Yoga classes that were intended to be a fun addition to physical education in a California school district has sparked controversy among parents who feel Ashtanga yoga infringes on their religious beliefs.
The National Center for Law and Policy (NCLP) is representing a family that is suing the Encinitas Union School District for 'civil rights violations resulting from its inherently and pervasively religious Ashtanga yoga programme.
An attorney representing the family told ABC News that 'if research yoga and Hinduism, most people would say Hinduism is yoga and yoga is Hinduism'.
Dean Broyles added that it's a situation where the state is endorsing religious beliefs and practices, which are forbidden under California and federal law.
The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court and outlines the concerns of the plaintiffs, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children are in the Encinitas Union School District.
According to a news release, the family is not seeking money damages, but instead is requesting to suspend the Ashtanga yoga programme entirely.
Yet, Encinitas Superintendent Timothy Baird said the yoga classes are a 'typical P.E. class' that have been a successful and positive component to the district's health and wellness programme without any religious implications.
The Jois Foundation, named after a noted pioneer of Ashtanga yoga, awarded the school district a 550,000 dollars grant to introduce the yoga.
The group said on its website that it 'is working to provide schools with health, wellness, and achievement during a time of massive budget cuts'.
Since the grant, Baird said, all schools within the district offer the classes to approximately 5,500 students.
However, Baird added, the yoga classes are not actually Ashtanga yoga because it is too demanding for students, but rather a modified version for the K-6 students.
In the news release, NLCP called the yoga "inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and western metaphysical religious beliefs and practices,' the report added. (ANI)