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Alabama upholds a ban on yoga in school citing fears of the practice spreading


  • A bill that would have allowed yoga to be taught in Alabama stalled in committee on Wednesday. 
  • The practice has been banned in schools since 1993. 
  • Conservative Christian groups say allowing yoga in schools would promote Hinduism. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Legislation that would have allowed yoga to be taught in Alabama public schools died in committee Wednesday, stalling a years-long battle by one state legislator to bring the practice back.

Bill AL HB246 was put forth by Alabama State Rep. Jeremy Gray, who wrote that bringing yoga back to school would be voluntary. It sought to overturn a ban on the practice in Alabama schools in place since 1993.

Lawmakers in Alabama’s state Senate voted on the proposal and decided against it, effectively endorsing the existing ban. Gray can attempt to pass the measure again later, but it is a significant setback.

Alabama is the only state with such a rule. The text of the ban says “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.”

At issue is whether the practice of yoga promotes Hinduism — a claim several conservative Christian groups say is a problem.

Because yoga is rooted in Hinduism, Eric Johnston, a legal adviser for the Alabama Citizens Action Program, told The New York Times, “it does not need to be taught to small children in public schools.”

“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,” Betsy Garrison of the Eagle Forum of Alabama, argued in session

Gray’s proposal still included language seeking to address that. It said 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. 

According to a 2016 study, around 36.7 million people practice yoga in the US. 



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