"The kids who are opting out are getting teased and bullied ... We have one little girl whose classmates told her her parents are stupid because she opted out. That’s not supposed to happen in our schools," argues attorney Dean Broyles while explaining why yoga should be kept out of public schools. Broyles is representing the parents of two children who have slapped the Encinitas Unified School District (just outside of San Diego) with a lawsuit because the district began incorporating yoga classes in September—the parents argue yoga is an Eastern religion, and therefore mixes church and state.
The collective groans you may be hearing are from the several yoga practitioners at Equinox who aren't om-ing because they are too busy worrying about how flat their abs are getting. Some of those people are like the human hate crush known as Adam Levine, who freely admits doing yoga for the vanity aspects. "Yoga takes what you have and molds and sculpts it, which is a much more natural way to look and feel ... I don't like how people bullshit about how yoga is not about vanity," Levine told Details magazine in December of 2011. And look no further than the absence of religion Equinox's own yoga advertisements:
Obviously they're not teaching those kids that kind of sexy times yoga. But the basic imagery here, is, this is an exercise that will make you strong and hot. The baseline takeaway the school wants to make is that this (again, in the less sexy way more basic form) is a good workout for kids.
"As a First Amendment lawyer, I wouldn’t go after an exercise program. I don’t go after people for stretching," said Broyles to Reuters. Broyles is either being very dismissive or has never been to an actual yoga class, or a combination of the two. "But Ashtanga yoga is a religious-based yoga, and if we are separating church and state, we can’t pick and choose religious favorites.
The children are allowed to opt out of the program which, according to The Telegraph, has even changed the names of the poses, some of which are already English versions of their sanskrit names like Utkatasana, into even more simple ones like "airplane" and "pancake" as to avoid controversy. The program does not, apparently, feature any chanting, prayer positions, or cultural references either.
"There is really no dispute as to the physical and mental health benefits of the yoga program—teachers and parents throughout the district have raved about noticeable improvement in the students’ focus," a parent of one of the cool kids who are allowed to do yoga told Reuters. "We reject the argument that yoga poses constitute the practice of Hinduism as both a matter of law and common sense. There is absolutely nothing religious or spiritual about the classroom instruction."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.