A ban on yoga in Alabama public schools may be lifted after nearly 30 years — but students would still be limited in what they could learn about it under legislation passed in the Alabama House that would allow yoga instruction in public schools.
The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit hypnosis, meditation and yoga in public schools after a conservative groups pushed the ban, according to the Associated Press.
The legislation will now head to the state’s Senate. If the new bill is passed, yoga instruction will be an elective activity in public schools and students can opt out in favor of other activities. While yoga would be permitted, schools will still have to follow some rules: “all poses shall be limited exclusively to sitting, standing, reclining, twisting, and balancing” and “all poses, exercises, and stretching techniques shall have exclusively English descriptive names,” the bill states.
“Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited,” according to the legislation.
The yoga ban gained attention in 2018 when an old document listing inappropriate gym class activities was circulated. Yoga, along with games like tag, was on the list, the AP reports.
The sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Representative Jeremy Gray, is a former cornerback at North Carolina State University and was introduced to yoga through football. He said the exercises can provide mental and physical benefits to students, according to the AP.
“I’ve been in yoga for seven years. I know the benefits of yoga, so it was very dear to my heart, and I think Alabama will be better for it,” Gray said. He said teachers had been doing yoga instruction for years, before realizing it was actually banned in the state.
The bill passed in the house on Wednesday, with 25 representatives voting against it. Gray said some of his colleagues said they received “a lot emails about it being part of Hinduism.”
“Some people’s minds you can never change,” he said. “If you have to vote your district, I understand it.”
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