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Hindu statesman objects to Alabama’s yoga ban in schools

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A noted Hindu statesman released a statement Monday continuing his objection to the continued “prohibition” of yoga in Alabama’s public schools.

Hindu Statesman Rajan Zed said the prohibition of yoga was doing a “disservice” to the school children of Alabama and urged Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Superintendent of Education Eric Mackey and Alabama State Board of Education President Pro Tem Jeffrey Newman to seriously and urgently revisit the issue and work toward formally introducing yoga as a part of curriculum in all the public schools of the state, thus incorporating what Zed feels would be highly beneficial yoga in the lives of Alabama’s students.

Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that yoga is a mental and physical discipline that traces all the way back to the Indus Valley civilization around 2000 B.C.

Zed further added that yoga, although introduced and nourished by Hinduism, was a world heritage and liberation powerhouse to be utilized by all. According to Patanjali, who codified it in Yoga Sutra, yoga was a methodical effort to attain perfection through the control of the different elements of human nature, physical and psychical.

The “prohibition” of yoga in the public schools of Alabama continues even though it was an agenda item in the Feb. 14 work session of the Alabama State Board of Education titled “Amend Alabama Administrative Code Regarding Yoga Rules.”

The Board took no action at that time and has not brought up the topic again in any subsequent business meeting or work session. The Alabama State Department of Education Administrative Code (290­040­040­.02) continues as the current regulation, which includes: “School personnel shall be prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.”

Memorandum from State Superintendent of Education dated June 21, 2006, is still posted on the Department’s website, which stated, “Our best advice and guidance from the Department of Education is that yoga not be offered during regular school hours or after regular school hours to public school students on a public school campus in Alabama.”

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Instructional Services FAQs on the department’s website modified on July 9, 2014, state, “Yoga may not be offered during regular school hours or after regular school hours to public school students on a public school campus in Alabama.”

Zed pointed out that various public universities in Alabama had been offering yoga in some form to their students, and some Alabama churches had also reportedly offered or announced yoga programs.

Zed pondered that if yoga was rewarding for the students of Alabama public universities, why Alabama was keeping it away from its K-12 public school students.

He also pointed to a report of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said yoga is the most popular complementary health approach in the United States — used by 14.3 percent of the adult population, or 35.2 million people.

According to U.S. National Institutes of Health, yoga may help one to feel more relaxed, be more flexible, improve posture, breathe deeply and get rid of stress.

Yoga was the repository of something basic in the human soul and psyche, Zed added.

Ivey and the overwhelming majority of both Houses of the Alabama Legislature are urging Alabama voters to vote to abolish the elected State Board of Education and replace it with an appointed Board on March 3.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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