Yoga is now legal in Alabama public schools.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed into law a bill permitting the state's public schools to offer yoga instruction. The state Board of Education had banned yoga in 1993 because of its connections to Hinduism, AL.com reported.
State Rep. Jeremy Gray, a Democrat, had sponsored the bill and lawmakers approved it on Monday night.
The law clears the way for schools to begin offering it as an elective class or activity starting in the next school year.
Gray noted some schools are already doing yoga-like activities but use a different name, such as mindfulness movement, according to AL.com.
Gray, who played football at North Carolina State, started practicing yoga during his athletic career.
"This is a great way to help with mental health, being able to concentrate," Gray said. "Find clarity. Stress relievers, those self-help tips you need dealing with anger and anxiety."
The bill had been amended by the Senate to say: "School personnel may not use any techniques that involve hypnosis, the induction of a dissociative mental state, guided imagery, meditation, or any aspect of Eastern philosophy and religious training."
Gray said the said the bill already kept the religious aspects of yoga out of schools by limiting yoga instruction to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques.
It bans chanting and mantras. Gray said he suspects the amendments were an effort to appease conservative groups which had opposed the bill, according to AL.com
"A lot of the stuff you don’t do anyway. You don’t hypnotize people," Gray said. "Really, it just seemed very offensive," he said. "Had some phobia in it. A lot of it just didn’t really make sense."
As of 2019, close to 40 million Americans practice Yoga for health and well-being — and that is double the number from 2012. According to a survey conducted by Yoga Alliance, the five top reasons for practicing yoga are flexibility, stress relief, general fitness, improvement of overall health, and physical fitness.
But research shows there are many more benefits. The practice helps prevent diabetes, cognitive decline, and cardiovascular disease, and might even increase longevity. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity reported that people who practice yoga had better quality of sleep and fewer symptoms of depression.
And a 2014 study published in the Journals of Gerontology revealed increased cognitive function in older adults after taking yoga three times a week for eight weeks.
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