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Encinitas Schools To Expand Controversial Yoga Program

The Encinitas Union School District school board voted unanimously Wednesday to accept a $1.4 million grant to expand an elementary school yoga program that was the subject of a recent court battle.

Third-graders at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif., perform chair pose with instructor Kristen McCloskey in December 2012.

The award from the Sonima Foundation, formerly called the Jois Foundation, will expand the program by hiring two yoga teachers at each of the nine of the district's campuses.

A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled on July 1 that the yoga exercise program was not religious in nature.

The ruling by Judge John Meyer came in a lawsuit filed by parents of a student, who contended that the yoga instruction included religious elements and that children whose parents opted out lost state-mandated physical education time.

District Superintendent Timothy Baird told 10News that yoga is supported by most of the students.

"I've received a number of emails from students saying this is a great program, they love it, they have fun in the program, they feel that they're getting stronger, they have more focus in the classroom,'' Baird said.

Parent Scott Graddy told the station, "Physical education, I think, is very important in school, and the fact that the Encinitas schools received $1.4 million to promote physical education and wellness, I think, is a very good thing.''

The program was started last year following a $500,000 award from the Jois Foundation, which promotes Ashtanga yoga, a fast paced form of yoga of progressively more demanding poses with synchronized breathing.

The judge, in his decision, found that the modified version of Ashtanga yoga was secular.

The plaintiffs have stated that they are likely to appeal the court ruling.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 31, 2013 at 3:17 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Great news.

This whole lawsuit was a sham, and I'm thrilled they lost in court.

They tried to attack this from the guise of bringing "religion" into schools, but the whole thing was taken to court by Christian fanatics who want to bring THEIR religion into schools while making any non-Christian religion unable to do so.

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Avatar for user 'Samadhi'

Samadhi | August 21, 2013 at 12:12 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm disturbed by KPBS's use of the word "controversial" here. Just because there was a lawsuit brought by TWO parents out of thousands of parents does not make something "controversial." Once again, the radical religious right-wing of this country gets undue attention and influence disproportionate to their numbers.

The vast majority of Encinitas parents and the vast majority of normal-thinking Americans have no "controversy" over yoga. Millions of Americans take yoga class every single week and practice it every single day.

We live in a country that was founded primarily by Western Europeans, and thus have a large number of culturally significant symbols and holidays that reflect that heritage. But we also live in a country that has, as its primary Constitutional directive, the FREEDOM OF RELIGION and the welcoming of immigrants. What that means, unfortunately for religious bigots of the Christian evangelical persuasion, is that America can and must embrace the positive contributions from other cultures and religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and other eastern philosophies. To attempt to suppress these, while simultaneously attempting to push fundamentalist Christianity into public schools and public policy, is nothing more than religious discrimination and bigotry, and it's a shame that this lawsuit was not thrown out in the first place on that basis.

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