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Alabama Upholds Ban On Yoga In School Fearing The Practice Would Spread Hinduism

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  • Tip Bones

A bill that would have allowed yoga to be taught in Alabama wasn’t passed by the committee on Wednesday as Conservative Christian groups feared that it would lead to the spread of Hinduism in schools.

Bill AL HB246 was put forth by Alabama State Rep. Jeremy Gray, who wrote that bringing yoga back to school would be voluntary. Yoga has been banned in Alabama since 1993, and the bill sought to revoke that ban.

But Alabama lawmakers didn’t let the bill pass during voting, voicing concerns over how it would promote Hinduism in schools. While Gray can choose to present the bill in the state Senate again, it’s highly unlikely that it would get any endorsement.

Alabama is the only state where yoga is banned in schools. The ban states, “school personnel shall be prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga" and additionally banned the use of the word "namaste."

According to Eric Johnston, a legal adviser for the Alabama Citizens Action Program, teaching yoga to young students, especially those at the kindergarten level is inappropriate. Betsy Garrison of the Eagle Forum of Alabama backed Johnston’s claim.

She said, “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 parents' view. And we just believe that this is not appropriate.”

Gray, in his proposal, had addressed concerns about yoga spreading Hinduism. That is why he had included the statement suggesting that "chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and 11 namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited."

But Gray and other yoga advocates say their critics have it wrong, and that yoga can help students focus and relax, which leads to better academic performance.

"This whole notion that if you do yoga, you'll become Hindu — I've been doing yoga for 10 years and I go to church and I'm very much a Christian," Gray told reporters.