Schools in the U.S are struggling to accept the historical, spiritual roots of yoga. A new bill will seek to cut yoga from its spiritual roots as parents demand that Hinduism not be referenced in public school classrooms.

The “Alabama Bill” that was past in 1993 made it illegal for schools in Alabama to teach yoga. The bill was introduced to prevent students in schools in Alabama from encountering the spiritual system of yoga, which is largely based on Hinduism.

Lawmakers are fighting to get the decades-old ban lifted so that students can practice the physical exercises of yoga without performing chants, mantras, or saying “namaste”, which are considered religious practices that some believe do not belong in schools in the U.S.

The Alabama Bill was introduced in 1993 by the Alabama Board of Education to prohibit yoga, meditation, and hypnosis in public classrooms.  This bill may soon be lifted. A new bill called “Gray’s Bill” will make the physical exercises of yoga legal in school classrooms, but will prohibit perceived spiritual aspects of yoga, including mantras and the greeting “Namaste”. This, they argue, will allow schools to get the many benefits of yoga in the classroom, while utting out the religious aspects.

Opelika Democratic legislator Jeremy Gray introduced the new bill, which will be debated at the Alabama House of Representatives Tuesday. A two-thirds majority vote in favor of the bill will see it go to the Senate for further debate.

The bill is seeking to find a way to allow students to practice yoga at school without introducing them to a spiritual system that parents view as non-Christian. Ironically this is includes the banning of meditation even though there are many Christian meditation practices and also meditations for atheists (because meditation need not be religious at all). The very bible itself actually advocates the use of meditation, so ironically those parents who are seeking to ban meditation in school are actually fighting against the word of God. A little homework on the actual nature of yoga and meditation could have gone a long way here, folks!

Gray’s bill seeks to sever yoga from its spiritual roots in what can only be seen as a move against multiculturalism and a complete failure of acceptance.

Should the bill be past, local school systems will be able to decide if they want yoga to be taught in school. Schools will be limited to teaching the physical yoga moves (poses). Those moves muse have English names too. So “Downward Dog” must be called precisely that and not Adho Mukha Svanasana. Calling a yoga pose by its original, non-English name would be illegal, which makes us question freedom of speech.

What is even more ironic about this bill is that it makes chanting illegal but does not prohibit asanas. This would seem a tad ironic given that there are Christian chants, and that yoga poses are arguably as spiritual if not even more spiritual than some other elements of yoga. Historically, yoga poses were performed as a way to show devotion specifically to Hindu gods, which one would imagine would offend those Christian parents seeking to eliminate Hinduism from schools. Yet this form of Hindu-god-devotion will still be legal where simply saying “Namaste” will not be.

Is this actually a move against Hinduism, or a move against using another language in school? It’s hard to tell.

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Written by Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.