Alabama is lifting its ban on yoga in public schools, but chanting and using the 'Namaste' greeting remains forbidden

·2 min read
school yoga
Yoga instructor Lucia Fellers, Bhavanakids Yoga, top center, gets Pennington Elementary School kids to be calm at the start of a yoga class at Pennington March 09, 2018. Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images
  • Alabama has lifted its three-decade old ban on yoga being taught in public schools.

  • But chanting and teaching spiritual techniques in school yoga classes remains forbidden.

  • The CDC says yoga can help pupils de-stress and concentrate.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Alabama has lifted its three-decade-old ban on yoga being taught in public schools but traditional chants and the "Namaste" salute remain forbidden.

The state's education department banned the ancient form of meditation and exercise back in 1993 over fears it could spread Hinduism, the religion that yoga emerged from.

The bill lifting the ban was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Jeremy Gray. It means that k-12 students in schools across the state can now choose to take yoga classes, though local school boards can still choose to maintain the ban.

In approving the bill the Republican-controlled state legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey said that a number of restrictions on how it is taught would be imposed.

"All instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques," it said, banning mention of the spiritual philosophy that underlies yoga.

"Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and 11 namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited," it says.

Parents must also sign a special consent form saying they underatand yoga is part of the Hindu religion.

Alabama was the only US state where the teaching of yoga in schools was banned, with opponents of the bill citing the Constitution's clause banning religious instruction in public schools as justification.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that students use meditation and yoga classes to reduce stress and enhance memory.

Grey told AL.com that many of the limitations on how yoga is taught were unecessary as the bill already specified that teaching should be restricted to movements and exercise.

"A lot of the stuff you don't do anyway. You don't hypnotize people," Gray said.

"Really, it just seemed very offensive," he said. "Had some phobia in it. A lot of it just didn't really make sense."

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