Now I’ve Heard Everything: Parents Sue School District Over Yoga Program

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shutterstock_128655773“Religious experiences” can be extremely subjective. I’ve had a deeply religious experience watching an Alvin Ailey dance production. I’ve also had one eating a piece of Junior’s cheesecake. I have yet to have one at the gym, though. I’m aware that yoga can be a spiritual practice, but it has become a very mainstream way of exercising. Some parents in Encinitas, California didn’t get the memo. CBS8 reports that the parents are suing an Encinitas district that offers a program of yoga in schools as part of their physical fitness curriculum.

What in the hell is wrong with deep-breathing and stretching, you ask? These parents feel that teaching yoga constitutes a “breach of public trust.” Their lawyer argues that the twice-weekly classes are inherently religious in nature and a “violation of the separation between church and state.”

“EUSD’s Ashtanga yoga program represents a serious breach of the public trust,” Broyles said. “Compliance with the clear requirements of law is not optional or discretionary. This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens that I have personally witnessed in my 18 years of practice as a constitutional attorney.”

Really guy? Because I would say that this is clearly the biggest waste of the court’s time that I’ve heard of in my 20-plus years as a conscious adult.

Superintendent Timothy B. Baird claims that since they have started the program “teachers and parents have noticed students are calmer, using the breathing practices to release stress before tests.” God forbid we teach our kids how to breathe deeply and manage stress. The repercussions of that could be awful!

“We’re not teaching religion,” he said. “We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it. It’s part of our overall wellness program. The vast majority of students and parents support it.”

Baird said the lawsuit would not deter the district from offering the classes.

The lawsuit claims that a Harvard-educated religious studies professor finds the program “pervasively religious, having its roots in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and metaphysical beliefs and practices.” If the kids were required to read Taoist texts and practice chanting along with the simple curriculum of stretching and basic yoga moves, I may agree. But they aren’t.

The parents have the right to opt their children out of the program. It seems the easy way to fix this whole problem is to offer an alternative physical fitness activity so the kids who opt out wouldn’t just be missing out on a portion of their fitness activity for the day – but would be doing some other form of exercise. You know, something more wholesome and American like touch football. That way, those parents who are offended by broadening their kid’s cultural horizons and deep breathing can sleep better at night.

Or administrators could just call the class “stretching and breathing” not “yoga.” Problem solved.

(photo: Tatyana Vychegzhanina/