Parents pack Encinitas Union School District board room over whether to teach yoga to children

Program supported by grant from Jois Foundation

ENCINITAS, Calif. - About 200 parents and members of the Encinitas Union School District gathered Tuesday night to discuss yoga. Parents on both sides of the issue made their feelings crystal clear to the board.

"By its original definition, yoga is a union with the divine," said parent Stephanie Pena.

Pena was in the minority in the room, but the parents that agreed with her say yoga should not be taught and practiced in the Encinitas school district because it cannot be separated from religion. 

"The Jois Foundation... have been very clear in their own statements that this yoga isn't only spiritual, but it's inextricable from their spiritual beliefs," said parent Mary Eady.

The yoga program, along with other nutrition and health programs in the district is being supported by a more than half million dollar donation from the Jois Foundation, an Encinitas-based group that promoted the form of yoga known as Ashtanga yoga. For some parents, that is a problem.

"I think that's short-sighted," said parent David Peck. Peck has a second grader in the Encinitas district. He said the parents that are against the yoga program are off base. 

"Tonight during public comments, I actually quoted an article from the 'Catholic Answers' magazine which expressly says the physical act of performing yoga is wholly separate from the spiritual act or the spiritualism that's associated with it," Peck said.

Other parents who supported the yoga program described how much it has helped their children and they said their children have never been subject to any religious indoctrination. 

From their discussion, it appeared board members may tinker with the program to some degree. However, there was no vote scheduled, nor is there one scheduled on the yoga program in the future.

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