Alabama lifts 27-year yoga ban in public schools, with some exceptions

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Alabama lawmakers lifted a 30-year ban on yoga in public schools this week, though the phrase “namaste” is still prohibited.

The state’s education department banned yoga in 1993, citing its spiritual affiliation with Hinduism. 

But Governor Kay Ivey signed legislation into law Thursday that allows public school boards the ability to decide if the activity can be offered in local schools. 

The legislation states that “all instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques.”

The Sanskrit phrase “Namaste” — which means “I bow to you” and is generally said at the end of a yoga session as students join hands in front of their chest and bow – is still banned in Alabama schools. 

“Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas…shall be expressly prohibited,” the bill states. Only English descriptions of poses are allowed.

Democratic State Rep. Jeremy Gray, a former football player at North Carolina State University turned yogi, introduced the legislation to overturn the ban earlier this year.

The bill passed through the House in a 75-14 vote Monday, though not without first agreeing to Republican-led amendments.

Stipulations requiring a parent signature were included and language banning hypnosis, guided imagery, and meditation were also included.

Fox News could not immediately reach Gray for comment, but in an interview with a local news outlet, the Alabama Democrat said he accepted the amendments in order to get the bill passed. 

Gray told the Opelika-Auburn News that he would try to have the amendments revoked at a later time.

“We know that scientific studies show that yoga helps children cope with daily stressors as well as helping to improve behavior, concentration, mobility, flexibility, and strength,” he said.   

K-12 public schools will be able to offer yoga to students starting in August. 

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