Yoga Trial Without Resolution

May 23, 2013
children practicing yoga seated on desksThe trial of Sedlock v Baird continued Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and will go on hiatus until June, as reported by the UT San Diego. Attorneys from both sides of the case wish to call in more witnesses before making their closing arguments. The trial is scheduled to resume June 24.  Initial witnesses called to testify included Candy Brown, the Indiana University professor serving as expert witness for the plaintiff. Brown  presented arguments that yoga – including the style and program practiced in the Encinitias Union School District (EUSD) – is "inherently religious." 

Do you agree? The UT San Diego has been conducting an online poll, asking readers, "Do you think it's possible to teach yoga without religion?" The last time we checked approximately 85% of respondents had voted "Yes." You can weigh in yourself if you like.

A yoga teacher from the program, Jennifer Brown, was also called to testify. Brown denied the characterization of the yoga program as religious, claiming the sessions were secular, and even demonstrating a few poses in the courtroom, such as the "criss-cross applesauce pose." When asked about the “character lessons” taught in the program, the yamas and niyamas, she testified that these lessons of cleanliness and kindness are commonly taught in the classroom outside of yoga sessions. Brown, along with another yoga teacher, Andrea Silver, were both asked if they held any hidden agenda to promote Hinduism via teaching yoga. Their answer: no.

Superintendent of EUSD, Timothy Baird, also testified. While he humbly conceded that he is not an expert on religion, he continues to deny that the yoga program in Encinitas is religious. He noted that 40 children have opted out of the program and has previously shared anecdotal evidence that the yoga program improved grades at one school during the trial period. As he stated a few months ago, “This is 21st century P.E. (physical education) for our schools. It’s physical. It’s strength-building. It increases flexibility but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn't do.”

Stay tuned for more updates when the trial resumes in June. And feel free to share your thoughts online on our Facebook page or with your friends in the yoga community. This trial, while focused on one particular yoga program in California, could set a frightening precedent and deter the development of yoga in school programs elsewhere. Yoga Alliance® continues to support the defense of this case and we hope the EUSD prevails.

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