Yoga is prohibited in Alabama schools, though teachers can instruct students on stretching and other exercises associated with the practice. (Contributed photo/Let's Move)
Don't expect Downward Facing Dog or the Child's Pose in Alabama classrooms.
Yoga, along with hypnosis, meditation and guided imagery exercises, are officially prohibited in the state's public school classrooms. The ban dates back to 1993 and is included in the Alabama State Board of Education's Administrative Code.
"The State Board of Education specifically prohibits the use of hypnosis and dissociative mental states. School personnel shall be prohibited from using any techniques that involve the induction of hypnotic states, guided imagery, meditation or yoga," the regulations state.
Yoga was among the physical education activities listed as "inappropriate" in a document that until this week was posted to ALSDE's website. State School Superintendent Eric Mackey said the document – which attracted national attention after it was shared online – was outdated and won't be enforced "as long as I'm state superintendent."
The yoga ban is set to remain in place, however.
The prohibition is included in the Alabama Physical Education Instructional Guide, which references a 2006 letter from former State Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morton that stipulates that "yoga is not to be offered during regular school hours or after school hours to public school students on a public school campus in Alabama."
In a question-and-answer section on PE activities on the ALSDE website, the yoga issue is addressed directly.
Yoga – exercise and relaxation techniques that trace their roots to India – is prohibited due to its religious roots.
The practice, according to ALSDE documents, is a "Hindu philosophy and method of religious training in which eastern meditation and contemplation are joined with physical exercises, allegedly to facilitate the development of body, mind, spirit."
In other documents, ALSDE said teachers may instruct students on poses, exercises and stretches associated with the practice as long as the "course is not called yoga."
Meditation – deemed as coming "from the mystical traditions of the East" – is also on the banned list if it involves focusing on deep breathing and a mantra, or repeated word or phrase.
"Secular" meditation is allowed, however.
"This is not to be confused with secular meditation which involves alert, reflective and cognitive contemplation," the ALSDE said.
The ALSDE did not respond to questions related to the bans.
Other "inappropriate" behaviors
The Alabama Physical Education Instructional Guide, written in 2009 and modified in 2015, is the only PE instruction guide on the ALSDE website.
It includes a chapter in "identifying inappropriate practices and behaviors."
In general, it advises that activities to be avoided are those that:
The document goes on to include "specific student games or activities to avoid" with the following list:
Tag is also included on the non-recommended list, unless modifications are made to the game, such as making sure all students have learned how to "chase, flee and dodge."
Other activities to be avoided include:
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