Web Exclusive: Yoga controversy in schools

(CNN/KSWB) -  Yoga is now part of the curriculum at a California elementary school.  But, not everyone is joining in on the yoga.

"You can watch me first just so you guys all know what to do?" said Kristen McCloskey. 

It's last period at Encinitas Op Elementary. Balance, flexibility and strength are the lessons of the day.  The yoga class is one of many being offered across the Encinitas School District thanks to a private grant from the Jois Foundation, an Encinitas based group that promotes the practice of yoga.

District officials say it's all part of a larger initiative to help students be more healthy and active. School officials say they've received overwhelming approval from parents, but not everyone is happy.  Some parents have asked their children be taken out of the yoga lessons, claiming the practice of is a course in Hinduism.  "We're really hoping this will help the kids feel more focused when they're in the classroom," says McCloskey. 

Kristen McCloskey is the yoga instructor at the school.  She's been practicing yoga for 13 years and says while the roots of the exercise is spiritual; the class is anything but.  "Yes, the roots of Yoga is based in Hinduism; however, we as Americans have really brought it into our culture to gain the actual physical and mental benefits of it. It is purely the physical and the mental benefits that we're trying to convey to the children," says McCloskey. 

For now, district officials are confident the benefits will outweigh the criticism.  "We believe the yoga program will actually have academic benefits and in fact there is research out there that show that," says Tim Baird, Encinitas School District Superintendent. 

Parents who oppose the yoga class say they just wish the time, effort and money were invested in other subjects like math and science.


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