California District Accepts $1.4 Million Grant to Expand Yoga Program

Not only did the yoga program offered in the Encinitas Union School District avoid a shutdown, it has now been made a beneficiary of a $1.4 million grant that would allow district officials to expand it. According to Gary Warth of San Diego Union-Tribune, district officials have decided to accept the grant offered by the Sonima Foundation that will allow the district to hire an additional 8 yoga teachers as well as invest in the writing of a curriculum to help develop positive character traits in students.

The program drew national attention earlier this year due to a lawsuit filed by attorney Dean Broyles who argued that since yoga grew out of a religion, its practice in public schools violated the separation between church and state. In July, Judge John Mayor ruled that yoga did not constitute promotion of a particular set of religious beliefs by the district, noting that efforts taken by officials to draw distinctions between the Hindu faith and practice of yoga made it sufficiently secular for public schools.

Although Broyles, who was representing two Encinitas parents in the lawsuit aimed at stopping the 30-minute weekly yoga sessions, wasn’t at the meeting where the grant was announced, in an email he called the district’s decision to accept it “astounding.” Broyles, who is the president of National Center for Law & Policy, said that its actions were “an outrageous breach of public trust.”

Apparently the money served as much too powerful an intoxicant for the trustees to handle and far too easily purchased continuing egregious First Amendment violations.”

Broyles has said he plans to appeal the decision handed down by Superior Court Judge John Meyer on July 1.

The initial $533,000 funding for the program came from the Jois Foundation, named after Sri K. Pattabhi Jois who brought Ashtanga Yoga to the United States. Earlier this year the organization changed its name to Sonima and prior to the recently announced grants had already provided an additional $700,000 in funding to cover the program’s expenses.

Broyles painted the name change as an unsuccessful attempt by the group to disguise its religious ties.

Broyles said he believes district students in fact do know about Ashtanga Yoga because some participated in a conference about its teachings last March at the Catamaran Resort on Mission Bay.

The seminar included a discussion about teaching Ashtanga yoga to children in and out of the school system and a short demonstration with students from the district, according to a schedule of events about the event, he said.