Entries in Yoga (14)


Encinitas Union School District in California Sued over Yoga Classes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- What was intended as a fun addition to physical education in a California school district has sparked controversy among parents who feel Ashtanga yoga infringes on their religious beliefs.

The National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP) is representing a family that is suing the Encinitas Union School District for "civil rights violations resulting from its inherently and pervasively religious Ashtanga yoga program."

"If you research yoga and Hinduism, most people would say Hinduism is yoga and yoga is Hinduism," Dean Broyles, an attorney representing the family, told ABC News. "It's a situation where the state is endorsing religious beliefs and practices, which is forbidden under California and federal law."

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court Wednesday and outlines the concerns of the plaintiffs, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children are in the Encinitas Union School District.

According to a news release, the family is not seeking money damages, but instead is requesting to have the Ashtanga yoga program suspended entirely.

"The goal would be to have a judge order the district to comply with the law," added Broyles. "If they comply with the law, they will need to suspend the yoga program and offer physical education that complies with the law to their students."

Yet, Encinitas Superintendent Timothy Baird said the yoga classes are a "typical P.E. class" that have been a successful and positive component to the district's health and wellness program without any religious implications.

"If you were to walk in there, you would feel like you're going into a gym," Baird told ABC News. "The students come in, do some warmups, do the typical stretching and movement. There's absolutely no religious instruction that goes on, whatsoever."

"I believe what he is saying is just the motions of the yoga stretching is somehow invoking Hinduism -- and in America, where 90 to 95 percent of the practitioners are not even Hindu," Baird said.

The Jois Foundation, named after a noted pioneer of Ashtanga yoga, awarded the school district a $550,000 grant to introduce yoga. The group said on its website that it "is working to provide schools with health, wellness, and achievement during a time of massive budget cuts."

Since the grant, Baird said, all schools within the district offer the classes to approximately 5,500 students. However, Baird added, the yoga classes are not actually Ashtanga yoga because it is too demanding for students, but rather a modified version for the K-6 students.

"We are probably using some of the poses found in Ashtanga yoga," Baird told ABC News. "But we have modified this extensively to be done by students of this particular age. And all body types can be successful [with] what we are doing in our classes."

In the news release, NLCP called the yoga "inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and western metaphysical religious beliefs and practices." NCLP also cited a religious studies professor's support of the claim.

Approximately up to 30 families approached the district with concerns about the classes before the lawsuit was filed, Baird said.

"We have answered questions, we have had them observe classes, and where they were still uncomfortable we had the ability for students to opt out and do other activities," he said. "We thought we addressed the parents concerns here."

Regardless of the lawsuit, the classes will still be offered in all schools within the district, Baird said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


More Kids Turning into Yoga Practitioners

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Yoga is said to be the fastest-growing sport in America, with 20 million people practicing.  But the latest trend among yogis is that an increasing number of practitioners are pint-sized.

Kids -- from newborns to teenagers -- are learning the terms downward-facing dog, sun salutation and more in kids-only yoga studios and even in their classrooms . It's also one of the only non-competitive sports available.

"More practitioners and more parents are becoming aware of the benefits of yoga and seeing their kids can benefit too," said Liz Eustace, CEO of Alignyo, an online yoga community with a newsletter devoted to all things yoga.  "The things that benefit an adult will also benefit a child.  Stress reduction, mind-body connection, physical strength -- these are things that benefit kids as well as adults."

At a recent kids yoga class for 6- to 9-year-olds at YogiBeans, a kids-only studio on New York City's Upper East Side, both parents and children were anxious to talk about the good yoga has brought to their lives.

"It clears your mind off something that's really bothering you," said one little girl.

So how does a kids yoga teacher keep the kids attention on the "oommm" for an entire class?  While there are similarities between kids and adult yoga, a kids class is far more relaxed.

"[Kids and adult classes are] very different, but the foundation is always the same.  There's still the mind-body connection that is the foundation of all yoga," said Eustace.  "But what's great is there's a ton of creativity with kids yoga, like meowing like a cat, barking in downward dog or hissing like a cobra.  There's an incredible amount of creativity and playfulness within the foundation of yoga.  And it's these kids moving in such a creative and conscious way that makes it such a fun practice for children to get involved with."

Lauren Chaitoff, co-owner and instructor at YogiBeans, agreed.  

"It's going to be little bit sillier, more playful.  Kids are stressed these days, there are social pressures and pressure in school," she said.

Experts say parents should do their research before signing their kids up for a yoga program.  A good place to start is the Yoga Alliance website, where parents can search for a instructor that's been trained in children's yoga.  The voluntary standards put forth by Yoga Alliance require 96 hours of training to become registered.

If there are no children's yoga programs in your area, your kids can still benefit from the practice.

"There's great resources online and through books and through DVDs," said Eustace.  "Whether you're in a small community or a larger community you can still integrate a lot of the practices and teachings of kids yoga."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Yoga and Boot Camp Go to the Dogs

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Early in the morning, while most humans and their pets are still in bed, a few brave souls start the day with boot camp. They are not just pounding the pavement with two legs, however, but with many more -- three or four to be exact.  

They are taking part in Thank Dog! Bootcamp, a training program for dogs and their owners that has expanded to locations nationwide.

“We have aggressive dogs.  We have overweight dogs.  We have little dogs.  We have dogs with three legs,” Jill Bowers, the program’s co-founder, told ABC News.

The program, now in cities from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles, provides a one-of-a-kind fitness training program that allows dogs and their owners to work out alongside one another for an hour at a time.

“It’s sort of killing two birds with one stone,” Bowers said.  “No matter what, you need exercise.  A dog needs exercise and obedience training so they come every day.”

The idea for Thank Dog! Bootcamp was born in 2007 after Bowers began working out at Barry’s Bootcamp, a California-based workout program popular with celebrities like Kim Kardashian.  Bowers then had the idea to partner the company she already owned, Thank Dog! Training, Southern California’s leading dog obedience training company, with a Barry’s-like boot camp regime for owners and dogs alike.

“When people sign up for boot camp, they don’t leave because it becomes more of a lifestyle than anything,” Bowers said.

Bowers and her business partner at the time got the idea off the ground and, in 2009, Bowers partnered with Noelle Blessey, a personal trainer and boot camp instructor, to bring the boot camp portion of obedience training to life.

When instructors bark commands to, for example, run laps, both the pets and their owners sprint side-by-side.  When the human students work out with weights, perform jumping jacks and other exercises in one spot, their well-behaved pets quietly observe their owners, while leashed, by their sides.

After a tough boot camp session, when dogs and their owners want to unwind, they can turn to dog yoga classes, another trend in the exercise-with-your pet phenomenon.

Like doggie boot camps, doggie yoga classes, also known as Doga, have now popped up across the country.

The Bidawee Animal Shelter in New York City offers Doga events for “pet parents interested in trying this new fitness routine and helping their dogs maintain or achieve a healthy weight,” according to its website.

“It makes so much sense to do yoga with your dog since dogs already routinely practice yoga,” a Doga instructor at Bidawee told ABC News.  “[Dogs] are very much of the moment, they live in the moment.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Face Yoga Is the New, Natural Anti-Aging Trend

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The world of yoga keeps stretching to new extremes.  There’s aerial yoga, hot yoga and even karaoke yoga.  Now, the latest craze is yoga for the face.

Instead of the downward dog or warrior poses of traditional yoga, this new trend involves contorting the face into a variety of expressions, including the “lion face,” “fish face” and “satchmo.”

Facial yoga is designed to be a natural, non-invasive alternative to the Botox, fillers and plastic surgery that Americans pay millions of dollars for every year, and its proponents claim the facial exercises can help keep people looking younger.

Facial yoga was developed by Annelise Hagen, of New York Yoga, who wrote a book on mastering what she calls the ultimate facelift.  In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Hagen explained that there’s an actual technique to making the faces.

“If you just made weird squirmy faces randomly you’d get more wrinkles,” she said.  “We’re trying to tone and lift the muscles of the face.  It’s been scientifically proven that the muscular activity helps to prolong the production of collagen and elastin, which makes your face firm and springy.”

Hagen says facial yoga allows people to guide the way their face ages from the inside out.

Dr. Neil Sadick, who is the go-to dermatologist to some of the stars of The Real Housewives of New York, actually recommends yoga for the face to his patients, saying it promotes collagen production.

Face yoga stimulates muscles, Sadick said, adding that “although there’s not great science around it compared to other technologies like chemical peels or Botox, we know that by stimulating any component of your face like your muscles you’re going to have a beneficial effect in terms of your overall appearance.”

Jan O’Connell is a yoga and pilates instructor who’s now offering face yoga at Smart Workout in New York because she says the demand for it has increased tremendously.

“I think everyone has been saying that they feel more relaxed, a little more calm, also they’ll leave with a little bit of a rosy glow, maybe a little bit more of a lift in the eyes, and plus you have fun,” O’Connell told GMA.  “You make a lot of funny faces at your neighbor or at yourself in the mirror.  And we have a good time.”

The various faces have specific benefits.  For example, the “fish face” firms the cheeks and lips, while the “bumblebee” affects the cheeks, lips and jaw.  The “satchmo” targets the cheeks, and the lion face is supposed to stretch all the facial muscles and release tension, Hagen said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parents May Sue Over Yoga Lessons in Public Schools

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Parents in a southern California community are considering legal action over the constitutionality of a form of yoga being taught to their children, which they claim is introducing religion into public schools.

Last month, half of the students attending classes in the Encinitas Union School District K-6 elementary schools in San Diego North County began taking Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") yoga for 30 minutes twice per week. In January, the other half will begin the lessons.

Concerned parents have now retained constitutional First Amendment attorney Dean Broyles, who says that Ashtanga yoga is a religious form of yoga, and that religious aspects have been introduced into the schools.

"The poses and positions are acknowledged by Ashtanga and Hindi yoga as forms of worship and prayers to Hindu deities," he told ABC News. "They have a spiritual and religious meaning behind them."

Broyles said that although he was at first skeptical that there were truly religious belief and practices being taught to kids, the more he investigated and spoke with parents, the more he realized it was a constitutional issue.

Broyles says that he brought up the matter at a Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) trustees meeting, along with 60 concerned parents, on Oct. 9. Now the EUSD trustees will be reviewing whether the grant money violates the religious freedom of students and parents.

The yoga, which is being taught in all nine of the schools in the district, is being funded by a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world. All of the instructors teaching the students are certified and trained by the Jois Foundation in Ashtanga yoga.

Broyles points to hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones and his wife Sonia Jones, who is a known dedicated disciple of Sri Pattabhi Jois, the recently deceased master of Ashtanga yoga, as the money behind the EUSD yoga program. The district's program will be studied by the University of Virginia and University of San Diego to look at benefits of Ashtanga yoga, as outlined in a letter sent to parents by EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird.

"The study will look at the way that public school systems can impact student learning, health, positive relationships, and overall wellness through the implementation of a holistic approach to student wellness," Baird said in the letter.

Calls placed by ABC News to Superintendent Baird were not immediately returned.

The Tudor Joneses, Broyles says, were instrumental in the founding of the Jois Foundation and put up the money for the EUSD Ashtanga yoga grant. He says that parents are now not only questioning Hindu religion entering their schools, but the validity if this study being undertaken.

"We think that children are being used as guinea pigs," he said. "Following the money, you see what's going on … It would be like a charismatic Christian organization funding classes in worship and praise, and also funding a research center at a public university that is studying whether this is an effective form of exercise."

Broyles says that it has been argued that the in-school yoga programs have been stripped of their spirituality. But he says that kids in EUSD are being exposed to Hindu thought and belief within the school.

"On the wall there was a poster that showed the Ashtanga, or 8-limbed deity. There are words showing what the limbs are," he said. "The ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the universe, which is called Samadhi. They had a poster depicting that. Fundamentally it is a Hindu religion being taught through Ashtanga yoga."

Children are also being taught eastern meditation techniques to calm themselves, where one clears the mind of all thoughts, poses that were imparted by Hindu deities, and in one class were trained in drawing mandalas, according to Broyles.

Parents also raised specific concerns about the program aside from the religious aspects, saying that the fact that kids are taking 60 minutes of the 100 minutes per week allotted for physical education to do yoga is inappropriate. Broyles said that for 40 minutes per week the kids are not getting PE, and that they're not offering anything for kids that are opting out of the program.

Broyles says that there are some yoga enthusiasts in favor of the program; he says that people in the district don't really understand eastern mysticism, yoga's roots in Hinduism, and what's being taught.

"If we were introducing Christian worship of bowing, there would be outcry in the community," he said. "It's dangerous to kids."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Kumare': Fake Yoga Guru Exposes Real, Desperate Desire to Believe

Kino Lorber/Kumare(LOS ANGELES) -- Kumare speaks with a thick Indian accent. His hair is long, his beard is full, his feet are bare. Wrapped in a saffron sarong, Kumare effortlessly becomes a spiritual beacon for a curious bunch of truth seekers in Phoenix.

But Kumare, whose real name is Vikram Gandhi, is actually a hip 33-year-old filmmaker from New Jersey, who created a fake "yogalebrity" persona but wound up with a real American following.

"Isn't the most traumatic part of the illusion of Kumare is that the guy who they all thought was from another country actually grew up in Jersey?" he told ABC News in Los Angeles after the premiere of the resulting movie, Kumare: The True Story of a False Prophet.

"It's not about making fun of people," Gandhi said. "It's about the general absurdity of what we all believe."

Gandhi was raised in a Hindu household, the child of Indian immigrants. He watched, slack-jawed, as his fellow Americans embraced the spirituality of his Indian ancestors in search of truth.

"I think in the very beginning it was absurd," Gandhi said. "I was like, 'Are you pretending to be Indian?'"

About 15 million Americans practice yoga, which has grown into a $6 billion-a-year industry.

Gandhi started making the film about sadhus, or holy men, in India and the U.S. But soon he decided that a deeper truth could be found by becoming a religious leader himself. So he kicked off his shoes, grew out his beard and hair and started speaking in his Indian grandma's accent.

"When I was creating Kumare, who is this guy going to be, I was looking at the big ones, Jesus, Buddah, what did they say? What did they do? And the one thing I couldn't get down with that they could was saying that they had authority," Gandhi explained. "Kumare was about saying he didn't have authority."

Kumare's message was simple: The only guru you need is inside yourself -- that's the cornerstone of Kumare's invented "mirror philosophy."

"I wanted to sort of tell a cautionary tale about spiritual leaders," he said. "We trick ourselves to believe them so we can be happier too, so this was just sort of trying to unveil the trick."

Gandhi said he would tell every yoga class, and repeatedly tell his band of followers, that Kumare was not real, that he was no more a guru than the people in front of him.

"People often thought that was a riddle because the accent, because of the robe and because of what we are programmed to think as a holy man," he said. "It might be naïve, but I think everybody has a similar potential to be wise and good."

And then there came the day Gandhi had to unveil his true identity, for the sake of the movie and the philosophy behind it. How would his followers react?

Tune in to Nightline Friday night at 11:35 p.m. ET to see what happens when Nick Watt attends one of Vikram Gandhi's yoga classes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study Boasts Benefits of Yoga for Stroke Survivors

Goodshot/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) - Enthusiasts have long extolled yoga's benefits, particularly when it comes to mental health and exercise.  Now a new study, published in the journal Stroke, claims the popular discipline might also improve your quality of life.
Stroke is among the most common diagnoses among patients treated by rehabilitation therapists. These patients often suffer serious post-stroke impairments, including motor problems and difficulty with balance.  Up to 83 percent of stroke victims will struggle with balance and 73 percent will actually fall down. In fact, the fear of falling has a direct correlation on a patient's quality of life.
But researchers at Indiana University suggest that introducing yoga as part of rehab significantly improves balance and lessens a patient's fear of falling.  As a result, their study showed yoga intervention significantly improved quality of life and could prove a cost-effective benefit for stroke survivors.
The study was small, with only 47 patients participating, but the positive results warrant further research.
Interestingly, during post-study interviews, subjects said that because of improved balance, they were more likely to attempt new activities in different and more challenging environments. Though they were aware of potential fall risk, they'd grown more confident they could maintain their balance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Laughter Yoga: Smiling for Better Health?

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- Laughter yoga instructor Dawn Thurmond in Texas says laughter yoga techniques reduce stress and counteract depression.  

Watch Here:

video platform video management video solutions video player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Better Sex Through Yoga? Book Says ‘Yes!’

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The latest way to improve your love life doesn’t involve a slick how-to guide. It doesn’t involve Big Pharma, either.

It’s yoga.

According to William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga, which came out Feb. 7, there is real evidence yoga helps sex.  For example, the cobra pose boosts blood flow to the pelvis.

“Why spend millions on those little blue pills, right?” Broad said in an interview with ABC News.

Broad, a science writer for The New York Times, spent years combing through the scientific literature on yoga.

“I can cite you study after study after study,” Broad said. “We can go through hormones, brain waves, vaginal blood flow....”

Broad said yoga started in medieval India as a sex cult, a series of practices that used our sexual energies as the fast track to enlightenment.

Broad said he was familiar with the “yogasm,” a term coined by HBO’s Sex and the City to mean yoga-induced orgasm. Yogasms are now the topic of scientific study, he said.

Scientists at Rutgers University are conducting brain scans on women who lie under fluorescent lights, close their eyes and enter states of orgasmic bliss. The physical signs are visible on monitors, Broad said.

“[Y]ou can get into states where you are orgasmic without touching yourself,” he explained. "In the clinical literature, it’s called spontaneous orgasm. In the popular world, it’s called ‘thinking off.’”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


4 Ways to Practice Safe Yoga

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many of yoga’s practitioners tout its benefits for strength, flexibility and general health.

But the practice can also cause a range of injuries among beginners and experienced yogis alike, according to a report in the New York Times.

William Broad, author of the Times story and an upcoming book, “The Science of Yoga: Risks and Rewards,” describes gruesome injuries that have happened as a result of the practice -- popped ribs, ruptured spinal discs, torn Achilles tendons, even partial paralysis and strokes.

Yoga and sports injury experts say yoga is right for some people, wrong for others and, like any physical activity, carries an inherent risk of injury. But if people approach the practice in the right way, they can do a lot to minimize their risk of injury.

"Yoga is a powerful tool and if you misuse it, you’re going to end up in the emergency room,” said Leslie Kaminoff, a New York-based yoga educator and author of the book, “Yoga Anatomy.”

Here are some ways to keep your yoga practice safe:

No. 1 -- Know Your Limits

Experts say the chief culprit in yoga injuries is often overzealousness. Most people don’t think of yoga as a competitive sport but, at times, the need to out-perform others in class can seem irresistible.

Another path to potential pain comes from taking on classes meant for more experienced yogis. Certain types of practices, such as high-heat bikram yoga, can encourage stretching that’s too aggressive. Beginners should steer clear of classes that are too advanced or strenuous.

Karen Sherman, who studies yoga and other complementary medicine techniques at the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said it’s important to listen to your body and respect its limits.

No. 2 -- Poses Can Aggravate Injuries

Certain poses, too, can be too much for the casual yoga-phile and create problems if done incorrectly or by people with little experience.

Bar said certain seated, stretching poses can aggravate sciatica or injure spinal discs. Headstands can be risky for the nerves, blood vessels and joints in the neck and spine, not to mention the risk of injury from toppling out of the pose. Even certain breathing practices can exacerbate asthma.

Any sore joints, such as the hips, knees, wrists, shoulders, neck and back, can become more painful if tweaked or twisted in even the simplest of poses. For example, downward dog could put too much stress on an injured shoulder; forward- or back-bending might be too much for a strained back. Also, patients with other health concerns, such as high blood pressure, should steer clear of certain poses or yoga practices.

No. 3 -- Let Teachers Help

Injuries don’t necessarily put yoga off-limits. Students should let their instructors know if they are injured or have a medical condition so instructors can tailor a yoga routine to their specific physical needs.

Kaminoff said experienced teachers will get to know their students and ask to hear about any physical problems. Then, it’s up to the student to be honest with the teacher.

No. 4 -- Choose the Right Teacher

More people than ever before are toting yoga mats and regularly practicing their asanas. The number of Americans who do yoga has grown from nearly 4 million in 2001 to 20 million in 2011, according to the New York Times.

As interest in yoga has exploded in the last decade, the number of yoga studios and instructors has grown along with it. But not all teachers have the same level of qualifications and experience to safely teach yoga.  

To help choose the right teachers, experts offer this advice:

Observe a teacher’s class before you participate to see if it’s right for you.
Be sure a teacher is qualified; the Yoga Alliance certifies instructors as registered yoga teachers at basic, intermediate and advanced levels.
Avoid teachers that aggressively adjust your poses -- they may push your body over its limits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio