Did you know yoga has been banned for 28 years in Alabama? Since 1993, the Alabama board of education has implemented a ban on hypnosis, yoga, and meditation in public schools. As per Newsweek, the guidelines are such, “The State Board of Education specifically prohibits the use of hypnosis and dissociative mental states. School personnel shall be prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.”
Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray has been trying to lift the ban since 2019. Gray’s bill, HB 235, which would override this ban was passed in the Alabama House of Representatives a few weeks ago with a 73-25 vote. Gray told The New York Times that he was optimistic. “Most of the senators that I’ve talked to are OK with it. A lot of people in their districts have reached out to them, and a lot of their wives actually do yoga. So I think it has a good chance of passing.”
Out of Alabama’s 35 senate seats, 27 are held by Republicans.
It was reported by The Associated Press on Wednesday that the bill has been stalled in Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee. “During a hearing, two conservative groups objected because of yoga’s historic ties to Hinduism.”
Eric Johnston, who is a legal adviser for The Alabama Citizens Action Program told The Times that yoga’s relevance in the Hindi religion makes it dangerous. He said, “it does not need to be taught to small children in public schools.” ALCAP has testified against this bill in the senate committee. Johnston was clear, he does not oppose yoga as it is taught in some churches. “You cannot have any kind of religious activities in elementary schools.”
He also said, “I can give you a ton of reasons why yoga is beneficial and those reasons are backed by studies and data. There is no study to my knowledge that says doing yoga exercise converts people to Hinduism.”
Gray has been practicing yoga since his college days. He is a practicing Christian. He had believed that by focusing on the advantages of yoga with regards to health and avoiding certain language that could be considered religious, he could help move the bill and get it passed.
Gray has informed that the committee has stalled at 4-4. Republican Sen. Tom Whatley has chosen to carry the bill over. Which means that this bill has not completely died. Now it can be worked on again without having to be started from scratch. Gray told journalists that he was grateful to Whatley for making sure the bill was kept alive. He said, “I can give you a ton of reasons why yoga is beneficial and those reasons are backed by studies and data. There is no study to my knowledge that says doing yoga exercise converts people to Hinduism.”
1. Instruction in yoga shall be an elective activity. Students shall have the option to opt-out in favor of alternative activities, which shall be made available.
2. Each local board of education shall have exclusive discretion to determine the duration and frequency of periods of instruction in yoga.
3. All instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques.
4. All poses shall be limited exclusively to sitting, standing, reclining, twisting, and balancing.
5. All poses, exercises, and stretching techniques shall have exclusively English descriptive names.
6. Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited.