The Alabama House of Representatives last week passed legislation that would allow the instruction of yoga in Alabama’s K-12 schools. House Bill 246 is sponsored by state Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika.
Gray sponsored a similar bill last year. It passed the Alabama House of Representatives, but due to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Senate did not have time to address the legislation.
The practice of yoga has been expressly prohibited in Alabama schools since 1993. Hindus have been lobbying Alabama lawmakers to approve the bill, allowing yoga in schools for years. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed urged Alabama state legislators to pass HB246 in a statement, “calling it a step in the right direction.”
Gray said that the bill expressly bans proselytizing: “Religious overtones are forbidden.”
Zed said that although the bill “expressly” prohibited “chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and namaste greetings” and dictated usage of “exclusively English descriptive names,” it was still good for the overall well-being of Alabamans.
Zed is president of Universal Society of Hinduism. He thanked Alabama state representatives for waking-up to the needs of Alabama’s pupils and supporting the introduction of multi-beneficial yoga in schools. He appealed to Alabama state senators to also show maturity and endorse the bill permitting yoga in schools.
Zed said that many Alabama public universities and city governments already offered yoga and many Alabama churches host yoga classes. Zed claimed that yoga was urgently needed to be incorporated into the lives of Alabama’s students.
Gray said that his bill, “Does not mandate yoga. Students do not have to do it.”
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Midfield, said: “My daughter is a certified yoga instructor. I want to commend the gentleman. You worked so hard on this. Thanking you for bringing this.”
“This bill would authorize local boards of education to offer yoga to students in grades K-12.”
Local boards of education would have the option to offer yoga or not. They are not required to allow yoga.
It would be subject to the following restrictions:
“(1) Instruction in yoga shall be an elective activity. Students shall have the option to opt out in favor of alternative activities, which shall be made available (2) Each local board of education shall have exclusive discretion to determine the duration and frequency of periods of instruction in yoga. (3) All instruction in yoga shall be limited exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques. (4) All poses shall be limited exclusively to sitting, standing, reclining, twisting, and balancing. (5) All poses, exercises, and stretching techniques shall have exclusively English descriptive names. (6) Chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited.”
According to a report of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Yoga is the most popular complementary health approach in the United States. It is 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.
HB246 passed the House 73 to 25. It will now be considered by the Alabama Senate.
Tuesday will be the 15th legislative day in the 2021 Legislative Session. Thirty is the maximum number of days that the Legislature can meet in a regular session, but it is not required that they use all 30 days.