Bill to allow yoga in Alabama schools advances through House committee


House Bill 246, a bill that would allow yoga to be offered in Alabama public schools for the first time since 1993, has been advanced by the House Committee for Education Policy.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Jermey Gray, D-Opelika, and co-sponsored by Reps. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, and Ritchie Whorton, R-Scottsboro, previously passed the House with 83 yes votes in the 2020 Legislative Session before dying due to the session being cut short because of the coronavirus.

“I feel confident in the yoga bill,” Gray said in an interview with APR. “Studies have shown that yoga helps children cope with daily stressors, as well as helps improve behavior, concentration, mobility, flexibility and strength. Yoga has become more prevalent than ever as we continue to move through this pandemic. Covid-19 is as much a mental battle as it is a physical battle.”

Gray also thanked the Education Policy Committee, specifically Chairwoman Terri Collins, R-Decatur, and co-chair Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, for “their willingness to work in a bipartisan effort to get the bill out of the education committee for the third time.”

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, released a statement Saturday encouraging Alabama state legislators to “wake up to the needs of Alabama pupils and support introduction of multi-beneficial yoga in schools.”

“Somebody needed to remind Alabama State Department of Education that we lived in the 21st Century now,” Zed said in the statement.

Alabama public universities and city governments have previously offered and allowed yoga for students and residents, despite Alabama Department of Education Administrative Code 290­040­040­.02 prohibiting School personnel from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga.

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Zed said that this “prohibition” was doing a disservice to Alabama’s K-12 public school students and denying them the valuable opportunities yoga provided.

“If yoga was rewarding in universities, cities and churches, why was Alabama keeping it away from its K-12 public school students?” Zed said.

According to a 2018 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Yoga is the most popular complementary health approach in the United States,” and was used by 14.3 percent of the adult population, or 35.2 million people, in 2017.

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