LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, January 9, 2013 (India West): Parents of school children in Encinitas, Calif., have expressed opposition to yoga classes taught at local elementary schools on the grounds that they promote the Hindu religion. According to media reports, about 60 parents expressed their concerns about the yoga classes at a recent school board meeting.
The two-year-old grant-funded program, initially offered to students at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, has now been expanded to nine schools in the Encinitas Union School District.
Encinitas Union School District Superintendent Tim Baird told India-West that there has been no serious move at the school board level to terminate the yoga program. The district hopes to continue the program for as long as possible, he added.
For the 2012-13 school year, EUSD received a $533,720 grant from the KP Jois Foundation to fund yoga programs for K-6 elementary school students. The foundation encourages the technique of K. Pattabhi Jois, a Mysore native who established Ashtanga yoga - the discipline that raised the ire of the parents.
"We have 30-40 families...a small group that (has) expressed concern," Baird said. After a group of parents registered their objections to the Ashtanga yoga classes at a school board meeting, thousands signed petitions supporting the EUSD yoga program.
Several Indian American yoga instructors defended the program to India-West, saying it provides health benefits and instills confidence in youth. Ashwini Surpur, director of yoga therapy at Yoga Bharati, stressed that yoga does not expressly support any religion, but is a method to alleviate stress and improve wellness through exercise.