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April 21, 2014

Downward Dogma: The Hindu Threat

Islamophobia is so 2010.

To meet the more current threat totally not facing our nation, one must travel to the town of Encinitas—located on the California coast between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Encinita’s local school district has received a $533,000 grant from a local yoga studio enabling students to learn about healthy eating, cultivating small gardens, and… (*cue shrieking violins from Hitchcock film*) Ashtanga yoga. Elementary school students in the district began taking yoga for 30 minutes, twice per week. Parents can opt their kids out of the program, but only 3 to 4 families at each school have chosen to do so.

Radical Hindu militants.

Theocratic Hindu radicals, shirking their responsibility to play violent video games.

You already know where this is going. A handful of local yahoos freaked out and conjured visions of their wee ones being indoctrinated with exotic Hindu hatred of Jesus. Words that begin and end in a vowel are not to be trusted.

What’s amusing about their phobia is that yoga couldn’t be more mainstream at this point. Approximately 22 million Americans practice it, and it’s a good bet that the majority of them have never read the Bhagavad Gita—Hindu’s 700-verse sacred text.

Eugene Ruffin is a Catholic who runs a Highway 101 yoga studio near Encinitas.

“It’s hard to know how to respond to someone who says if you touch your toes, you’re inviting the devil into your soul,” Ruffin told the LA Times, adding that those who go to his yoga studio are predominantly Christians and Jews.

Ergo, the militant Hindu uprising appears to be a massive failure on par with the surging tide of Sharia Law imagined by your crazy uncle.

saraklaudtwhitney

Sara Whitney paying homage to the dragonfly in her Juneau studio.

Sara Whitney is the vice president of Rainforest Yoga in Juneau, Alaska, and a certified yoga teacher. She’s also the mother of two young school kids, so I asked for her perspective on the Encinitas YogaGate controversy

“Yoga is not a religion—it’s a system of self-care that can be practiced by anyone with any belief system, regardless of the culture from which it arose,” Whitney explained to me. “It teaches children a lot about their bodies and how to calm themselves, and helps them develop self-control as well as strength and all the general benefits of exercise you’d expect.”

So it’s like gym class?

“It’s more than just exercise. Giving kids the mental space to be quiet and pay attention to their breath during the day will help them focus in school and probably get along better with each other, too. Kids need stress relief just as much as adults, and it’s a shame that misconceptions about what yoga is might prevent these kids from benefiting from an opportunity like this.”

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook and other school tragedies, it seems perverse that this is what some would seek to vanquish in court.

Namaste.

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8 Responses to “Downward Dogma: The Hindu Threat”
  1. mlaiuppa says:

    The Self Realization Fellowship Ashram in located right on the coast in Encinitas and I’m sure the locals are quite educated on what yoga does and does not entail. I’m sure they’re aware it is a passive physical exercise that reduces stress on the mind and the body. Something our students could certainly benefit from.

    The flack is coming from the ignorant. You know. The kind of right wing talibangelical nut jobs that want to control everyone else’s life. Unfortunately there are some conservative Xtian whackjobs in the county. They are the ones that don’t allow Halloween parades and try to get Harry Potter taken off library shelves. They are the minority. But they also have money, scream loud and hire lawyers. It doesn’t matter if they can opt out their kids. They want to make sure no one else’s kids can participate either.

    BTW, the gardens are beautiful and open to the public for free. A donation is requested by not mandatory. They have really done wonders. There is an area where you can see what kind of dirt they were working with when they first started. It is quite the tranquil and peaceful garden (with waterfalls and koi ponds.) I have a friend that lives several blocks away and we went there once. It is a beautiful place to visit. (There’s also a great yarn store a few blocks north.)

    (760) 753-2888
    939 Second Street
    Encinitas, CA

  2. I started going to a Yoga class last spring with my youngest daughter. The owner/instructor calls it self-care yoga and she modifies poses to suit those in class – some old and arthiritc (my problem), some with post -surgery issues (can’t kneel because of knee replacement), some with back issues, some young and pregnant. It’s been great – I take pain meds very little now and before I was taking them every day.

    Yes, there is some chanting at the end and she explains what it means. It in no way conflicts with my Christian beliefs. What I have found is that I feel better, I am more at peace. I also found that when we were travelling I was able to remain calm by just doing some of the simple breathing techniques when we were at the airport (I hate that part of flying nowadays). And I could stretch while we waited in the lines at Disneyland without being terribly obvious aobut it.

    The really funny thing is that back in the late 60s I took some private ballet lessons and my teacher did a lot of stretching with me. She commented that if she didn’t do that every day she wouldn’t be able to walk as her arthritis was so bad. She never said what we were doing but I know now that it was yoga. (Considering we both went to the same church I doubt that my spirituality was jeopardized.)

    Honestly, I would have been much happier if they had taught Yoga in school instead of offering gymnastics and track and all those sports that result in injuries.

  3. John says:

    Yoga can be part of a religious practice in tne same way drinking wine and eating wafers can be religious. But most people in this country do yoga for its health benifits and have no clue about its religious underpinnings. They also don’t know much about the religious underpinnings of a christmas tree. Which is all ok.

  4. simple mind says:

    So, how many of the folks who are afraid of yoga also have their kids in karate class?

  5. UgaVic says:

    Here is an opportunity for some kids to learn not only some good habits to help their studies but also how to take care of themsleves mentally and maybe help their ‘spirit’ some.

    Let’s hope the courts throw this to the curb and the parents who are so outraged learn to deal with their insecurities some other way!

  6. AKblue says:

    There is no downside to yoga: it is centering, uplifting, energizing, improves concentration. Unfortunately, that kind of balance in one’s life is too much for some people who cling to fear and ignorance.
    Everyone should try it; they would become believers.

  7. Alaska Pi says:

    I’m creeped out by the arguments of the attorney involved on the side of the parents who want the whole program dropped after reading the 2 linked news stories.
    Using the argument that no matter what the school district says , he can see Hindu religious teachings in the materials the schools uses is offensive in the sense of both being an aggressive attack and being obnoxious.
    I am sick and tired of the phony “Christian” attacks on anything and everything some doof decides might give them or their kids cooties – because that is all it is. Cooties. Some notion that there are getchas out there which a person cannot fend off which will burrow under your skin and eat your soul.
    What a loada!
    C’mon folks- you can opt your kids out of the program. That’s a nice tidy right to exercise- do it.
    Rave on in your tiny world where monsters mass just outside the flickering firelight of your narrow “faith” and leave the rest of us the hell alone.

  8. mike from iowa says:

    You know what they say-contorted bodies=contorted minds. I’ll wager orthopaedic specialists just hate these yoga practicing,liberal kommies.

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