SAN DIEGO – Teaching yoga in public schools has come under fire in Encinitas and now a judge must decide whether or not yoga is a religion.
A lawsuit was filed by the National Center for Law and Policy on behalf of Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children attend one of the district’s nine schools, contends that Ashtanga yoga is religious in nature and that opting out costs students physical education time.
“This is very intentional marketing,” said expert witness Dr. Candy Brown. “We lead with physical then introduce the spiritual aspect. I can give you quotations where people admit to this.”
Calling it camouflage and conspiracy, Dr. Brown described the practice of yoga. She’s testifying in a case brought against the Encinitas School District by a small group of parents who want to stop the district’s new program that offers Ashtanga yoga in place of physical education.
“If you asked me what’s the most religious form of yoga, I would pick Ashtanga as my number one,” Dr. Brown said without answering the question asked, which was are all forms of yoga religious? Judge John Meyer reminded her she could answer with a yes or no answer, to which she replied after some time, “I will say no to that question as phrased.”
Judge Meyer will decide if a reasonable observer would find the schools curriculum religious. The testimony at times so esoteric the judge interjecting to ponder the meaning.
The issues stems from a gift of $500,000 to the Encinitas School District by the KP Jois Foundations to fund the health and wellness program. The foundations stated mission is to spread the teachings of Ashtanga Yoga, which originated with Hinduism.
The course curriculum however does not talk about religion and only uses yoga postures and deep breathing.
Dr. Brown testified she believes there’s a conspiracy at work trick students into a spiritual practice.
Judge Meyer asked for clarification, “these Jois trained instructors are just the foot soldier?”
“It’s para para – submitting to one,” Dr. Brown said.
The judge cutting her off said, “you think they have been planted in the district?”
“Well, I think that is the case, yeah,” she answered.