Why can't you say ‘namaste’ in Alabama schools? Conservative law forbids Indian salutation after lifting yoga ban

One tweet roasting the conservative state said: 'They’ll ban everything but racism in Alabama...'

                            Why can't you say ‘namaste’ in Alabama schools? Conservative law forbids Indian salutation after lifting yoga ban
People participate in a morning yoga session on August 22, 2020 at the Red Rocks Amphiteatre in Morrison, Colorado (Getty images)

It seems like the Alabama state government is ready to show some flexibility. The state’s House of Representatives voted 73-25 to repeal a 1993 law that banned the practice of yoga in schools. It will now move to the Senate for consideration. If passed, public schools would be allowed to teach yoga poses and stretches, but will still outlaw the chanting of mantras and the use of terms like 'namaste'.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Representative Jeremy Gray of Opelika. Gray said, "I’ve been in yoga for seven years. I know the benefits of yoga, so it was very dear to my heart, and I think Alabama will be better for it." It's unclear when the bill will be debated in the Alabama Senate. The news that the ancient Indian practice was banned came as a shock to many on social media, who trolled the state for its conservative thinking.


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For representative purposes only: In 1993, the Alabama Board of Education had banned the ancient Indian practice  of yoga in public schools (Getty Images)

Yoga ban on the way out?

In 1993, the Alabama Board of Education banned the practice of yoga, along with hypnosis, and meditation, in public schools after pressure from conservative groups. The ban only applied to public schools. At the time, groups claimed it was a "method of religious training". Despite going into effect, not many knew about its presence. In an interview with NBC, Gray said, "you already do it. Many of the stretches you're doing are yoga; it's just not called by that name," adding "a lot of people didn't know it [the ban] was there."

Now, his bill plans to scale back on that ban to some extent. Yoga will be allowed, but all techniques "shall have exclusively English descriptive names" says the bill. The legislation also says that "chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas and 11 namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited." Furthermore, it makes the practice optional for schools, who will have to provide students with an alternative activity if they do not want to participate. 

Despite bipartisan support in the House, the bill is facing some pressure from conservative groups. Joe Godfrey, executive director of Alabama Citizens Action Program told NBC, "It's an issue of separation of church and state. You'll hear people invoke that when it comes to Christianity because they don't want prayer in school. Yet they want to teach yoga?" The news of the bill has quickly gone viral on social media, with many shocked that the ban was even in place. 

Group of 'Yoga on the move' class participants practice Yoga in Tempelhofer Feld on May 17, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Yoga is popular around the world as a form of exercise (Getty Images)

‘Alabama is a special kinda stupid’

The state found itself roasted by social media as news spread. One user tweeted "Alabama is a special kinda stupid. Elect Tommy to the Senate and likely Mo Brooks in 2022 and ban Yoga because **its foreign** Hey Bama, who do you think works in your chicken and other processing plants??"



"'We might let you do yoga, just don’t use any of those non-white words' — Alabama pointing out they aren’t racist because they have a friend from India," another person said. Another tweeted "They’ll ban everything but racism in Alabama lol." Another posted "Alabama. Evangelicals believe that Yoga is Satan's gateway. But apparently if you give it English names, it confuses Satan as it becomes exercise." One user asked, "Is it 1950 in Alabama?" while another said, "I thought this was a joke. These people are truly primitive."






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