Reviewed by: Nathan Watson
Three elementary schools in Birmingham are the first to offer yoga programs after the practice was banned 28 years ago by the state of Alabama.
According to the Universal Society of Hinduism, the schools offering classes are Minor Elementary, Oxmoor Valley Elementary and West End Elementary. About 115 fifth graders are taking part in the elective class.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement, commended the Birmingham City Schools and urged other Alabama school boards/districts to actively follow.
Zed indicated that Alabamans should not be scared of yoga at all.
“Overwhelming majority of yoga instructors and practitioners in the USA and Alabama were non-Hindus and they usually stayed non-Hindus sticking to their own respective faith traditions even after years of yoga practice. Moreover, traditionally Hinduism was not into proselytizing.” ~ From Zed’s news release
The New Yoga Law
Championed by Opelika state representative Jeremy Gray, the new law allows students to benefit from a discipline which is commonly used throughout the state from local YMCA’s to personal training gyms.
Gray, a former college and professional football player, credits yoga for helping him and fellow athletes recover from injuries.
The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Ivey in the Spring of 2021, allows local boards of education to decide whether to offer yoga in K-12 schools as an elective. The bill requires yoga exercises to be limited to stretches and poses and requires English descriptions for poses. It also forbids the use of certain words, including the word “namaste” a respectful and traditional greeting.
Despite disliking the restrictions, which were amendments added by the Alabama State Senate, Gray supported final passage of the legislation in the House.
Long Way to Go
In Zed’s statement he recognizes Yoga in Alabama has a long way to go.
“Alabama Department of Education reportedly does not collect any data on yoga in schools, does not provide yoga training to teachers, has no budget for yoga, and has not established any procedure for introducing yoga. There are reportedly approximately 730,000 students in about 1,500 public schools in about 147 school boards/districts in Alabama.”
Will that change? Stay tuned.