December 17 (RIA Novosti) – A comprehensive yoga program for young students in a California school district has some parents bending over backwards to stop it, saying the classes could indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion.
“This is 21st century P.E. (physical education) for our schools,” Timothy Baird, Encinitas Union School District superintendent, told the Washington Post about the yoga program, which started in several schools in San Diego this fall.
It is scheduled to go district-wide to include all 5,000 students in January, despite objections by a group of parents.
“It’s physical. It’s strength-building. It increases flexibility but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn’t do,” Baird said about the program, which gives students a 30-minute yoga lesson twice a week.
Parents who oppose the new exercise initiative equate it to religious indoctrination and worry the exercises might make children curious about ancient Hindu beliefs, the New York Times reported.
“They’re not just teaching physical poses, they’re teaching children how to think and how to make decisions,” parent Mary Eady told the Times.
She believes the classes are rooted in the deeply religious practice of Ashtanga yoga.
“They’re teaching children how to meditate and how to look within for peace and for comfort,” she said. “They’re using this as a tool for many things beyond just stretching.”
Eady along with a few dozen other parents said a public school division should not lead students down any type of religious path, the Times reported.
The group has hired a lawyer and is considering suing to halt the program, saying it is a violation of the First Amendment, said the Washington Post.
Despite the opposition, the school district plans to move forward with the program.
“We think it’s important to keep this program in our schools and we’re going to do what we can to protect it,” Encinitas assistant superintendent David Miyashiro told the Washington Post.