‘Yogis go home,’ complete with a middle finger

This is the funniest yoga news I’ve seen in a while. From San Diego, and in no apparent way related to the Encinitas school story:

Some people are angry about the hundreds of people doing yoga in a park in Pacific Beach every weekend.

One person even wrote on the sidewalk, “Yogis go home” with a middle finger underneath.

“One person thinks it’s his park,” said a woman who didn’t want to be identified. The woman didn’t write the message, but she agrees with the person who did.

She said around 250 to 300 people come out to do yoga in the park every Saturday and Sunday.

“Who wants to walk by there with a bunch of butts in the air?” She asked.

Good question!

Apparently, the issue of the yogis congregating already has gone to court (of course), which sided with the yogis based on that burdensome “freedom to gather” part of the U.S. Bill of Rights. One can only imagine Thomas Jefferson spinning in lotus in his grave.

Also, while we’re rounding up news, if you’re living someplace where you are worried they won’t celebrate International Day of Yoga, no fear — at least if you live near India’s embassy:

If any country refuses to allow India to celebrate International Yoga Day on its (that country’s) soil, then it will be celebrated at the Indian embassy in that country since the embassy is “sovereign Indian territory”, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has declared.

Just a quick Google search will find it.

Posted by Steve

Sonima Foundation announces expansion of yoga programs in San Diego, New York

At its open house in Encinitas last night, the Sonima Foundation announced that it has — without the opposition it faced initially — expanded its yoga-in-school program to two other San Diego County schools and to New York.

The U-T San Diego has the story (not seeing anything yet at Sonima’s blog):

In San Diego County, the program has been in practice at the Monarch School for homeless children for about a year. For the past three months, it also has been in a pilot program at two schools in the Cajon Valley Union School District.


Ruffin said the program also has been smoothly introduced in inner-city New York schools. The program is in three schools in the Harlem Village Academy charter school, Broome Street Academy for homeless children and East Community High School.

Ruffin read a letter from the East Community High principal, who praised the program.

“One student after another has come to me and said yoga allows them to relax and focus,” he said.

The story also says that the initial year of a three-year study on the Sonima yoga program in Encinitas has shown positive results — no details, though.

Update, April 25:

A little more light on things.

From KPBS:

The University of San Diego has preliminary research showing students who practiced the yoga classes had more core strength and flexibility than students who did not, as measured in state fitness exams.

The Sonima Foundation, which sponsors the school based yoga classes, held an open house in Encinitas. Executive director Gene Ruffin said yoga is a prudent way to improve the health of children.

“The way we use it is a cost-effective means towards stress reduction, flexibility, the California Physical Fitness Test,” he said. “Our kids are doing better who take yoga.”

Ruffin said other school districts around the country are enquiring about the program. Each school district and pilot site develops a custom program to suit its student population, he said. All programs include yoga time on the mat and Common Core state standards for physical education.

And the Coast News:

At Broome Street Academy, a school that serves homeless and foster-care teens in New York City, students have been doing yoga since January. The template for their program: Encinitas Union School District yoga.

“I’m actually surprised at how it’s been embraced,” said Barbara McKeon, Head of School at Broome Street Academy. “Even the hard-nosed streetball guys are doing downward dog.”

In 2011, a representative from the Sonima Foundation, previously known as the Jois Foundation, introduced yoga at Capri Elementary in Encinitas. Encouraged by the results, in 2012 the organization put together a $700,000 grant for yoga and nutrition at EUSD schools.

That was followed by a $1.4 million grant from the foundation for this school year, which increased the number of yoga teachers at all nine district schools.

Drawing from EUSD best practices, the Sonima Foundation developed a yoga curriculum.

The foundation has since exported the program to 10 schools over the past year, including in Florida and New York. In the county, yoga has made its way to two schools in the Cajon Valley Union School District and the Monarch School in San Diego.

McKeon said she’s grateful for the program because her average student doesn’t have a lot of exercise opportunities. And many are grappling with social and emotional issues.

Why does Broome Street sound familiar?

Posted by Steve

The impossibility of half-assing it under Tim Miller’s gaze

We made it to Tim Miller’s on Sunday.

A benefit of not getting down to the Ashtanga Yoga Center as often as we perhaps should is that we get a pretty solid amount of attention when we do. The downside is, of course, the same. My hips, lower back, shoulders and hamstrings all are keenly aware they went through a little Sacred Fire on Sunday.

I’d joked to Bobbie as we prepared to head down — and tried to decide who’d drive there, who’d drive back — that I could drive the round trip because I planned to phone it in or half-ass the practice. After all, it’s been more than a month since I’ve done all of First.

Yeah, that lasted, if it did, all of about four Surya As.

A probably not complete list of poses in which I got adjusted: Surya A; Padangustana, Trikonasana, Parshvokonasana, a couple of Prasaritas, Utthita Pasta (as I guessed), Arda Baddha, Dandasana, a few of the Marichys, backbends. Either be jealous or sympathetic.

But that isn’t really my takeaway. My takeaway is two-fold:

1. Tim showered me with props as much, if not more, than ever before. I knew to have a block with me, but I also ended up with a pool ring (from, what, ring toss, I guess?) and a blanket. The pool ring allowed this apparently funny exchange (since people around me/us where laughing):

I’m to my second side with Arda Baddha, a pose in which I just grab my half-lotus leg with the wrapped arm. I don’t give the other arm much thought. With the ring, though, I’m really able to grab and I could tell from the look in Tim’s eye that I was supposed to fold down. But it had been so long, I blanked on where that other arm should go. (I think in my confusion/panic that I thought I had been using it to hold half-lotus leg, which clearly isn’t the case.)

“Where does the other hand go,” I asked.

“On the floor,” Tim replied. “Or at the end of your arm.”

The blanket also came in use for a variety of the seated poses. And I think he maneuvered my arms in Marichy C far more aggressively than ever before; more forward and down and around (as, I suspect, is proper).

I don’t know what kind of confluence of events is happening that, at a moment when I’m using more props myself, Tim brought them out. A version of the “teacher appears when the student is ready,” perhaps?

2. It is impossible to half-ass it under Tim’s eye. I wish I could wax uber-poetic about this, but it is difficult to untangle all the reasons and reactions. Tim isn’t driving me (or anyone, as best as I can tell) under a harsh whip, but his presence just pushes all the cylinders to 108%.

I recognize this has something intrinsically to do with the Guru. It has to be why, in the end, practicing at home — or perhaps even in a group, without one clear Teacher with a capital T — misses something ineffable but irreplaceable and essential.

And you can pull back a bit further and consider that, perhaps, life off the mat may also want that presence of the Teacher, of the Guru, of the Guide — in whatever form one wishes it to take.

We are better off not alone but united with that Teacher. United? Right. Yoga.

Got it.

We lucked into a little bit of talk after with Tim as we got ready to leave. He’d heard from Eddie Stern that I had told Eddie about Tim’s Tuesday blog. We talked about our new house. It was a nice little send off. Although he did tell us we should be getting down there at least once a month, if not more. “Otherwise…” he started.

“No benefit,” I finished, to a welcome smile.

Message received.

Also of note: The Ashtanga Yoga Confluence pre-registration (which costs a bit less but requires staying at the conference hotel) has opened. Click here for more.

Posted by Steve

Sonima offers small yoga grant to school for homeless

While there is a lot of talk about what is happening with the Jois Yoga studios, the Sonima Foundation — the nonprofit wing of Jois, the re-named Jois Foundation — has provided another grant to a San Diego school for yoga classes.

According to the U-T San Diego, this time the grant is $62,000 and will cover the program and materials for more than 300 students at the Monarch School. From the story:

Monarch became aware of the grant through volunteers and community partners, Monarch Schools CEO Erin Spiewak said. Once Sonima board members learned about the school and its mission, they decided they wanted to build a relationship with the students and “positively affect the community by adding a yoga curriculum to their lives,” the foundation’s Lauren Spiegman said.

The Monarch school serves homeless children. The grant runs for one year.

Posted by Steve

2014 Confluence dates, teachers announced: Richard Freeman back, Manju Jois added

Richard Freeman will be back for the 2014 Ashtanga Yoga Confluence along with a new teacher: Manju Jois. The event will be held May 8 to 11, 2014, the folks at the Confluence just announced.

The event will again be in San Diego but at a different location: The San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina. What’s that? Well… here’s a link. And here’s some info:

The centerpiece of the inspiring San Diego Bay, San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina is a premier San Diego, CA, hotel. With 1,360 guest rooms, 75,000 square feet of meeting space, a 446-slip marina and an environment that easily transitions from dynamic meetings to resort-style relaxation, our impressive San Diego hotel is a welcome escape. Adjacent to San Diego Convention Center and steps from the Gaslamp Quarter, our downtown San Diego, CA, hotel’s location provides convenient access to championship golf and popular attractions, like San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego and LEGOLAND California. Experience a grand sense of arrival in the new lobby of our distinctive San Diego Marquis hotel with personalized service from our dedicated staff. Unwind in a renovated guest room with sweeping bay views. From a state-of-the-art fitness center and an enticing new pool area to top-notch cuisine at our waterfront restaurants, it all comes together for an authentic downtown San Diego experience at our deluxe hotel.

It’s a bit farther south than the old site, and is back on the bay away from the Pacific Ocean. (It might be a tad warmer.)

The rest of the teacher lineup is Tim Miller, David Swenson and Dena Kingsberg. In other words, Richard and Manju are in, replacing Eddie Stern and Nancy Gilgoff.

Registration will open in early fall. Cost if you register immediately is $495 (not including hotel). It bumps up to $525 later. A full schedule of the classes is still to come. Info at the Confluence site of course.

Posted by Steve

Opponents testify in Encinitas yoga trial; changes to Mysore schedule again

The trial of the Encinitas schools yoga program restarted Monday with testimony from parents, including those who brought the suit and believe that the program is violating the First Amendment.

First-line coverage from San Diego TV:

District officials said before the program started, instructors removed images of yoga Sanskrit and changed the names of poses.

But Monday plaintiffs argued that this wasn’t the case.

“We expressed our concern again after hearing about our 7-year-old daughter at class talking about Sanskrit names for her limbs that she was taught in school,” said Stephen.

He also said he became worried after reading an article that suggested yoga may not be safe for children. His wife, Jennifer, said the yoga program went against the first and second commandment of the Bible.

During cross examination, the plaintiffs revealed that their daughter has never participated in a yoga class at the school, instead she learned Sanskrit in art class, not yoga.

After testimony, the judge said he had a “difficult call to make.”

That sounds like a bit of a hole in the opponents’ argument. We’ll see if there is more clarity from additional coverage. Closing arguments are expected Tuesday. As if you need reminding, the Jois Foundation backed the program and helped develop it.

On a separate front, the first month of Sharath’s teaching in Mysore is already booked. From the Mysore site:

Sharath’s class is now full for OCTOBER 2013. We will not accept any more registration forms for that month. Kindly register from November 6th onward.

There are some other changes to the studies. They aren’t going to force everyone to start on the 6th of every month:

Online registration for his class is now open, but kindly submit this form 2-4 months in advance of your arrival date. Students will not be allowed to practice in the shala if their form is received within 2 months (60 days). Forms received beyond 4 months will also not be accepted.

We will resume rolling admissions, instead of month-long batches. This means that students may start any day of the month. However, students coming to practice with Sharath are expected to stay for a minimum of 1 month and for not longer than 3 months of study per trip. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

Those bolds are theirs, by the way.

Update: A second bit of coverage focuses on a school principal’s reaction to the yoga classes:

An elementary school principal in the Encinitas Union School District testified Monday that she saw no religious overtones in yoga classes taught on her campus.

Carrie Brown of El Camino Creek Elementary School said she saw only “stretching and breathing” when she observed the yoga class, over which a couple has sued the district because of its alleged religious influences.

That’ll be all the updates until Tuesday morning, our time on the West Coast.

Posted by Steve

‘This will be an interesting case’: Yoga trial opens

The trial into whether the Jois Yoga-backed children’s exercise courses in the Encinitas Union School District started on Monday, and according to the U-T San Diego, it did so with an unusual question:

“What is religion?” asked San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer, who is overseeing the proceedings. He also began the day by saying “this will be an interesting case.”

No answer to that little brain teaser came during day one.

Here’s what seems to have been the key happenings:

In his opening statement, Broyles said the early version of the district’s program referred specifically to Ashtanga yoga, a style promoted by the foundation. He read from a foundation brochure that said this method of yoga can “lead to great awareness of our spiritual potential.” He also described children in the program sitting cross-legged in a lotus position, with their arms outstretched, fingers encircled and pinkies extended in what he described as a prayer pose.

Attorney David Peck, who has joined the case on behalf of parents in the group Yoga for Encinitas Students, said in his opening statement that there may have been “missteps” when the curriculum was introduced but what matters now is that all religious references have been removed.

I think we’ve suggested the “missteps” issue early on when this story first started. (A few people, I know, would argue that Jois Yoga has made some other blunders along the way.)

Encinitas’ superintendent also picked up the theme highlighted heading into the opening day of the trial: what they are offering is more exercise program than yoga. It should be called “EUSD Yoga,” he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue on Tuesday.

Posted by Steve