Yoga class of their own

BY midday at a small country school in northern NSW, students have already enjoyed a yoga and meditation class when they open their vegetarian lunch boxes.

The children at Vistara Primary School, at Richmond Hill, Lismore are calm as they settle down to a healthy meal of nori rolls, noodles or spinach pastries.

The non-profit independent primary school is located on 2.8 ha of rolling countryside, has a neo-humanist philosophy and is strictly yogic vegetarian.

Its concept and learning methods have proved popular even with meat-eating farming families _ the school has a waiting list until 2013.

The school's neo-humanist philosophy means children are taught to respect animals and sustain, rather than exploit, our environmental resources.

Alongside maths and science, students discuss the political consequences of Australia's anti-whaling campaign and the ethical quandary of the recent Canberra kangaroo cull in class.

Vistara Primary School spokeswoman Rukminii Aphans said the vegetarian philosophy taught their students to respect animals and the planet.

"Often a vegetarian kid in a mainstream school will get picked on at lunch. Other kids say `Eww, what's that?','' she said.

"In our school there is minimal bullying. The kids actually tend to stand up for what's right rather than going with the flow.

"Vegetarian philosophy and not harming animals is quite important as part of our philosophy. We foster that through respect of everything on the planet.''

The school's yogic vegetarian diet excludes gelatine, rennet, garlic, eggs, onion, mushrooms, animal products. Junk food, with the exception of plain crisps, is also strictly banned. 

The school's concept has proved popular with families who do not follow a vegetarian diet at home.

The students and teachers produced a cookbook last year called The Broccoli Forest, which is selling "like hotcakes'' in town, Ms Aphans said.

"Our waiting list is up to the year 2013 and we even have babies on the waiting list,'' Ms Aphans said.

"Our kids do all the mainstream education key learning areas but it's their attitude into the world and life that is really different.

"Our kids are exceptional, they relate better to adults and have time for each other.''

The school is a not-for-profit independent school which charges its 60 students $42 a week in school fees and is owned by Ananda Marga.

The Ananda Marga sect was widely blamed for the 1977 Hilton Hotel bombing, but denied responsibility.

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