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(TheBlaze/AP) — A group of parents is bent out of shape by free yoga classes at schools in a San Diego County beachside community, fearing they are indoctrinating youngsters in eastern religion.
"There's a deep concern that the Encinitas Union School District is using taxpayer resources to promote Ashtanga yoga and Hinduism, a religion system of beliefs and practices," the parents' attorney, Dean Broyles, told the North County Times.
In an Oct. 12 email to district Superintendent Tim Baird, Broyles called the yoga program unconstitutional and said he may take unspecified legal action unless the classes stop.
“Yoga practices and poses are not merely exercise,” one parent reportedly remarked. “They’re religious practices.”
The lessons are funded by a $533,000, three-year grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group that promotes Asthanga yoga. Some schools began classes last month and others will begin holding them in January, at which point roughly 5,456 students will be participating.
The classes involve traditional eastern breathing techniques and poses. The district chooses teachers and sets the curriculum, and the foundation trains the teachers.
But the district has removed any religious content from the twice-weekly classes, Baird said.
“We’re not teaching religion in schools, not because it’s against the law or unconstitutional,” Assistant Superintendent David Miyashiro confirmed for the North County Times. “We just wouldn’t do it.”
"I think that they really would like to think that, but I don't think that, in actuality, it has been done...There's really a lot of unease among a lot of parents," she remarked.
Another parent added: “I will not allow my children to be indoctrinated by this Hindu religious program.”
Despite the roughly 40 families with objections, the superintendent says he does not expect district trustees to cancel the classes.
"Our goal is that kids get a really healthy workout, that they get a chance to relax and reduce stress and yoga's perfect for that," Baird said.
"Yoga is a worldwide exercise regime utilized by people of many different faiths," he said. "Yoga is part of our mainstream culture."
Jois Foundation Director Eugene Ruffin denied the group is religious and said the board of directors includes people from various faiths.
"These therapies are headed toward trying to find solutions for some of the stress that these children find themselves in," he said. "We're trying to solve problems."
While many adults practice yoga and know first-hand that it isn't necessarily religious, with all the news of indoctrination in schools, are the parents' concerns justified?