Alabama students may be allowed to once again stretch, twist and pose in yoga class after a decades-long ban on the practice in schools.
Lawmakers in the state are considering a bill to provide yoga instruction to kindergartners through high school seniors.
That’s provided they don’t say “namaste” or chant.
The state Board of Education currently prohibits “any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga,” that latter of which is defined as a “method of religious training.”
Gray, who was a yoga instructor until 2015, said a conversation with a student motivated him to fight that ban.
He was visiting a high school in Auburn when a student asked how he was able to balance his work in business, nonprofit and politics, Gray told CNN. He credited yoga, which he learned was no longer offered as an elective to students. Not only was it not offered, he found, but Alabama was the only state in the country to ban the practice in K-12 public schools.
While Gray’s bill would open the door for yoga in schools, it would also keep some limitations. The class would have to be offered only as an elective, all techniques would be required to have English descriptive names, and chanting, mantras and using the greeting “namaste,” which translates as “I bow to you” would be prohibited.
Critics of the bill are often see yoga as a part of the Hindu religion that can’t be separated, Gray said. The exclusions are part of the political compromise, he said, and are better than not allowing student access to any of the emotional or physical benefits of the practice.
“I believe it will pass Tuesday. But that’s the athlete in me, never afraid to fail and always ready for any challenge,” Gray said.