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Is It Anti-Christian To Teach Yoga In Schools?

Is It Anti-Christian To Teach Yoga In Schools?

Yoga is now taught as part of the P.E. program in public schools across the country, and at all levels from kindergarten to high school senior. There’s a good reason for that: yoga is an excellent way to ease stress in the busy lives of our students today, it’s open to kids of all athletic abilities, and it doesn’t require any special equipment.

That didn’t stop a family in a San Diego suburb from requesting that their local school district stop including yoga in physical education, arguing that it violated the First Amendment and separation of church and state.

Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children, who sued the Encinitas school district earlier this year, have lost their case.

On July 1, a judge ruled that a public school district can teach yoga, taking the side of school administrators who argued the practice is a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance, and that it does not amount to teaching children religion.

He agreed that yoga is a religious practice, but not the way that it is taught by the Encinitas Union School District at its nine campuses:

“Yoga as it has developed in the last 20 years is rooted in American culture, not Indian culture,” San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer said. “It is a distinctly American cultural phenomenon. A reasonable student would not objectively perceive that Encinitas school district yoga advances or promotes religion.”

Hooray for some sanity in this case!

In illustrating his point, Meyer explained that the school district has stripped classes of all cultural references, including the Sanskrit language. The lotus position has even been renamed the “crisscross applesauce” pose!

Superintendent Timothy Baird hailed the ruling, calling yoga “21st century P.E.” that yielded “amazing” health benefits. His district is believed to be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers at every one of its schools.

The lessons, funded by a $533,720, three-year grant from the non-profit K.P. Jois Foundation, are offered to the district’s 5,600 students, in addition to regular P.E.

Bizarrely, the lawyer for the Sedlocks, Dean Broyles, said the judge’s ruling was part of a broader bias against Christianity. According to Broyles: yoga “is religious and has religious aspects. There is a consistent anti-Christian bias in these cases, and a pro-Eastern or strange religion bias.”

A “strange religion” bias? Is he referring to the eight-limbed tree posters the Sedlocks said were derived from Hindu beliefs, the Namaste greeting and several of the yoga poses that they said represent the worship of Hindu deities?

First of all, I wonder if Mr. Broyles has ever actually taken a yoga class? Does he know what goes on there? Does he imagine the yoga instructor gets everyone into some weird position, makes them hold still and then indoctrinates them in “strange religion”?

Much more troubling in this mindset is the notion that Christianity is the only acceptable religion for the U.S., in spite of the facts that a plethora of other religions exist and that 16 percent of our citizens hold no religion at all. The wonderful multicultural and multi-ethnic mix is one of the main reasons many of us came to the U.S. as immigrants. Indeed, the San Diego region itself is a multi-ethnic area, embracing many religions.

On a practical level, if the Sheldons really believe that yoga is being used to subtly brainwash their kids, they can choose to opt out of the twice-weekly, 30-minute classes, as about 30 families have done.

Apparently Mr. Broyles is not convinced that this is the answer and is planning an appeal.

Meanwhile, the lucky Encinitas students can continue to enjoy their weekly 60 minutes of relaxation.

What do you think? Could it be that the Encinitas school district is trying to brainwash its students?

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Photo Credit: istock

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689 comments

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1:59PM PST on Mar 8, 2014

A green star for Lika S.

12:14AM PDT on Oct 29, 2013

Yoga≠religion. Dunno what that dumb lawyer's on about.

7:13AM PDT on Sep 14, 2013

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7:09AM PDT on Sep 14, 2013

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6:18AM PDT on Aug 7, 2013

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11:10PM PDT on Aug 3, 2013

Well, Christianity (and other religions and faiths, too) teach us that our bodies are temples. In this day and age, where it seems that obesity and learning disabilities are diagnosed on the rise, yoga seems like a good place to start with fitness.

Yoga teaches us how to calm our minds to focus, as well as to stretch our bodies to be more flexible, which leads to being able to accomplish a lot more mentally and physically. It doesn't have to do with religion.

And, so, because it's about fitness that even the worst case scenario can help us, this is a good way to get our students more focused and fit. Whomever has a problem with this, I think has a problem themselves.

12:13AM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

They removed all "cultural references, including the Sanskrit language." Plus they have the option to opt their kids out of the class so they really don't have anything to complain about. “Crisscross applesauce” what more do you need?

6:33AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Save your breath Suzen... you know how it goes... " My way or the Highway* . :P

Wait till Ines finally meets Jesus and finds out He taught Truth Absolute, which belongs neither to the East nor the West but to all, and never bothered to start a religion since religions LIMIT "God' to their own way of thinking.
That He would have encouraged His followers to practice yoga is a no brainer... since it is the best way to still the Mind and become One Pointed ... in this case.. on "God". Gawd forbid someone should use yoga as a wonderful tool to find inner peace, a healthy body and mind. But hey ... you can lead a horse to water but you can't make em Think.

6:27AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

SUZEN R & INES B: I would enthusiastically suggest that the both of you could be putting your time to better use than posting on this web-site on this topic. Don and I CAN! :-))

5:45AM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Besides, this is America. American schools do not teach any specific relgion. Unless they teach all of them. Worrying about if yoga is anti-christian is un-American.

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