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Alabama Bill May Lift Yoga Ban In Public Schools But Prohibit 'Namaste' Greeting

The Guardian
March 8, 2020 -

Area: Montgomery, Selma

Alabama could takes steps to lift a decades-old ban on yoga in public schools this week, but would keep a ban on the greeting “namaste” in place.

A bill brought by Representative Jeremy Gray, a Democratic legislator from Opelika, is on the proposed debate agenda Tuesday in the Alabama House of Representatives. If the bill passes with a two-thirds majority, it will then go to the Senate for further debate.

The Alabama Board of Education in 1993 voted to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms. The ban was pushed by conservative groups, and some schools have reported complaints from parents who say the practice endorses a “non-Christian belief system”.

The Alabama yoga ban got new attention in 2018 when an old document circulated listing yoga - along with games like tag and “duck, duck, goose” - among activities deemed to be inappropriate in gym class, according to the board.

The ancient practice of yoga has its roots in Hinduism, though it is now a common form of exercise practiced across the world, including in private gyms in Alabama.

“It’s something that, as athletes, have adopted as a culture,” Gray, who is a former college athlete and has taught yoga, said. “It also helps me with my discipline and being able to focus and to accomplish my goals.”

Gray’s bill was also introduced at the end of the last legislative session but failed to gain traction

Gray’s bill seeks to dissociate yoga from its religious roots, and says that local school systems can decide if they want to teach yoga poses and stretches. However, the moves and exercises taught to students must have exclusively English names, according to the legislation. It would also prohibit the use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste”.

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