Encinitas Schools Receive a $1.4 Million Grant to Expand P.E. Yoga Program

Less than a month after a San Diego Superior Court ruled that the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) can legally continue teaching yoga to its students, the EUSD has received a $1.4 million grant in support of the yoga program’s expansion.

This is good news for the parents in Encinitas, California, who wanted their children to continue participating in yoga classes as part of the schools’ physical education program.  According to UT San Diego, the new grant will enable the EUSD to increase the number of yoga teachers from 10 to 18, while also contributing to the development of the program.

The grant was offered by the Sonima Foundation, formerly known as the Jois Foundation (named after Pattabhi Jois, who first brought Ashtanga yoga to the United States).  The $1.4 million grant takes the yoga program a larger step further, not only adding additional teachers, but funding a 3-year study on the effects of the yoga program on the students enrolled in the P.E. program. The hope is that the research might lead to the creation of a free, evidence-based curriculum, which at some point can be made available to other schools interested in introducing yoga into the P.E. curriculum.

Opponents of yoga for school children had sued the district on the grounds that yoga is a religion, and therefore inappropriate for public schools. While the Judge recognized that yoga indeed can be religious, examination of “EUSD Yoga” showed it to be a secular physical activity, and hence not a violation of church and state separation. The parents who filed the original lawsuit to stop the Encinitas yoga program are planning an appeal. However, according to David Steinberg, a Law and Religion instructor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, Attorney, barring a procedural error, the appeal is unlikely to lead to a reversal.

For now, thanks to this generous $1.4 million grant, many more school aged children in Encinitas, California, will have the opportunity to participate in a regular yoga practice, and hopefully enjoy all the physical, mental and emotional benefits, which research has shown yoga has to offer. 

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