The Coast News Group
Students at Paul Ecke Central participate in a yoga class. This summer, the program was found to be constitutional, a decision that an attorney appealed last week. Photo by Jared Whitlock
Students at Paul Ecke Central participate in a yoga class. This summer, the program was found to be constitutional, a decision that an attorney appealed last week. Photo by Jared Whitlock
Featured Rancho Santa Fe Lead Story

Lawyer appeals judge’s ruling over yoga in schools

ENCINITAS — Last week, attorney Dean Broyles filed an appeal of Judge John Meyer’s ruling that EUSD’s (Encinitas Union School District) yoga program promotes physical and mental wellness, and not any religious doctrine. 

Broyles, who brought the lawsuit on initially, said on Tuesday that he’s confident that a three-judge panel in a San Diego appellate court will see that yoga’s religiosity violates the U.S. Constitution. But if necessary, he’ll take the case all the way to the California Supreme Court, he said.

When issuing his ruling earlier this summer, Meyer said expert testimony proved that yoga has roots in Hinduism. But Meyer added that there’s enough evidence to show that the yoga being practiced in the school’s district is devoid of spiritual or religious trappings.

Broyles said that Meyer acknowledged the opening and closing sequences of EUSD yoga mirror a particularly religious kind of yoga called Ashtanga in a revised statement of finding after his ruling.

He added that it’s concerning that the resemblance to Ashtanga yoga wasn’t enough of a “red flag” for Meyer to find excessive government entanglement with religion and suspend the program. But he believes the appellate court will make the connection and view yoga as unconstitutional.

On the same note, he said the district isn’t qualified to decide whether “enough religion has been stripped” from the yoga program.

“I’m worried about the government picking religious winners and losers,” Broyles said.

Broyles said the case would be heard sometime next year, adding that yoga in public schools is not a “local issue.” He noted that the India Supreme Court is mulling over whether yoga is religious and can be taught in the public education system.

Since the trial, the EUSD yoga program has expanded, going from 10 teachers to 18. That’s thanks to a $1.4 million grant from the Sonima Foundation — a nonprofit previously known as the Jois Foundation.

Broyles said EUSD is “doubling down” on an unconstitutional program.

EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said last week’s announcement from Broyles was expected. Broyles indicated at the conclusion of the trial this summer that an appeal would be coming.

Three attorneys represented the district pro bono during the trial, and Baird said it’s likely they’ll continue to do so. While the district hasn’t racked up legal fees, Baird said district staff has spent time on the case — a cost that’s difficult to estimate, he said.

Baird is doubtful the appeal will prevail, adding that Meyer “did a good job explaining” why EUSD yoga is secular. And Baird said he doesn’t believe the case will go beyond the appellate court.

“I don’t know if there’s enough teeth for this to keep going forever,” Baird said.

“Most people see that yoga is a secular activity,” he added.

Because Meyer ruled the program passed constitutional muster, Baird noted EUSD has received more calls from school districts considering yoga.

“They were waiting to see what would happen,” Baird said.



Soledad Sarmiento November 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I agree with the previous comment by Pratima Balkaran, when you write a book or an article you are expected to give credit to the original sources . People who teach Hatha Yoga and rename it as Christian Yoga are stealing from the Hindhu Religion. People who introduce Yoga at schools and hide or denied the roots to the students and the parents of such students are not only stealing but also lying about their teachings. The roots of modern Yoga come from Vedic Yoga which is the authority of hinduism, if Yoga is not Religion then Vedanta is also non-Hindhu. What other evidence do they need to show that the yoga being practiced in the school’s district is in fact a religious trapping. Would the school think it was ok to introduce Catechism at school and pretend it wasn’t about the Christian Doctrine?If you take the caffeine from coffee it is still coffee.
Yoga needs to reclaim its full heritage and that is Hinduism.

Pratima Balkaran November 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

As a school teacher, I know how stressful it can be for students and having Physical education classes infused in the curriculum serves as a great tool to assisst and eleviate stress from students daily routine. I know the importance of having students remain positive and calm going in to take tests; the importance of having them feel self-asured and motivated given any number of stressors they may be expereincing. As a teacher, I can use techniques and strategies to achieve these goals. Yoga is not one of them and should not be! It is against the liberty/right of a person to impose religion in our schools. Yoga is the Hindu religion, and yes it has great techniques to achieve the goals stated earlier, but we have to recognize it is a religion and very insultive and cruel to Hindus to state otherwise. Why can’t we see the true facts, how come as teachers and educators we are so ignorant by this simple truth. Leave Yoga out of the school system unless you credit it for what it is; plagarism is academic dishonesty, as educators we can attest to this!

D.V. Nandini November 7, 2013 at 9:46 am

As already stated in the comments, Yoga is obviously Hinduism and children do Pledge Allegiance to a nation under God. There is no denying the tremendous benefits of a Hatha Yoga practice – for a Hindu. Exercise, stretching and relaxation does heal the physical, mental and emotional aspects of participants. It is also obvious that we live in a society confused over the words and what words mean in an ever evolving global world. I would think that pledging allegiance to your nation is sufficient patriotism and exercising can be called just that. Leave religious terms out of the schools and if we choose to to exercise, stretch etc. – just call it exercise. Insulting any religion is simply not a loving act. In an institution of education it would be common sense to educate on the true meaning of words we use and act on that accordingly. Which God we pledge the allegiance of our nation under could be up for debate by non-Christians – but there is no debate that Yoga is a Sanskrit word and by definition a Hindu practice. Exercise! Relax! Enjoy the benefits. Just call it a non religious word. Simple.

Swami Param November 7, 2013 at 5:59 am

It is amazing how many overlook the “obvious.” The facts are that real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion. Denying the Hindu/Yoga connection is dishonest and cruel to all involved. Why? If one wants to hold an exercise stretching and relaxation class, why not be honest and call it that? If one wants to study Hinduism/Yoga, then be upfront with that stated goal.

Swami Param
Classical Yoga Hindu Academy

Dr. Lorri November 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

If I am not mistaken, don’t the kids say the following in a classroom-“I pledge Allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with Liberty and Justice for all” ? If this is true, it brings God into the classroom. I wish the school district could spend their money on other things, rather than having to, once again, defend why yoga is not religious. Even if the attorneys do this pro bono, there are still court costs, and people that have to be paid. From what I understand, the parents who don’t want their children doing yoga can have them opt out , and do some other form of physical education. There is so much empirical evidence stating yoga is good for both physical and psychological health. I cannot help but wonder why a parent would not want to take advantage of this unique opportunity for their children? I know when my kids were younger, I would have been delighted to have yoga in the school. In fact, I went to California public schools and I would have loved it as well.

Comments are closed.