Yoga in School Is Not Religion

Children in the Encinitas Union School District may participate in yoga classes without fear that it promotes a particular religion in violation of the Constitution, a state appeals court has said.

In 2013, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their children challenged the Ashtanga yoga program that was added to the physical education curriculum in a Carlsbad elementary school saying it violated religious freedom provisions at the California Constitution.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded Friday “the program is secular in purpose, does not have the primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and does not excessively entangle the school district in religion.”

The decision upholds a trial court ruling that the Sedlocks appealed.

The yoga curriculum consisted of a series of grade specific lesson plans for the teaching of various yoga poses, breathing exercises and character traits, according to the court.  It also contained guided meditation scripts to use during the lessons.

The Sedlocks maintained that the curriculum was “overtly religious, “ pointing to statements such as: “Yoga brings out the inner spirit of the child,” which appeared in 2012 but was removed in the 2013 version.

Ultimately, Justice Cynthia Aaron held, “While the practice of uoga may be religious in some contexts, yoga classes as taught in the district are, as the trial court determined, ‘devoid of any religious, mystical, or spiritual trappings.’  Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the district’s yoga program does not constitute an establishment of religion in violation of … the California Constitution.”

Case Sedlock v. Baird, No. D064888




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