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Alabama overturns 1993 ban on yoga in schools

The law still prohibits greetings of "namaste" and spiritual chants, however.
Image: A class of third graders wind down with the lights out at the end of a yoga class at an elementary school in Encinitas, Calif.
A class of third graders wind down with the lights out at the end of a yoga class at an elementary school in Encinitas, Calif.Gregory Bull / AP file

The state of Alabama overturned a nearly three-decade-old ban on teaching yoga in public schools.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday signed a bill allowing K-12 public school boards to approve yoga instruction, her press secretary, Gina Maiola, said. The governor did not issue remarks.

The Alabama Board of Education prohibited yoga in the state's public schools beginning in 1993.

In a consolation to conservative opponents, the legislation by Rep. Jeremy Gray, a Democrat, prohibits greetings of "namaste," chanting and other spiritual expressions of yoga.

Gray did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On March 11, he said on Facebook, "Studies have shown that yoga helps children cope with daily stressors as well [as] help improve behavior, concentration, mobility, flexibility, and strength."

"Alabama public schools will no longer be banned from offering yoga during P.E. classes," the state Democratic Party said in a statement. The bill "prioritizes our children’s health and wellness and brings Alabama schools into the 21st century."

The legislation withstood opposition from conservatives, including the Eagle Forum of Alabama, which argued that allowing yoga in schools violates the boundary between religion and public education.

In an email blast that included an image of Asian women practicing yoga, the forum described it as "possibly dangerous for a child’s young mind and spirit."

Statehouse journalist Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser tweeted that the yoga ban was one of the "stupidest moral panics in Alabama history."

The Los Angeles-based Self-Realization Fellowship, which helped establish yoga in the United States, did not want to weigh in because it has a policy against engaging in political issues, a spokeswoman said.