Maureen Muir said.” Another board member is defending the program; she’s done yoga for years.

Perhaps the most delightful twist is that the program includes an evaluative study of yoga’s effects on the students by the University of San Diego — a Catholic school.

A North County Times columnist also has come to yoga’s defense. Because yoga, even in Ashtanga’s birthplace in America, still needs defending.

Posted by Steve

Your Tuesday with Timji reminder

Tim Miller has his weekly blog post up here. A few excerpts to whet your appetite:

Thirty-five years ago I was living in Santa Rosa, in beautiful Sonoma County–an hour north of San Francisco–when I received a phone call from my old college buddy, Don McFerran. Don had just moved to Encinitas and rented a two- bedroom house on La Veta Ave, a few blocks from Stone Steps Beach. He was wondering if I was interested in moving to Encinitas and sharing the house with him. My summer job working as a swimming instructor and lifeguard at Morton Warm Springs in Kenwood had just ended and Greg, my roommate in Santa Rosa, was moving to San Francisco. The timing was perfect and I immediately accepted Don’s offer.


For the next month I had just enough energy to walk to the beach, lay in the sun reading The Lord of the Rings, and struggle back up the steps to go home.

To find out what was ailing Tim, you’ll have to go read his post for yourself.

Posted by Steve