Alabama Governor Kay Ailey has signed into law a bill that will partially lift restrictions on yoga instruction in schools that were imposed nearly 30 years ago. Such a step was then explained by the connection of yoga with Hinduism.
This is reported by AL.com.
In 1993, the Alabama Department of Education banned yoga classes in schools, justifying this decision by its connection with Hinduism (since the U.S. Constitution prohibits the promotion of any religion in public schools).
Conservatives, who have controlled power in the state for decades, have also said that yoga negatively affects children. In particular, one parent allegedly complained that a recording of meditation sounds made her child “obviously stoned.
In 2019, Jeremy Gray, a Democrat (and certified yoga teacher) member of the lower house of the Alabama legislature, first proposed repealing the ban on yoga in schools.
He reasoned that schools already offered classes and subjects with yoga-like activities, but called them differently (e.g., the “mindfulness movement”). In addition, yoga helps students cope with stress.
Studies also show this: yoga classes improve children’s balance, strength and stamina, allow them to remember things and concentrate better, and even reduce anxiety, among other things.
The bill was opposed by conservatives who argued that yoga was “inappropriate and possibly dangerous to a child’s young mind and spirit,” and cited the outrage of “many Christian parents.”
Gray’s bill did not gain majority support in Alabama until the third attempt, in May 2021. It takes effect Aug. 1 – before the 2021-2022 school year. But it included a number of restrictions on the teaching of yoga in schools.
In particular, it prohibits the use of Sanskrit words (for example, the names of yoga poses must be in English only). It is also forbidden to use the “om” sound and to recite mantras.
“School employees may not use any technique involving hypnosis, induction into a dissociative mental state, controlled illusions, meditation, or any aspect of Eastern philosophy or religious teachings,” the law states.
Gray told AL.com that he plans to file amendments to his law in 2022 that would remove any restrictions on teaching yoga in schools.