Would you yank your kids out of phys ed if Ashtanga yoga was on the menu?
That’s what two yoga-shy parents did – in California of all places.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose two children are in the Encinitas Union School District outside of San Diego, are also now suing, in hopes that the district’s entire Ashtanga program will be suspended, ostensibly because it promotes an Eastern religion in a public school context.
“Ashtanga yoga is a religious-based yoga, and if we are separating church and state, we can’t pick and choose religious favorites,” their lawyer Dean Broyles told Reuters. “I don’t go after people for stretching.”
Specifically, the lawsuit finds fault with the classes’ Namaste greeting and posters that depict eight-limbed trees: these connote Hinduism, the complainants claim. Ditto for a handful of yoga poses that symbolize the worship of Hindu deities, the parents claim. Currently, a financial grant has meant the district now devotes 60 minutes of the total 100 minutes of physical education required each week to the yoga classes.
“It’s a situation where the state is endorsing religious beliefs and practices, which is forbidden under California and federal law,” Broyles told ABC News.
“If they comply with the law, they will need to suspend the yoga program and offer physical education that complies with the law to their students.”
School officials deny that the program is religious. “The students come in, do some warm ups, do the typical stretching and movement. There’s absolutely no religious instruction that goes on, whatsoever,” Superintendent Timothy Baird told ABC News.
One parent who was critical of the suit told Reuters it was “a tortured attempt to find indoctrination where none exists.” “Our children desperately need exercise and physical activity,” wrote a commenter on the story. “I just don’t understand why anyone would object to Yoga as a way to strengthen them and improve their health.”
Writing for Reuters, Marty Graham argued that, “The lawsuit is the latest twist in a broader national clash over the separation of religion from public education that has seen spirited debate on issues ranging from the permissibility of student-led prayer to whether science instructors can teach alternatives to evolution.”
But the current anti-yoga suit also conflates two issues, the other being another biggie: bullying. Lawyers for the parents suggest that children who opt out of Ashtanga are getting bullied in the schools where all the other kids dutifully do their sun salutations: “We have one little girl whose classmates told her her parents are stupid because she opted out,” Broyles bleated to Reuters.
Is yoga on offer at your kid’s public school? Does that make you nervous?