MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A bill to repeal Alabama’s ban on yoga in public schools will be decided on the final day of the legislative session.
The Alabama Senate on Thursday voted 23-7 for the House-passed bill but added additional restrictions. The bill’s sponsor Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, said he is weighing whether to accept the changes or go to conference committee and risk running out of time to pass the bill on the busy final legislative day. Alabama lawmakers meet for the final day of the session on May 17.
Gray said he thinks some of the Senate changes show phobias or “blatant disrespect to the Hindu culture.” The amendments included a definition of meditation to ban anything “associated with or derived from mystical traditions of the East.” It also requires parents to sign a permission slip.
Gray said his first instinct is to reject the Senate changes because there are things he doesn’t like about the amendments. “I’m trying to weigh the pros and cons because there is a great chance I will kill the bill if I don’t concur,” Gray said.
Lawmakers are attempting to undo a decades-old ban on yoga in public schools. The Alabama Board of Education voted in 1993 to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms.
The bill by Gray says school systems could authorize yoga if they choose. Yoga done in school would be limited to poses and stretches, and all poses would have to have English names. The use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden.
Gray, a former cornerback at North Carolina State University, said he was introduced to yoga through football and said the exercises can provide mental and physical benefits to students. Many professional and college sports teams incorporate yoga into their training because of the benefits to flexibility and concentration, he said.