Teaching yoga in public schools does not encourage the spread of Hinduism and is not a threat to Christianity, a court in California has ruled.
The San Diego appeal court upheld a lower court ruling that tossed out a family's lawsuit that tried to block a local school authority – the Encinitas Union School District - from teaching yoga as an alternative to regular gym classes.
''While the practice of yoga 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,'' the court said in its ruling.
Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock and their two children had brought the lawsuit claiming yoga promoted Hinduism and inhibited Christianity. They were disappointed with the ruling and considering their options.
''No other court in the past 50 years has allowed public school officials to lead children in formal religious rituals like the Hindu liturgy of praying to, bowing to, and worshipping the sun god,'' attorney Dean Broyles said in a statement.
Paul V. Carelli IV, a lawyer for the district, said there were no rituals occurring in the classroom and no one was worshipping the sun or leading Hindu rites. The district said the practice is taught in a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance.
Yoga is now taught at schools across the U.S., but the district is believed to be the first with full-time yoga teachers at all schools.
A three-year grant from the K.P. Jois Foundation, a non-profit group that promotes Ashtanga yoga, provides twice-weekly, 30-minute classes to the district's 5,600 students.
About 30 families opted out of the classes begun in 2011.