A ban on yoga in Alabama state schools is set to stay in place for now, after conservative pressure groups continued to express objections to lifting it.
At a public hearing on Wednesday, two figures from conservative groups stated concerns that it would lead to advocacy towards Hinduism or meditation practices. As a result, the bill did not move forward in the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jeremy Grey, a Democrat who has been attempting to lift the restrictions since 2019, said, “This whole notion that if you do yoga, you’ll become Hindu - I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I’m very much a Christian.”
The subsequent vote on the bill resulted in a tie, as two members were not present. The committee chairman said he intended to bring the bill back so they could vote on it too.
In 1993, the Alabama Board of Education voted to disallow school staff from “using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga”.
Grey’s bill would enable schools to offer yoga as an optional activity and it reads, “all instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises and stretching techniques” and all these techniques shall use “English descriptive names” in lieu of the more traditional Sanskrit names.
Chanting, mantras and saying “namaste” would still be banned under the legislation.
Becky Gerriston, director of Eagle Forum of Alabama said the bill was not needed as students are free to do stretches in school.
“If this bill passes, then instructors will be able to come into classrooms as young as kindergarten and bring these children through guided imagery, which is a spiritual exercise, and it’s outside their parent’s view. And we just do believe this is not appropriate,” she said to AP.
Grey says he first learnt about the ban after he tried to teach yoga in schools. He says it should be allowed to give children ‘the ability to breathe, meditate, practise mindfulness and learn exercises that will help them both physically and mentally’.