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Alabama lawmakers OK legislation to lift yoga ban in schools

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Monday approved legislation to lift the state’s decades-old ban on yoga in public schools even though the bill’s sponsor said lawmakers added language he thought was foolish and unneeded.

The House of Representatives voted 75-14 to approve Senate changes to the bill. It now goes to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray, the bill’s sponsor, is attempting to allow public schools to offer yoga and override a 1993 ban on yoga that was approved by the state school board under pressure by conservative groups.

Gray agreed to accept the Senate changes instead of risking losing the bill in the final hours of the legislative session. The Senate-added language that requires parents to sign a permission slip and bans meditation, “associated with or derived from mystical traditions of the East.”

“Instead of killing the bill that got this far, I’m just going to concur and work on it and try to fix some language it,” Gray said.
Gray said the language didn’t really impact the bill, but “just makes it feel foolish.”

Gray is attempting to undo a decades-old ban on yoga in public schools. The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms.

The bill by Gray says school systems could authorize yoga if they choose. Yoga done in school would be limited to poses and stretches, and all poses would have to have English names. The use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden.

Gray, a former cornerback at North Carolina State University, said he was introduced to yoga through football and said the exercises can provide mental and physical benefits to students. Many professional and college sports teams incorporate yoga into their training because of the benefits to flexibility and concentration, he said.

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