MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday signed legislation to allow public schools to teach yoga, overturning a ban put in place 27 years ago at the urging of conservative groups.
The legislation sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jeremy Gray, a former college athlete who did yoga as part of his training, says schools can opt to teach yoga if they choose. However, all poses would have to have English names. The use of chanting, mantras and teaching the greeting “namaste” would be forbidden.
The Alabama Board of Education in 1993 voted to prohibit yoga, hypnosis and meditation in public school classrooms.
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 of flexibility and concentration, he said.
“We know that scientific studies show that yoga helps children cope with daily stressors as well as helping to improve behavior, concentration, mobility, flexibility, and strength,” Gray said.
Gray was unhappy with Senate amendments to the bill that require parents to sign a permission slip in order to participate and put more limitations on what can be taught such as banning “guided imagery, meditation, or any aspect of Eastern philosophy and religious training.” However, Gray accepted them instead of risking the bill failing on the busy final night of the session.
Gray said those amendments “aren’t useful” and he will try to change the language in the future.