US school tries to avoid religious controversy by not chanting 'Om' in yoga
A school in California is avoiding chanting Sanskrit words, "Om," or clasping hands in the prayer position in yoga, so as to steer clear of any religious controversy.
Encinitas Union School District (EUCD) has launched what is believed to be the US's most comprehensive yoga program for a public school system.
Parents opposed to the program said that the classes will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion and are not just for exercise, ABC News reported.
EUCD is believed to be the only public school system that will have yoga instructors teach full-time at its nine schools as part of an overall wellness curriculum, which includes nutrition and a school garden program, among other things.
"This is 21st century P.E. for our schools," ABC News quoted Encinitas Superintendent Timothy B. Baird as saying.
"It's physical. It's strength-building. It increases flexibility but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn't do," he said.
The program is expected to teach a 30-minute yoga lesson to roughly 5,000 pupils twice a week at the district's schools, that run kindergarten through sixth grade.
The program is funded with a 533,000 dollar-grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit whose board of directors includes the son of the late Indian instructor Krishna Pattabhi Jois, whose teachings are said to have popularized Ashtanga yoga in the Western world and were followed by Madonna and Sting.