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Yoga Poses Problems for Some Calif. Parents

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

The 1,000s-year-old practice of yoga, which focuses on the body and mind has health benefits for both children and adults, but some parents in Encinitas, Calif., aren't too pleased with the sun salutations and mountain poses.

A lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court Wednesday, argues that the district-wide, 30-minute yoga classes are religious in nature, and violate the constitutional separation between church and state, the Associated Press reports.

Parents opposed to the yoga instruction say their children are being indoctrinated into Hinduism, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"This is frankly the clearest case of the state trampling on the religious freedom rights of citizens," attorney Dean Broyles told the AP.

While yoga does have roots in Hinduism, much of what's being practiced throughout the country's schools and fitness centers focuses on the exercise aspect of the practice (breathing, stretching, strength), and is detached from the spiritual—what some may consider religious—element that Hindus may practice.

District Superintendent Timothy B. Baird told the AP he hasn't seen the lawsuit, but defended the district's yoga integration into its curriculum.

"We teach a very mainstream physical fitness program that happens to incorporate yoga into it," he said, "it's part of our overall wellness program," which a majority of the parents and students happen to support.

The Encinitas school district may be the first in the country to have full-time yoga teachers on staff, but it's not the only school offering yoga as part of its wellness program.

Yoga is holistic, but spiritual transcendence doesn't have to be achieved to reap the benefits it provides, practitioners say. Religion probably doesn't have to be part of the practice if the goal, especially for children, is just to destress and calm the mind and body.

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