Christian Group Complains Because School Offers Yoga Classes

A bunch of parents in Encinitas, California seem to be taking Pastor Mark Driscoll‘s lunacy to heart: They’re trying to put a stop to evil, evil yoga classes in the local public school district because they basically find them to be anti-Christian:

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.

There’s no religion in the courses, of course. Yoga just happens to have originated in a majority non-Christian country.

In fact, the Jois Foundation, which is funding the classes, is not a religious organization and their “board of directors includes people from various faiths.”

But the group suing the schools? The National Center for Law & Policy? They’re explicitly a Christian group:

Our nations’ founders believed that our rights and liberties are not manufactured by men, but are established by our Creator. The attorneys at the National Center For Law & Policy believe that we are duty and honor bound to oppose and resist all who would seek to take away those blessings of liberty which God has so mercifully endowed.

The National Center for Law & Policy is dedicated to preserving and reclaiming religious freedom. Sometimes we work alone, but whenever possible, we work with and coordinate efforts with other like-minded organizations in the cause of freedom. We are motivated in our endeavors by our faith to keep the doors open for the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How that fact is omitted from the articles discussing this story, I don’t know. Seems pretty damn relevant to me.

In any case, this is a story we’ve seen before.

Teaching the Bible as literacy? Not a problem. No fight from Christian groups.

Teaching a non-religious yoga class? “THEY’RE TAKING AWAY OUR RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES!”

Just another reason we shouldn’t take Christian Right groups seriously when they cry wolf.

(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Roberta for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I don’t mean to be a blog ho, but I posted about this yesterday, and came to a slightly different conclusion:

    http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/2012/10/indoctrination-in-schools.html

    “Yoga” is a generalized term, but Ashtanga yoga sounds like it has a somewhat religious (or at least supernatural) component to me, based on the pages I glanced at, and the fact that the Jois Foundation wants to promote it in schools sets off all my paranoid atheist alarm bells. If it were a Christian group, would I believe it if the district assured me they’d removed all religious content? Probably not. 

    I agree that groups such as the National Center for Law and Policy are wildly erratic in their protection of “religious freedom” in the schools, being very much in favor of any Christian group getting through the school doors, and totally against anything else. But that doesn’t mean this is a good situation. I could, of course, be totally off base here– but I’m inclined to be cautious of this, just as I’d be cautious of a Christian group that was providing karate lessons (and I have seen Christian karate studios) or something similar in the schools.

    • Eric M Boucher

      Ashtanga yoga is a very broad term that covers the much of the Yoga practiced in the US.  It is also often called Vinyasa, Power, or Flow Yoga and includes most yoga that emphasizes more active and dynamic use of poses.  It is incredibly simple to take this practice and remove any religious messages,  you just do the exercises.  Its like any exercise, you can do it and not talk about gods.  Unless the parents believe truly in the mystical beliefs(there are many, most eastern religions) that have been associated with Yoga and think just by doing the exercise the kids will become closer to some other god.

      • Hankq_59

        From the Ashtanga Yoga site itself: “Ashtanga yoga is a system of yoga
        transmitted to the modern world by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009). This method of yoga involves
        synchronizing the breath with a progressive series of postures—a process
        producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies
        muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body,
        and a calm mind.” — Read the rest of this crap: http://ashtanga.com/html/background.html” “Bandhas are
        essential components of the ujjayi breathing technique. Bandha
        means “lock” or “seal” (Scott 21). The purpose of bandha is to unlock
        pranic energy and direct it into the 72,000 nadi [energy
        channels] of the subtle body (Scott 21). ”  All of these are pseudoscientific claims based on the belief in the supernatural.

        • Eric M Boucher

          I agree that all that energy crap is BS  and the detox stuff is pseudoscience  but I haven’t seen this class and I don’t think its necessary to mention Qi or Prana or whatever.  Though I am worried by this quote from the funders “an ancient system that can lead to liberation and greater awareness of our spiritual potential”

          • Hankq_59

            Eric, exactly. That nonsense is why it has no business in school. Imagine a kid who practices Ashtanga Yoga at school then goes home to see this stuff. We have plenty of other exercises that have nothing to do with this nonsense.

          • Isilzha

            The problem isn’t just that “yoga” is being taught; it’s that the organization that is running the classes has the above kind of crap on their website.  It’s obviously all pseudoscience, woo, energy nonsense crap.  I wouldn’t trust them to NOT be teaching this to the kids.

  • C Peterson

    Even allowing for the possibility that Yoga carries a degree of religious significance to some Hindus, how does that make it “anti-Christian”? That makes as much sense as saying that worry beads are “anti-Islam” because Catholics use them as rosaries.

    • Isilzha

       I still wouldn’t want my kids taught about “energy” flowing through their bodies that they can somehow perceive and control!  It’s meaningless garbage!

      • RobMcCune

        My guess is they would teach it as an exercise class.

        • Isilzha

          Yes, and they’d likely teach it in the same way a Baptist pastor would teach the bible as literature!

          • RobMcCune

            And you base this on what exactly?

            • Isilzha

              Based on the fact that people who BELIEVE in something aren’t really all that different from one another. 

              BTW, that was an analogy!  A pastor who believe in the bible as FACT would likely have huge problems teaching a class in the bible as purely literature.  They couldn’t help but include their belief in the bible as fact in such a class!  It’s likely the same with any yoga instructor from this organization who buys into the belief that there is Qi/energy or what-nots.  They’d have problems teaching yoga as PURELY exercise!

              • RobMcCune

                The district is the one hiring the teachers and setting the curriculum. Teachers have to meet numerous requirements to teach in a public school, and addition requirements are probably needed to teach a P.E. class like this one. Based on that it’s unlikely the group funding the program has a direct influence on the day to day classes.

                • Isilzha

                   And the Jois Foundation is TRAINING them!

                • RobMcCune

                  Which could consist of anything from showing them the poses and breathing techniques to mind control camp. It’s something we should be vigilant of, not automatically condemned.

                  While I don’t like the idea of private groups funding school curriculums, it’s not as though public school funding is in the best of shape.

                • Isilzha

                  Did you read their crap about not practicing on “moon” days??

                • RobMcCune

                  Could you link to it on the district website?

                • Isilzha

                  It’s sweet that you think so well of people, dude!  However, the moon crap is on the Jois website and taken directly from the “about” page.  Just as I wouldn’t trust a pastor or other church affiliated person to keep their teachings purely secular, I wouldn’t trust anyone trained by Jois to keep THEIR teachings purely secular!

                • TeachBasics

                   The ‘Teachers’ are trained exclusively by Jois Ashtanga Yoga, they are Uncredentialed as Educators. The Proposal of Jois Ashtanga Yoga Foundation includes ‘Health & Wellness Life Skills Curriculum” .  Which includes:  “Key Yoga Life Concepts, i.e., ‘Self Regulation’ (body function control) , ‘Nutrition’ (vegetarianism) , physical education, Yoga-themed Science, Yoga-themed Art,  ‘healthy’ lifestyle ‘choices’, also an on site Yoga (sacred space) Shala will be built to house Yoga Programs. 

                  Schools should teach, Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Music, Art. Public School oversteps its bounds, when it forces Subjective Social Values Experiments on its captive audience. Let the parents decide how to teach their child Morals & Lifestyle Choices. I strongly disagree with Yoga as a Lifestyle. 

                  –175 days a year of Yoga Philosophy, for 3 years & counting… is NOT the same as having one Christmas party a year, or one day of Halloween.  [That's a ridiculous comparison pro-yoga parents are making. ]  Let’s have ‘Yoga’ Day, one day a year, and I’ll be happy.  (as long as its an after school event.)

                • RobMcCune

                   Could you point out where it said yoga wasn’t elective? I haven’t read anything that said whether or not it was required.

                  Again those are the beliefs of the Jois foundation, not the curriculum of the school district, and not necessarily the beliefs of the teachers.

                  My guess is the school is desperate for some P.E. money, not doing some sort of “social values experiment”.

                  What is it about this that makes you people unable to differentiate between holding a few poses and breathing from some sort indoctrination?

            • Hankq_59

              It might be helpful for you to read the organization’s website that is providing the instructors for the school district.

          • RobMcCune

            I’m going to respond here to keep this from going into letter columns.

            However, the moon crap is on the Jois website and taken directly from the “about” page. 

            Again, as I pointed out below, the Jois institute doesn’t have direct contact with students. They have to go through district hired teachers and district mandated curriculum. I asked you to show that the public school students were learning it, you didn’t.

            Just as I wouldn’t trust a pastor or other church affiliated person to
            keep their teachings purely secular, I wouldn’t trust anyone trained by
            Jois to keep THEIR teachings purely secular!

            Here’s where your analogy breaks down, you have an educated P.E. teacher who has to control 30-40 rowdy kids and has probably taken classes on anatomy and physiology, as well as first aid and medicine in order to be certified to teach P.E. classes. You think that person will instantly be indoctrinated by some guru, then against district policy for a new program, start telling kids about moondays and other crap. Give teachers some credit. A better analogy is that a teacher takes a class at a seminary in order to teach a bible as literature course and you instantly suspect them of fundie infiltration. Rather than thinking of them as an adult who makes their own decisions.

            It’s sweet that you think so well of people, dude! 

            I know, giving teachers the benefit of the doubt, what’s up with that?

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Going along with this: In high school we did yoga in gym. It involved different poses that stretched different part of the body. We would move to a pose and hold it while we took slow, deep breaths, trying to relax and stretch the body. That was it…No mention of anything spiritual. It was just exercise and stretching.
              It is very common for religions to use pleasant experiences to convince people to believe. That does not mean that the pleasant experiences themselves are nonsense. Many churches and temples have large spaces because it gives you a feeling of awe. That doesn’t mean that a museum that uses Greek architecture is trying to get you to believe in Greek gods. Singing helps people become more emotionally involved in their religion. That doesn’t mean that feeling emotional when you sing is religious nonsense. 
              Yoga is relaxing and good for your body. Eastern religions realized this and used this with spirituality to get people more involved in their religion. That doesn’t mean that finding yoga relaxing equates believing in spiritual forces.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        That depends. Is it explicitly used metaphorically or as imagery in a relaxation exercise, or is the teaching presented literally?

        If it’s presented as a literal thing, yeah, it’s gotta go.

        Otherwise, it’s cool.

    • Hankq_59

      C P, I’m still waiting for you to supply ONE Yoga resource that does not include the energy hogwash.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        The “energy hogwash” is entirely metaphorical or used as imagery in guided meditation. (Been there, done that.)

  • Dervilia

    I wonder if they would oppose their own brand in schools. Behold, Christoga: http://m.youtube.com/?reload=3&rdm=m4kh7d589#/watch?v=PpcYPiE6A1s&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DPpcYPiE6A1s

    Also, I dont see this being a compulsory class. Can’t the little dears just take a different elective?

  • Ewright626

    Broyles should join the FFRF. LOLOLOL.

  • Hankq_59

    Hemant,

    As a fellow atehist, I completely disagree with you on this one and am on the side of the Christians. Virtually all Yoga is based on the belief in universal energy (Qi, Chi, Prana, etc…), a metaphysical concept which has as much proof as any God man has created. Not only is this a religious concept, it is dangerous pseudoscience. At a charter school in California that my children attended, children participated in QiGong and were told that they were pulling energy out of the earth as they raised their arms along with much more hogwash. Then one of the students passed out and the instructor waved his hands around her head telling the children that he was placing more energy into her and thus healing her. Obviously, after hearing this, my children were pulled from the school and we complained to the school board. As I did more research, I learned that the practitioner was also an instructor at the Internation School of Qigong which had courses like “How to project Energy Balls” and How to perform exorcisms. (Ironically, at the time, I spoke with both Paul Kurtz and Leon Jaroff (RIP)  about this nonsense – both were very helpful). Practicing Yoga in a school is dangerous for many reasons (it can be physically dangerous – http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html?_r=1) -that is one of many articles that show some of the many problems with Yoga. The issue I have is that you cannot remove the metaphysical (religious) aspects from Yoga, if you do its just stretching. There is no need to have this in any public school.

    • C Peterson

      I know dozens of people who practice Yoga. My wife does so regularly. We have a good friend who teaches Yoga classes. And to the best of my knowledge, there is no discussion of “universal energy” (by any name). These people are of different faiths, or no faith, and none see Yoga as anything other than exercise or a tool for mental discipline.

      Whatever religious roots Yoga may have, it is trivially separated from them. The vast majority of Yoga practitioners in the U.S. see no religious significance at all, and Yoga does not interfere in the least with whatever religious views they already have.

      • Hankq_59

        You should ask your friend/wife about Prana or energy. Virtually every person I know who has taken Yoga or who is involved in Yoga, teaches some form of this nonsense. Not only is it religious/metaphysical, it is pseudoscientific. Its just that Christians and others don’t see this nonsense as opposing their view for some reason. It is the same reason why so many people go to acupuncturists. They don’t realize that acupuncture is based on a religious/metaphysical belief that opposes their own in most cases.

        • CanadianNihilist

           I just do yoga on my Wii with the Wii Fit board to help with flexibility. No religious garbage or pseudoscience necessary.

          It’s very easy to do yoga without any spiritual aspect.

          • Isilzha

            Yes, it is, but is the organization involved in teaching these classes doing so??  From their website it seems very likely they’re including that garbage along with the exercises.

        • C Peterson

          Her Yoga DVDs talk about feeling energy move around your body as you change and hold poses. In fact, you can feel this as you shift your mental focus from place to place. Certainly, some people will take this “energy” as some sort of natural force- the same sort of people who think crystals have spiritual power. But Yoga isn’t generally being taught in a way that either embodies a religious dogma nor challenges other religious dogmas. There’s nothing to suggest that the Yoga classes in this school district have any religious component at all.

          • Hankq_59

            C Peterson, that energy that is discussed is pseudoscience and has no scientific basis. That is a metaphysical belief. Also, type of Yoga being taught at that school is Ashtanga. Read this webpage: http://ashtanga.com/html/background.html. It is very definitely religious in nature.

            • C Peterson

              This “energy” is only pseudoscientific or metaphysical if it’s presented or interpreted that way. In fact, you can feel something moving through your body when you engage in Yoga, and “energy” isn’t a bad word for it. The feeling is real, and comes from focusing your attention on your body in a way that we don’t generally do. There’s nothing supernatural about it, and there’s nothing wrong with teaching people to feel it so long as it’s not presented as supernatural mumbo-jumbo.

              From the descriptions I’ve read, the classes as they are being taught are about movement and focus, not spirituality of any sort.

              • Isilzha

                Dude, it’s WISHFUL thinking!  The mind can make you feel all sorts of things that aren’t actually REAL.  Much of what you’re experiencing is stuff you DESIRE to experience and be true.  That does NOT mean it IS. 

                You should REALLY take some neurobiology/psychology classes.  BTW, did you know that when you start to lose one of your senses that your brain makes up for the loss of actual stimulus by producing HALLUCINATIONS??  You can force this to happen if you eliminate real sensory input for long enough.  Try googling  “world’s quietest room” to start understanding the phenomenon.

                • C Peterson

                  If you feel it, it’s real. Feelings don’t happen without physical causes. If you disagree with that, you should be practicing religion, because that’s precisely what religion teaches.

                • Isilzha

                  ::sigh:: Dude, you ARE practicing a religion.

                • Hankq_59

                  Wow, I agree with Isilzha. There are millions of Christians who believe that they can see or hear God or that they can feel God’s touch. Since they feel that, we should practice Christianity? That is why personal experience is not a valid scientific form of research.

                • C Peterson

                  When religious people sense the presence of a god, that is real. It is a measurable phenomenon using fMRI, for instance, or by seeing changes in oxytocin or various neurotransmitters.

                  The point is, the feeling is real, even if some people attribute it to a false cause (god).

                  The same is true for Yoga: it produces real feelings, which some people find beneficial. The fact that some people believe these feelings come from some sort of supernatural source doesn’t change the reality of their existence. However, while most people who experience religious feelings attribute them to an actual god, I don’t think many practitioners of Yoga attribute their feelings to supernatural forces.

                • Hankq_59

                  That is the entire point of Yoga. The word itself means the joining of the spiritual and the physical. It is entirely based on the supernatural.

                • C Peterson

                  What you describe is not what most people consider “Yoga”.

                • Hankq_59

                  Had to reply to an earlier post. What I describe is Yoga. It may not be your perception of Yoga. But it is Yoga. Again, I’m still waiting for one Yoga resource that does not show energy/detox/ etc…

              • Hankq_59

                But teaching people to feel a non-existent energy is teaching them the supernatural.

                • C Peterson

                  No, it isn’t. Because the feeling is real, and it is the feeling that people find beneficial.

                • Hankq_59

                  The feeling that God exists is real and it is that feeling that people find beneficial. I’m glad you feel that way. It is your absolute right. However, there is ZERO scientific evidence that that energy exists.

                • C Peterson

                  It is pretty well established by scientific studies that the feeling of a personal deity looking out for you is beneficial in terms of producing feelings of happiness and reduced levels of stress.

                  These feelings are real and have demonstrable biological foundations. It matters not in the least that no gods exist.

                • Hankq_59

                  what studies?

                • C Peterson

                  Search them out yourself. They have been discussed in this forum.

          • Hankq_59

            Lets look at the organization who has placed the instructors in that school district. This is from the foundation who is in that school district. From their own website(http://www.joisyoga.com/about-ashtanga-yoga.html#ashtangaYoga): ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ means ‘eight limbed yoga.’ It is an ancient system that can lead to liberation and greater awareness of our spiritual potential. The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga can be described as eight disciplines. They are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Of these, the third limb, asana (yoga postures), is the most important for us to practice, and through it we can understand the other limbs. Though in appearance an external and physical discipline, through consistent effort we find many layers, more and more subtle, which need to be experienced directly and can lead to the experience of the last four limbs. Yama (restraints) and niyama (observances) should be observed at all times, otherwise yoga asana practice is reduced to a purely physical pursuit. Pranayama (breath control) should only be taught after mastering asanas, when the nervous system is strengthened and prepared for more rigorous practice. The last four limbs are pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (union). These final four are considered ‘internal limbs,’ meaning that they arise spontaneously as a result of practice of the first four and lead to experiential spiritual knowledge.
            Through asana we can access higher levels of yoga and, over time, bring both the body and mind to a state of stability, a state of peace. With consistent practice of asanas, changes become apparent on many levels, physical and mental. A deep sense of contentment and inner peace arises, and it is then that we can begin to more clearly understand the other seven limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

            More from that site: Internal heat is produced from within, and is described as burning up the impurities in the body, the toxins liberated from the tissues by each posture.

            There is no doubt it is both religious and pseudoscientific.

          • Isilzha

             So, if you can “feel” it then it must be true?  ::sigh:: You are REALLY missing the point!  It’s FAKE…it’s PSEUDOSCIENCE and it’s WISHFUL thinking!

            • C Peterson

              If you can feel it, it is real. That doesn’t mean that it exists as some sort of natural or supernatural force. Our feelings have underlying physical causes, be they external or internal. Most practitioners of Yoga see it as an exercise regimen, often combined with mental focus techniques (like meditation) that are certainly beneficial in many cases.

              I don’t recognize any pseudoscience in that, and I don’t think that the benefits of Yoga go beyond physical exercise and mental clarity. Certainly, I don’t see any supernatural component, and I don’t think most practitioners do. And I don’t see anything in the news stories to suggest it is being presented as such in school.

              • Hankq_59

                There is no evidence to support that Yoga helps with Mental clarity or reduces stress as is quoted in the news article linked by Hemant: “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.” –

                I’ve already posted links from the foundation that clearly show it is religious and pseudoscientific. If this were a priest coming into schools teaching children that the act of eating a cracker in a communion ceremony (but that they had removed all of the Christian dogma from the ceremony) reduces stress, how would you feel?

                • C Peterson

                  That is absolute nonsense. Millions of people feel an improvement in stress levels from Yoga. Simple exercise alone can explain that! And meditation is well known (and scientifically demonstrated) to reduce stress.

                  If somebody claims that Yoga achieves its benefits by some mystical channeling of universal energy, I’ll be first in line to call bullshit on them. But that isn’t how most people see it, and just because it has its origins in bogus beliefs doesn’t mean it can’t have very real benefits for completely different- and completely supportable- reasons.

                • Hankq_59

                  C Peterson,please show any scientific study that shows Yoga helps stress anymore than a simple stretch. The whole notion that it helps with stress is based on the supernatural energy concept. Yoga helps relieve stress as much any other stretching exercise, there is no evidence to support that it is any better than touching your toes without bending.

                • C Peterson

                  I don’t know that Yoga does reduce stress more than simple stretching. I don’t believe I suggested otherwise. In fact, that’s what Yoga is for most people: simple stretching combined with mental relaxation techniques. As such, it is beneficial, and I can’t see what possible grounds there are to oppose it.

                • Hankq_59

                  Again, show me one resource that shows Yoga, any Yoga class for that matter, does not include energy in its teaching.

                • LifeInTraffic

                  I can show you me. I regularly practice yoga,which has tremendously helped my kneesand probably savedme from a (fourth) knee surgery. None of the yoga classes I take at Gold’s Gym have any talk of energy, prana, etc.   The only way I can show you that is for you to join me, I suppose, but you askedfor *a* yoga class that doesn’t teachpsuedoscience. I’ve been doingyoga for the better part of a decade on and off, and the classes I’ve takenat yoga studios do, often,discuss the energies, etc. (which I just ignore), but the classes taught at most main-stream gyms I’ve been to almost neversay a work aboutit.

                  And, simply because something was rooted in misunderstandings or religioun does not make it worthless.May of our modern medicines are derived from plants used in the past for healing. The “why”they worked was wrong, but the fact that they did work was right on. Should we throw thoseout just because their initialmechanisms were misunderstood?

              • Isilzha

                Dude, you need to go look at some optical illusions for a while to understand the concept that perception is NOT reality!

                • C Peterson

                  Optical illusions are reality. They demonstrate in a very real way how our minds process data.

                  An illusion is a real thing, even if it does not accurately represent some particular reality.

                • Isilzha

                  For FUCKS sake, dude…optical illusions are NOT reality!  THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT FOR FUCKS SAKE!

                • C Peterson

                  You are deeply ignorant about illusions, and about what they teach us. Nearly as ignorant, apparently, as you are about Yoga.

                • Isilzha

                   Heh…and you refuse to see how much you’re basing on fucking faith, asshole.

                • Isilzha

                  I’ve taken MORE than a few Yoga classes.  However, that does NOT mean I’d want my kid to take a class in yoga from anyone trained by the Jois organization.  The point is that kids do NOT have the critical thinking skills that adults have.

                • Isilzha

                   BTW, optical illusions are NOT reality…and that’s part of the POINT!

                • 3lemenope

                  Optical illusions are real things which have the property of seeming to be something other than that which they are.

                  Misdirection is a different thing than no direction at all.

                • Isilzha

                  Optical illusions are not just misdirection.  Many of them use some basic flaws in our biology to confuse us!  For example, do you realize that you have a HOLE in your vision.  Yep, where the optical nerve is, there’s actually a hole…our brains fill in the missing info!  Have you never heard of the “blind spot”?  It’s a PHYSICAL property of our visual process!
                   
                  Even more interesting are people with injuries to the occipital lobes (the part of the brain that interprets visual information).  Their eyes can still “see”, but their brains don’t interpret the information, at least not consciously.  In fact, they can often react to visual input without realizing they “see” it! 

                  3lem, it’s obvious you don’t really know what optical illusions really are and what they tell us about our perceptions of the world.

                • 3lemenope

                  Have you never heard of the “blind spot”?  It’s a PHYSICAL property of our visual process!
                  If you’d settle down and actually read, this is precisely what C Peterson and I are trying to point out, that optical illusions are experiences generated by physical processes. Physical processes exist, it could shortly be said without getting mired in metaphysics, and so whatever generates the experience of an optical illusion exists. Even if it is a structural element of the optic nerve itself, I think we can confidently say for our purposes that the optic nerve is a physical object that exists. 

                  So, for example, the scintillating dot-grid illusion depends on a physiological quirk of human sight. But, in order to generate the experienced illusion, both those idiosyncrasies of the human visual system and the actual physical grid must be present; both are necessary physical antecedents of the experience. 

                  Likewise, perceiving a Kanizsa Triangle seems to meet your criteria of seeing something not actually there, but what you are really seeing is the perception generated by the three pac-mans and the three pieces of dilapidated triangle; that the brain uses cognitive processes to “fill in” a white triangle that is not explicit in the image does not mean that the thing generating the illusion does not exist, as the three pac-mans and three pieces of triangle are necessary to generate the illusion.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Like I’ve been saying, it’s metaphorical or used as imagery to help focus the mind!

            • C Peterson

              That certainly seems consistent with what I see my wife doing, or the handful of Yoga classes I’ve participated in.

        • Shouldbeworkin’

          “Virtually every person I know who has taken Yoga or who is involved in Yoga, teaches some form of this nonsense.”

          You are using the “anecdote as data” fallacy. The fact that
          everyone you know has done this or experienced that is merely a testament to
          the infinitesimally small number of people that you (and everyone else)
          actually know.

          • Hankq_59

            Should, you are absolutely right. That was a poorly constructed argument. However, if you look at the other posts I’ve made including the one from the foundation providing instructors to the school. The Yoga being taught at the school does include this energy nonsense. If you have evidence that Yoga does not include this energy aspect, I’m all ears.

      • Sindigo

        I have practised Yoga, Qi Gong and Tai Chi of various sorts for about 10 years and I’ve attended many classes and workshops; way too many to count. I can only recall one occasion (except when I was teaching, I might add) when the subject of “energy” came up and the instructor gave a rational, science-based interpretation of any kind. He was a chinese monk, BTW and a performer with the Shaolin Wheel of Life. In pretty broken English he told us all that the energy we were supposed to be visualising was “a metaphor” and to “not take seriously”.

      • Isilzha

         So how come your anecdotes should have more weight/truth that those of other people who’ve spoken to the inclusion of nonsense in yoga classes? 

        I wouldn’t want my kid taught about Qi like it was a real thing any more than I would want them taught about jeebus.

        • C Peterson

          I wouldn’t want pseudoscience taught, either. But Christians are on damn shaky ground using that as an argument!

          Pseudoscience isn’t religion. The First Amendment doesn’t enjoin schools from teaching pseudoscience. If the argument here is about pseudoscience, then fine, make that argument. But that’s not what those protesting this class are saying.

          • Hankq_59

            But this pseduoscience is based on a religious belief! And anytime energy (as addressed by Yoga) is brought into this discussion, it becomes a religious issue.

            • C Peterson

              Hardly. If “energy” simply refers to the feeling you get when focusing on parts of your body, there’s nothing false about this. And even if the practitioner believes this energy to be something external, that doesn’t make this a religion.

              • Isilzha

                 It sill makes it your wishful thinking.

              • Hankq_59

                But it does make it metaphysical and supernatural.

                • C Peterson

                  No, it does not.

                • Hankq_59

                  Still awaiting any resource that svalidates your claim most yoga practitioners don’t believe this nonsense. I could fill up thousands of pages of Yoga schools and practitioners that espouse this nonsense.

                • C Peterson

                  Practitioners are not teachers. The simple fact is that people of all religions practice Yoga, and don’t seem to find it has any religious significance.

                  What teachers believe isn’t really relevant… especially in this case, where the teachers aren’t Yoga experts at all, but merely public school teachers who will receive some training in exercise techniques.

          • Isilzha

            You’re still missing the point–Qi is a religious concept and I wouldn’t want it taught to my child in the SAME vein that I wouldn’t want them taught about allah, jesus, or zeus like it’s a real thing!

            • C Peterson

              No, you’re missing the point. Very few practitioners of Yoga give a damn about “Qi” or view it as something supernatural or scientific, and there’s no evidence that it’s a part of what the school is teaching at all.

              • Isilzha

                ::sigh::  Nope…if an organization includes such nonsense in their website then it’s VERY likely to show up in any class they teach!  I wouldn’t want a Baptist church teaching the bible as literature class for similar reasons!

              • Hankq_59

                C Peterson, please back up your claim that few practitioners of Yoga don’t view Qi as Supernatural or Scientific. If you could find one website, that didn’t mention energy or Qi, I’m sure I could find a hundred that did. There is plenty of evidence that the school providing the instuctors teach its instructors believe in Qi and its supernatural existence as I’ve already shown. You are making a huge logical leap that those instructors won’t teach the very basis of the reason that they perform Yoga in the first place.

            • Steve1960

              Pull them out and protect them by homeschooling. Who knows what your everyday teacher is telling them. Meanwhile let’s deprive our kids of another way to get and stay on shape. How ignorant.

        • Coyotenose

           I don’t think it’s addressed above (it should be) but the school claims that the religious and woo aspects of Yoga are not a part of this class. It’s just stretching for exercise, development and stress relief.

          • Hankq_59

            Coyote, then at best, they are being taught pseudoscience and, at worst, they are teaching the supernatural. Either way, it has no business in a school.

            • C Peterson

              How are stretching, exercise, and stress relief “pseudoscience”? These things are all beneficial results of Yoga, and not in the least bit controversial.

              • Hankq_59

                Stretching and exercise can come from anything. there is no need for Yoga. But there is zero scientific evidence that Yoga helps relief stress. The preseumption that it relieves stress is based upon the mythical energy: http://www.skepdic.com/essays/energyhealing.htm

                • C Peterson

                  Your statement is demonstrably false given that exercise alone relieves stress, and Yoga is exercise.

                  Saying there’s no need for Yoga because there are other ways of exercising is like saying there’s no reason for calisthenics, or jogging, or weight training, because the same benefits can be achieved by other forms of exercise.

                • Isilzha

                  Wow…you REALLY believe in yoga!

                • C Peterson

                  Personally, I don’t practice it. Not my cup of tea. But I know enough people who genuinely benefit from it to recognize that it has value. I’m familiar enough with how it is taught and practiced in the U.S. to know that it has no religious component at all, and at most just a bit of woo, which few practitioners pay much attention to.

                  What I do care about is hearing people who clearly have paranoid ideas about Yoga, and who spout off absolute nonsense generalizations about what is, for the most part, nothing more than an exercise method- here on a forum that should be emphasizing rationality, not absurd, emotion driven ideas!

                  I’m not making an argument for Yoga here so much as an argument against the irrational views of its opponents.

                • Isilzha

                   ::sigh::  Fine, I’ve taken many a yoga class over the years and I KNOW how it’s usually taught (fille d with mystical energy woo nonsence crap).  I would NOT want that taught to my KID!  Yoga for adults is a different thing ENTIRELY.

                • Hankq_59

                  Again, show me one website for a Yoga practitioner that does not espouse this nonsense.

                • Hankq_59

                  Yay! Everybody should practive Yoga! Lets ignore the fact that there is no extra benefit than what is achieved by walking. But the upside is that we get some religion and supernatural hogwash thrown in. 

                • C Peterson

                  No. Everybody should practice walking, at the exclusion of all other exercise methods, since it is of equal value.

                • LifeInTraffic

                  That is actually false. The benefits of walking and stretching exercises, yoga or otherwise, are not entirely the same. One is a cardiovascular activity, the other improves flexibility and range of motion and can decrease post-activity muscle pain.

              • Isilzha

                 They don’t call it yoga and don’t train instructors from the Janis organization!

    • http://cryofly.myopenid.com/ Anuran

      Humans inherently seek explanation for everything that they are asked to do. Indo-Chinese exercise regimen is no different. The fact is that when you raise your hands upward you inhale and exhale as you relax your hands. Over many many years teachers have incorporated religious and made-up explanations for these effects so that the practitioner would enthusiastically be observant of the instruction. Thus the pseudoscience and religious philosophies of the East has concomitantly evolved along with the evolution and spread of these yoga/tai’chi practices. It is a sorry state of affair that even today, when we can comprehend the physiological basis of these exercises, the instructions still tend to incorporate the religious/pseudoscientific explanatory sub-notes. Hopefully someone can edit it for rational practitioners as I still believe yoga and tai’chi form of exercises are way superior to exertional exercises such as running.

      • Coyotenose

         I think that part of your third sentence is missing.

      • JRB

        If you’re serious about a more rational form of Yoga, I’d encourage you to see if there’s a Moksha studio near you.  My wife introduced me to it a couple months ago and my god is it a fantastic work out.  Occasionally you’ll get an instructor who will make a vague reference to “energy” but the focus is on the positions, breathing and a bit of relaxation to start and end the class.  Despite going two or three times a week, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to roll my eyes at something that offended my skeptic/atheist sensibilities.

        Even their website is pretty woo free with only a few references to “detoxifying” but since it is hot yoga (the room is set to 37C) you will sweat pretty hard throughout the class and I’m willing to give them a pass on that claim.  (They also make some claims about activating the pineal gland in certain poses that I’m not qualified to evaluate but at least their talking about serotonin and not Qi.)

    • Sindigo

      I have to agree with you. If they are doing Yoga without any religious or similarly bullshit overtones then fair enough but I doubt it and if I were a parent of a child in that in that school I would want to observe a class and have a chat with the instructor before I let my kid take it.

      • LifeInTraffic

        This I agree with. While their website does contain a good bit of woo, they may not be teaching it in their classes.  Many of my yoga instructors over the years have taught at studios that were more woo-focused because it’s where they could find work, not because they agreed with or cared about the woo (yoga certification is expensive, so if you’re going to be certified, you need to work).

        I’ve co-taught children’s yoga classes at my local gym, and the classes didn’t talk about any energy or other woo. We focused on movement, balance, flexibility, and fun. If yoga classes at this school are taught in the same vein, I don’t know why it would be any more of an issue than teaching track, dance, etc.  If they’re hawking religion or woo, then obviously it’s a problem. So, wouldn’t the easy thing to do be for, as Sindigo to suggest, parents to ask some questions or audit a class to see? 

  • JWH

    They may have a point.  I don’t think one can comment one way or the other without thoroughly examining the content of the yoga class.

    • Isilzha

      Based on what I’ve read from their website, I’d want an observer for EVERY class.

  • cipher

    Go to the North County Times article and read the comments. There are a few posted by parents who’ve attended the classes; they insist no supernatural content is included.

    By contrast, one of the commenters calls him/herself NCLP Lawyer – I presume it’s the one involved in the case – and is fulminating about the spiritual components of yoga, the people playing down the spiritual aspects don’t know what they’re talking about, etc. Of course, if mandatory Christian prayer were being imposed, this lawyer wouldn’t be saying a word and would be outraged if anyone were to challenge it.

    Conservative Evangelical Christians may be the most one-way people in the miserable history of this sorry species – and they’re too goddamn stupid and brainwashed to see it.

    • Hankq_59

      There are millions of Christians/others who visit acupuncturists every year and I’m sure they would insist there was no supernatural content there either.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

         Okay, you need to chill. Maybe the kids are being taught a supernatural component to these yoga classes, or maybe they’re not. No way for us to know without further information. But your insistence in virtually every comment that yoga almost *always* includes these spiritual/supernatural aspects is wearing thin.

        I’ve been to several yoga classes and it has invariably been an instructor barking positions at me and then repeat on the other side. The most woo-y it’s ever gotten was during the rest phase at the end one instructor told me to let my mind wander and go blank. I mostly just did an internal eyeroll and thought, “Nice cold floor feels good on hot, sweaty, tired muscles.”

        • Hankq_59

          Julie, again, the website for the organization training the instructors clearly teaches this nonsense. I am open if you can show me any yoga instructor/website that doesn’t promote this nonsense.

          • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

             And that’s no bueno, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s carrying over to the classes taught in gym. I’d have to see it before passing judgment.

            Wait, seriously? You’re demanding solid proof  after making an anecdotally-charged assertion your own self that all yoga includes energy mysticism? What do I have to do, film one of my classes for you? The instructor I use doesn’t have a website, she advertises classes by posting flyers on the student union bulletin board.

            • Hankq_59

              No Julie, you don’t. I’ve shown multiple resources here that clearly show that Yoga is based on the belief in Qi. The very word Yoga means that uniting of the physical and spiritual. Now, you are telling me practicing Yoga does not mean that. I am simply asking for evidence, not personal experience, that shows that. Sorry to have offended you by asking for proof.

              • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

                No, you’re asking for a standard of proof that you do not meet yourself. And I quote: “Virtually every person I know who has taken Yoga or who is involved in Yoga, teaches some form of this nonsense.”

                So it’s okay for you to sling around anecdotes to back up your assertion that ALL yoga must involve energy/mysticism/etc. but when someone comes along and says, “Uh, I do yoga, and none of that is involved.” you suddenly require proof.

                No one here is saying that the practice doesn’t largely include those things, or maybe even was originally based in such beliefs, but we are disputing the claim that you can’t practice yoga free of mysticism. I do it regularly in the privacy of my home. No “ohm”, no “namaste”, just stretching, improving my flexibility and core muscle control, and working up a healthy sweat.

  • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt Eggler

    Love the conversation here.  I am depressed, but by no means shocked, by the hypocrisy of the National Center for Law & Policy. ” We must have the freedom to force our Christianity wherever and whenever we choose. All other religions may only be practiced in their own homes and temples, preferably housed in buildings with no distinctive architecture or signage, with the blinds shut. Because if even one Christian can see it inadvertently while passing down the street, that is CRIMINAL and a MORAL OUTRAGE. Once we have them sufficiently ghettoized, we will start on the infighting of what is the CORRECT form of Christianity.” it’s the same old, same old.
     
    As far as the yoga classes go, I am very dubious. My father takes yoga classes, my wife has as well and I have taken Tai Chi classes and we have yoga and Tai Chi DVDs. Our kids have been in some yoga classes and have some yoga DVDs as well. While it is possible to practice and teach these disciplines in a non spiritual manner, my experience says they seldom are. My sample size is small, nine classes and seven DVDs, but even though I specifically sought out classes that were non-spiritual, they were still chok full of Chakras, Prana Qui, etc. My father’s yoga classes are the only ones I’ve come across with out spiritual content. Personally, for myself, I enjoy the exercise and treat the rest as metaphor, but my experience has shown me that the majority of these classes contain a vague, Westernized, New Age, cafeteria mishmash of Buddhism and Hinduism (Binduism?) and other eastern traditions. Easy enough for me to ignore but I don’t like it being tough to my young kids. 

    • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

       I wonder if this depends where you live. Very wooish areas might have a higher prevalence of the mystical stuff. I swear, I have never had a yoga instructor talk to me about prana, chakras, etc. It’s just been an hour of, “Get into downward dog, move into plank, rotate up into half moon…”

    • TeachBasics

       It’s not about any one’s particular ‘experience’ in Yoga. That varies, from person to person. (Some who practice Ashtanga Yoga have gone mad, developed mental illness, become depressed, become promiscuous…. and more.)

       It’s about the Purpose & Intention of YOGA.  The PURPOSE of YOGA is to gain Enlightenment. That is, to disassociate from all Physical Existence, and merge with Absolute, get off the Wheel of Reincarnation & Suffering.

      Jois Ashtanga Yoga Foundation, is merely seeking converts to its own set of beliefs. They happen to have a limitless supply of $$$, so that is why it as been wholeheartedly accepted in Cash strapped Public Schools.  There is no way, this would be happening if Encinitas District had to pay the 1/2 million dollars for the Yoga Program.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Harrison/23417637 Michael Harrison

    Wasn’t this an episode of Moral Orel?

  • Isilzha

    They also don’e practice on “moon” days (whatever THEY really are)–

    Why We Don’t Practice on Moon DaysIt has always been the tradition in
    Ashtanga Yoga to rest from asana practice on new and full moon days
    (tithis). When asked why we shouldn’t practice on these days, Guruji was
    fond of saying, “Two ‘plantets’ [grahas] one place, very dangerous.”
    What is meant by this is that on these days, the sun and the moon are in
    a line relative to the position of the earth. Consequently, their
    gravitational forces are all combined, and thus the effect of the
    ‘plantets’ more pronounced. One definitive effect of this is that the
    ocean’s tides are higher and lower on these days. When asana practice is
    done daily, rest days are important for regeneration; and the extra
    biweekly ‘moon day’ comes as a welcomed respite.

    Why do Jois moon days vary from other Ashtanga Yoga schools?

    We use the Indian method of calculation, and we get our moon days from the following online source: http://www.mypanchang.com.

    • Isilzha

      So, one question would be–do they adhere to “moon” days when they teach at the school?  If they do, then it’s a religious practice and not just exercise!

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        I think the point here that everyone’s missing is that given all this info, I don’t think the parents and the National Center for Law & Policy are being unreasonable, *in this particular instance.* At least it’s very easy to see why they’re upset– they can presumably use Google as well as we can. Certainly all the religious and superstitious trappings may in fact have been stripped from the classes, but we don’t know that for sure. I doubt we atheists would be comfortable with a class led by a Christian organization with religious info on its website, even if assured that all religion had been removed from the content. 

        In any event I simply don’t think mockery of the parents and lawyers is called for here. That doesn’t mean I’m generally in their camp; it just means that in this case, I can see their point. They have some valid reasons for concern, IMHO.

        • Isilzha

          I’m certainly not mocking the parent’s concern.  I happen to think there may be some validity to it.  I wouldn’t want my kid attending a bible lit class taught by a baptist pastor either!

          I think yoga can be great exercise, but it really needs to be striped of ALL the silliness!  Teach the Wii Fit version!  That’s yoga postures WITHOUT all the silly religious/mystical trappings!

          • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

            “I’m certainly not mocking the parent’s concern.  I happen to think there may be some validity to it. ”

            I know you’re not, but I think the original post was mocking them a bit, with the “evil, evil yoga!” stuff. I think after all this discussion, many of us can at least see where they’re coming from now, even if we’re not going to run out and support the National Center for Law and Policy on a regular basis *shudders*.

        • Hankq_59

          Marguerite, I agree. I don’t think they are being unreasonable at all in this instance.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        You could always incorporate them as a day of relaxation every other week. A day to let the body recuperate. I have a hard time seeing that as a bad thing.

  • decathelite

    Perhaps they are worried about karma running over their dogma.

  • TnkAgn

    So, old people should be forbidden to practice Tai Chi in a public park because of it’s Daoist origins?  Oh the Yin and Yang of it all!

  • Persephone

    Can anyone recommend a good “Yoga without the woo bullshit” DVD or website? I really want to use it as a part of my cross-training because flexibility and core strength are awesome, but the woo bullshit is a deal-breaker for me.

    • Isilzha

      Wii Fit really strips the yoga of it’s woo nastiness.  

    • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

      YogaX (part of the P90X program) will kick your ass. He does talk a bit in the beginning about clearing your mind and being completely blank, blah blah blah. But it’s thankfully brief and then you get to the work out.

  • CultOfReason

    Often times, when Hemant posts about FFRF asking schools or local governments to stop with Christian-specific prayers, we hear an uproar about how the poor Christians are persecuted.  Hemant then goes on to question how these poor, persecuted Christians would react if the prayers or activities were non-Christian (such as Muslim, Hindu, etc…).  Well, even though I don’t think Yoga is necessarily religious, I think we have our answer as to how they would react.

  • Trickster Goddess

    Yeah, this also happened several years ago in a school in northern BC when one parent had the same complaints. It never went anywhere. The rest of us had a good  chuckle over it.

  • Lefty

    it takes NO stretch of the imagination to separate yoga’s physical aspect from its hocus pocus. CTFO. if you’ve ever done a plank exercise, you’ve done yoga – safe from chi, qui, quiche, or chia pets. whatever. ab muscles are good.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Because stretching and relaxation are EVIL!

    *SMFH*

    My high school offered yoga as a Phys Ed course. I took it, because, hey, easy A, I get some downtime in a sensory-friendly environment, and maintaining my flexibility and mobility is of the good. The concepts of energy and chakras were introduced, yes, but entirely as metaphorical constructs designed to aid in a guided relaxation exercise.

    So, yeah, this is fucking silly. Just let the kids stretch and relax and de-stress. It’s good for them. And I’d suggest these parents who are upset need a little stretching and de-stressing, too.

  • iiwdn

    The greater danger here is not from Christianity or any other group for that matter, rather from narrow minded fundamentalism.

  • Sue Blue

    Do they also have a problem with tae kwon do or karate or kung fu or any other Eastern (non-Christian origin!!!)  martial arts?  Many of these have a meditation component as well, but I’ve never heard a peep about Satan infiltrating the minds and bodies of kids taking tae kwon do or karate.

    • Armored Scrum Object

      Some Christians certainly do say such things. Pat Robertson claimed just a few years ago that some martial arts involve inhaling demon spirits to achieve superhuman strength.

      • Sue Blue

        Pat Robertson is either senile or in serious need of antipsychotics.  I swear he and Cotton Mather would be perfectly comfortable burning witches together.  Someone needs to build a time machine and send that asshole back to the 16th century.

  • Greg1466

    “Teaching the Bible as literacy? Not a problem. No fight from Christian groups.
    Teaching a non-religious yoga class? “THEY’RE TAKING AWAY OUR RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES!””

    No, it’s even more hypocritical than that.  it should be:

    NOT being able to teach the Bible? “THEY’RE TAKING AWAY OUR RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES!”

    Teaching anything OTHER than the Bible? “THEY’RE TAKING AWAY OUR RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES!”
     

  • Guest

    Atheists supporting Hinduism? I suppose pantheistic religions is something like the atheist one. God is the universe and everyone eventually uniting with god(atheists in the form of star dust). The authority is the self so no humility needed. Just lots of incarnations.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      Hinduism is just as nonsensical as Christianity, but that doesn’t make yoga a religious activity.

  • Stevesms1960

    I am glad their are ignorant people. They have probably never done yoga. They make it easier to compete in life. They are probably fat and oh of shape too. Lol yoga religious how stupid

  • classyoga

    Fact: Real Yoga is Hinduism; taught by Hindus. If anyone has a problem with Hinduism, just leave Yoga alone.

  • Pete

    I just don’t really care for the mocking tone of the article. Christians get ragged on by non-Christians for being too unaccepting, which would lead me to believe that they (Non-Christians) are more accepting since this is the complaint they have, and yet time and time again all we see is joking and mocking. It’s as if by claiming to be open-minded, you actually show you are not really any more open-minded than the same believers which are mocked. As far as I’m concerned, that’s fine, we all have the right to our opinions and action, whether they are right or wrong, and I don’t love any less, but man it would be nice to not be doing the same thing you complain about.


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