The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that would allow public schools to offer elective yoga courses after a nearly three-decade ban.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, passed the House 73 to 25 after a brief debate. It goes to the Senate.
“It has been proven to work, whether on the mental or the physical,” Gray said after the House adjourned on Thursday. “And so my thing is, if we’re doing it in prisons, we’re doing it in other segments of school, we’re doing it in gyms, we’re doing it everywhere else, why is it not allowed in a K through 12 public school?”
The legislation would limit the classes to physical exercise, and require teachers to use English terms for the program.
Gray, a former cornerback for North Carolina State, said he has been practicing yoga for years as a cool-down exercise.
“It’s one of those things where I got introduced through sports, but I understood the mental capacity that it helped me with along the way,” he said.
Alabama’s State Board of Education banned yoga and meditation in public schools in 1993, following poorly-sourced claims from right-wing groups claiming the practices could lead to psychological harm. The moral panic led to dubious claims. At one meeting, a parent claimed that a meditation tape made a child “visibly high.”
“It was only banned in Alabama,” Gray said. “It was one state, only one state, that had this ban.”
The legislation passed the House last year. The COVID-19 outbreak led legislators to postpone the consideration of general bills, and the yoga legislation never came to a vote in the Senate.
Gray said Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, will carry the bill in the Senate, and that he felt it would have “a great chance of passing.”
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected] Updated at 5:33 p.m. with comments from Rep. Jeremy Gray.