Yoga in Encinitas Schools – Trial on Hold till Late June

The trial challenging the teaching of yoga in the PE program of the Encinitas Union School District has been put on hold till June 24, pending the testimony of more witnesses before closing arguments.

“This is 21st century P.E. (physical education) for our schools. It’s physical. It’s strength-building. It increases flexibility but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn’t do,” says Superintendent of EUSD, Timothy Baird, who testified at the trial. At the heart of the issue is the attempt to define yoga narrowly as either religious or not. 

As author Philip Goldberg points out in a blog post on Huffpost, entitled, The Encinitas Yoga Case: Yoga Is Religious, Only It’s Not.

“Yoga” means different things to different people, has a broad spectrum of applications and can legitimately be presented in a variety of formats, contexts and rubrics. In fact, its adaptability is among its greatest strengths.

If yoga is interpreted as religious, it must be the most nonsectarian, nondenominational, trans-traditional, interspiritual, universal expression of religion imaginable. It would also be the least religious of religions, since it demands neither allegiance to a specific tradition, nor faith, nor the acceptance of any doctrine. Few Americans for whom yoga is central to their spiritual lives call themselves religious, and even fewer think of themselves as Hindus. Indeed, none of the gurus and yoga masters who brought yoga to the West ever asked anyone to convert or to accept their teachings on faith. To them, yoga is a practical science that has value for people of any religion.

As blogger Carol Horton points out in this blog post on the Encinitas yoga law suit, the basic issue with the case is trying to narrowly define yoga as either religious or not. Yoga as taught in the U.S. today is a varied as the American culture itself. If we try to box it into concepts narrowly defined by prevailing culture wars, everyone loses out. 

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