School Making Kids 'Bow to the Sun God'
CA School Making Kids 'Bow to the Sun God' in Yoga ProgramThe Christian Post | May 9, 2014
Encinitas Union School District's decision to implement Ashtanga yoga into its curriculum, which involves "bowing to the sun god" among other Hindu traditions, has resulted in a legal battle in California. The expansion of the yoga-based health and wellness program to Cajon Valley Union School District, Monarch School in San Diego and three New York schools has prompted conservative advocates to remind the school of their legal precedent of keeping religious practices out of the classroom.
Although San Diego County Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer ruled July 1, 2013 that the yoga program is protected under the law because the district didn't violate the Establishment Causes of the U.S. and California constitutions by hiring yoga instructors, but he did admit that Ashtanga yoga is a religious exercise, according to WND.com. Based on his admission, the conservative National Center for Law & Policy, who originally championed the lawsuit brought forth by parents, filed an appeal in the Fourth District Court of Appeal in October of last year.
"I am appalled that Sonima is arrogantly pushing ahead with its national public school launch prematurely, before the three-year study [on the effects of yoga] is complete and before the appeal is decided," NCLP Chief Counsel Dean Broyles said in the appeal brief. "This shows a callous disregard for religious freedom, parental rights, and the importance of objectively studying the program."
"Leading young impressionable children with tender consciences through group liturgical/ritual religious practices including bowing to the sun god (Hindu solar deity Surya), practices that lead practitioners to 'become one with god,' is obviously religious," he added.
Ashtanga yoga, which literally means "eight-limbed yoga," includes the practice of Samadhi, which is "becoming one with the Universal." Even the word "yoga" is a verb meaning "to yoke with the divine." And, unlike Judeo-Christian religions where believing is a part of salvation, Ashtanga yoga followers claim that "the mere 'physical practice' of yoga leads practitioners to become one with god … whether they want it or not," the NCLP claims.
Counter to these claims are the results of preliminary research done by the University of San Diego that shows students who practice yoga were more flexible and had better core strength than the students that didn't.
"The way we use it is a cost-effective means towards stress reduction, flexibility, the California Physical Fitness Test," said Gene Ruffin. Ruffin is the executive director of the Sonima Foundation, who runs the yoga program.
"Our kids are doing better who take yoga," he added.
Ruffin, though, admits that "there is something else there other than physical" in the yoga practices, even though the courses have been designed by school staff.
"Exactly what it is, all I know it seems to be positive, because the results are positive," he told KPBS.org.
The yoga program in Encinitas, California was started in 2012 by the K. P. Jois Foundation, which was renamed the Sonima Foundation— Krishna Pattabhi Jois was an Indian yoga teacher who established Ashtanga yoga in the 1950s. The organization exists to "provide children … with the benefits of the philosophy and teachings" of Jois, and the school district received a $533,000 grant for incorporating them.
In 2014, the school district received another $1.4 million of taxpayer money this year to "develop an Ashtanga yoga program to replace traditional physical education," according to the court brief. For the NCLP, concerned parents and conservatives, the Encinitas Union School District and the state of California appear to be promoting the Hindu practices of yoga while Christian practices like prayer are banned.