Alabama House of Representatives approved a bill introduced by Rep. Jeremy Gray to provide yoga instruction in public schools which has been banned since 1993. The bill would authorize local boards of education to offer yoga to students from kindergarteners through high school seniors but without ‘namaste’ greetings.
As per the current law, school personnel are prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga. The Alabama state law defines yoga as a Hindu philosophy and method of “religious training” in which eastern meditation and contemplation are joined with physical exercises.
Alabama has banned meditation by calling it separate from “secular meditation” and defined it as an altered or dissociative state, of consciousness often synonymous with hypnosis. The law says it is associated with or derived from the “mystical traditions of the East” normally induced by progressive relaxation focusing on deep breaths and a mantra.
According to the bill, which will now go to the Alabama Senate, yoga will be an elective activity where students will have the option to opt-out for alternative activities made available by schools. It gives local boards exclusive discretion to determine the duration and frequency of periods of instruction in yoga.
However, the impending law will be limit the yoga instruction exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques and all poses will be limited exclusively to sitting, standing, reclining, twisting, and balancing. The bill has also mentioned that all poses, exercises, and stretching techniques will have exclusively “English descriptive names”.
“Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited,” the bill reads.
The Alabama State Board of Education banned yoga in 1993 after a push from right-wings groups. Since 2015, the world celebrates International Yoga Day on June 21 following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.