Roughly 25 miles north of the city of San Diego, nestled between Solana Beach and Carlsbad, is a fairytale town by the sea. Life is quite idyllic there, with the higher-than-state-median household income and lack of riff raff; a non-gated gated community. Encinitas is a gem of a town that is home to one of the world's best surfing spots, the Lux Art Institute and the Self-Realization Fellowship temple. Many of the citizens seem interested in peace, love, surf and knowing their inner selves.
But not all of them.
In any community, there are always outliers—who, in this case, might not really be outliers, seeing as how all of this groovy beach town's elected officials are right wingers.
So, a number of years ago, the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) received a generous half-million dollar grant to bring yoga into its nine elementary schools as part of the EUSD's physical education program. It was supposedly the first time in the nation this had been done. This triggered some pearl clutching among certain parents who were then—and remain today—steadfastly horrified and aghast that their children might be brainwashed into a religious practice.
Clearly, these parents have never been to a yoga class. One visit to any CorePower and they'd understand that American-style yoga is not at all about religion. It's about ass. Tons and tons of firm, flexible yoga ass adorned in the least amount of Lululemon attire one can wear. And let's be honest, nobody's going to bring a lawsuit about the cult of consumer culture and overpriced workout clothes, certain byproducts of an extended grade school yoga education.
Seriously, though, yoga is beneficial to practitioners in myriad ways.
Despite a clear statement from the EUSD that this is not a religion-based yoga practice, a lawsuit was filed (duh: America) over the religious indoctrination of these little angels; these precious darlings of the affluent; children of the entitled, havers-of-everything-good in their schools. Class sizes in EUSD are mostly in the low-to-mid 20s. One hundred percent of their teachers are deemed “highly qualified” in their School Accountability Report Cards; 100 percent are credentialed. The percentage of children scoring proficient or advanced on standardized testing (in all but one school) is above both district and state levels. (Interesting aside: Reported scores of the very few children of color lag far behind their white counterparts). Their facilities are all top notch; they've got current textbooks and instructional materials; they have band class with instruments. And they have yoga.
I swear I want to throw a glass of cold water in the faces of these objectionist parents and tell them to wake the damn hell up.
Many kids in San Diego Unified School District can't begin to imagine such resources and opportunities available to children in the EUSD because they're utterly unimaginable. While Encinitas tykes are stretching out and getting centered, kids at my daughter's school—and others like it—make-do with an endless rotation of PE teachers who don't know the kids' names, and who make them run lap after lap around a track (if they're lucky to have one; ours took more than a decade of fighting to obtain). At other schools, children kick rationed balls across concrete where grass should be.
Yoga would be a gift to these kids, like it is to those in Encinitas. And a judge agreed: These anti-Yogis lost their lawsuit. And yet, the group persists. Just last week, flyers—warning of the dangers of yoga and bearing the address of what has got to be the most boring, nonsensical website I've ever read—were placed on vehicles of parents attending a back-to-school night event. The fight for the hearts and minds of children is not over.
According to the snorefest website, approximately 250 parents have opted their children out of the demon yoga sessions. One parent testimonial states that she wants her children praying “to our God” and focusing “on Him during” yoga time. Supporters are urged to contribute “at least $10 on ministry,” and to watch a video of “Pastor Bob at Horizon Christian Fellowship Church” wearing an “I miss P.E.” t-shirt. (Note: Yoga is a portion of the PE offered at EUSD.)
Dean Broyles, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in this case, cited more tangible concerns. “Children throughout Encinitas,” he said in a 2013 Huffington Post article, “as a result of this being promoted in the public schools, are spontaneously at birthday parties, at playgrounds, on weekdays and weekends, getting into the lotus position, putting their hands in the jnana mudra and meditating.”
Egads! Not the lotus position! Not at birthday parties or on weekends! NOT—hold me back, people—the jnana mudra !
Nevermind that this is the gesture of wisdom or, as it's known in American yoga studios, touching your thumb and forefinger together. The last thing any parent wants is their child throwing signs. And boy howdy, do I get that! It is particularly frightening for the 46 black children in the district of nearly 6,000 who might “spontaneously” go lotus in a park one happy Saturday and be subsequently deemed menacing or mentally ill or mistaken as reaching for their waistband.
Maybe this is a crisis after all, this yoga-in-school business. In which case, we should be applauding the concerted and dedicated efforts of those for the safety and well-being of endangered Encinitas youth.