The state has lifted decades-old ban on Yoga in schools. Chanting is not allowed. The use of the sound “Om” and the Sanskrit-based word “namaste” is still banned.
The south-eastern US state Alabama has overturned a decades-old ban on Yoga in its schools after a bill tabled by a Democrat legislator was approved by the state administration.
Alabama’s Republican legislature and governor have approved a bill introduced for the third time by Democratic State Representative Jeremy Gray, a former football player and a certified yoga instructor.
The ban was imposed on the practice in 1993, citing its connection to Hinduism.
The new rules limit Yoga to exercise (stretches and poses) and prohibits non-English descriptions as well as “any aspect of Eastern philosophy and religious training.”
Chanting is also not allowed. The use of the sound “Om” and the Sanskrit-based word “namaste” are also still banned.
Schools can decide on offering lessons to the students after seeking written permission from the parents. The consent would require the parents to acknowledge that Yoga is associated with the Hindu religion.
Hindus for Human Rights USA had written to Alabama State Senators urging them to join the Alabama State House in removing the 28-year-old ban on Yoga in the state’s public schools.
In their letter dated 6 April 2021, HfHR has said, “Yoga is an Indian tradition, and no doubt it has its origin in Hinduism. While its core philosophy of Sankhya is not that prevalent in India, its practices have informed many schools of Hinduism, as well as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Taoism, Shinto, and Christianity around the world.”
“The practice has been proven to be extremely effective in helping people – almost 25 years of National Institute of “Health-funded research shows that Yoga helps people with physical, emotional and mental health in every community that one can imagine. And there is no finding whatsoever that it hurts any tradition that engages with it or that it leads to religious conversions.”
Mr Gray has said that he hopes to remove the unnecessary aspects of these amendments in future.
Hindus for Human Rights welcomes Alabama decision
Hindus for Human Rights USA has hailed the decision. Nikhil Mandalaparthy, Advocacy Director – HfHR USA told NRI Affairs, “Hindus for Human Rights applauds the state of Alabama for lifting a decades-old ban on yoga in K-12 schools. This long-overdue change will give Alabama students the chance to access the many mental and physical health benefits that come from yoga. However, it is disappointing that Alabama has chosen to maintain a ban on meditation, the salutation “namaste,” and the use of Sanskrit words for asanas (poses). These elements of yoga do not constitute religious practice, and seem to have been prohibited out of misguided bias and fear. We hope as more students and teachers become exposed to yoga and its many benefits, Alabama will remove these restrictions.”
“In April, we submitted a letter to Alabama state senators advocating for an end to the ban on yoga. As advocates for inclusion and pluralism, we will continue to push against prejudice and support efforts that allow for cultural exchange in education.”, Mr Mandalaparthy added.