For the first time in nearly three decades, Alabama will allow yoga to be taught in its public schools, but the ancient practice will be missing some of its hallmarks: Teachers will be barred from saying the traditional salutation “namaste” and using Sanskrit names for poses.
Chanting is forbidden. And the sound of “om,” one of the most popular mantras associated with the practice, which combines breathing exercises and stretches, is a no-no.
The changes follow the signing of a bill on Thursday by Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, overriding a 1993 ban on yoga instruction in public schools by the state’s Board of Education. Some conservative groups had called for the prohibition to be preserved, contending that the practice of yoga is inseparable from Hinduism and Buddhism and amounted to a religious activity.
The measure, which takes effect on Aug. 1, gives local school boards the final say over whether to offer yoga to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Participation in classes will be optional under the legislation, which was introduced by State Representative Jeremy Gray, a Democrat from Opelika, Ala., who was previously certified as a yoga instructor.
online post one day before the final vote by lawmakers.
April 1993 article in The Anniston Star, one mother in Birmingham said her child had brought a relaxation tape home from school that made a boy “visibly high,” The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Mr. Gray, 35, a former football player, said that he was forced to make concessions in the bill’s language for it to pass in the Legislature, where Republicans hold supermajorities in both the House and the Senate.
“Anyone who has taken yoga, we know that namaste is not something religious,” Mr. Gray said.
Two of the Republican state senators who Mr. Gray said played a role in altering the bill, Arthur Orr and Dan Roberts, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
So what would happen if a teacher let slip “namaste” or “om?” Mr. Gray said good luck trying to enforce the new rules.
“There’s no yoga police going around saying, ‘You can and cannot do this,’” he said.
In an email blast from the governor’s press office on Thursday announcing which bills Ms. Ivey had signed, including the one lifting the ban on yoga in schools, Ms. Ivey’s spokeswoman, Gina Maiola, had a Zen moment.
“Namaste,” she signed the email.