Alabama lifts ban on Yoga in public schools

Montgomery: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has signed a bill to allow public schools to offer yoga, ending a ban that stood for nearly 30 years. Christian conservatives who back the ban said yoga would open the door for people to be converted to Hinduism.

The new law allows yoga to be offered as an elective for grades K-12. While it erases a ban that, over the years, some schools had not realized existed, it also imposes restrictions on how yoga should be taught. Students won’t be allowed to say, “Namaste,” for instance. Meditation is not allowed.

“Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited,” the bill states. It also requires English names be used for all poses and exercises. And before any students try a tree pose, they’ll need a parent’s permission slip.

Alabama adopted its yoga ban in schools in 1993 — one of many fronts in the culture wars in the United States. And it was a fight to undo the ban: State Rep. Jeremy Gray, a Democrat, first introduced a bill to revoke the yoga taboo more than a year ago. His new bill got final approval Monday — the last day of the legislative session.

As NPR member station WBHM reported, Gray “did not like language added by the Senate that required parental permission slips and bans meditation associated with Eastern mystical traditions, but he went along with them to avoid missing the session deadline.”

Gray has said his experience with yoga began when he played college football at North Carolina State University.

Describing yoga’s potential benefits, Gray said in March, “Studies have shown that yoga helps children cope with daily stressors” and improves their behavior, flexibility and strength, along with their concentration.

His own practice has never stopped him from going to his Baptist church, he said last month. He also noted that in sports-loving Alabama, the state’s elite football programs have long embraced yoga.

The pro-yoga legislation was opposed by conservative groups including former state Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, and the Alabama chapter of the Eagle Forum, a conservative group that was founded by activist Phyllis Schlafly in 1972. (source:

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