Opponents of a measure that would lift an almost 30-year ban on yoga in public schools say the practice could introduce Hinduism into the classroom.
“Yoga is a very big part of the Hindu religion,” Becky Gerritson, director of Eagle Forum of Alabama, told the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Shortly after her remarks, the bill stalled in committee. It has already been passed in the House of Representatives.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jeremy Gray dismisses the notion that yoga is a gateway to eastern religion.
“This whole notion that if you do yoga, you’ll become Hindu — I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years and I go to church and I’m very much a Christian,” Gray said.
However, the answer depends on one’s perspective. Opponents raise a valid point about the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which would prevent Hindu teachings just as it prohibits school-led prayer.
So can yoga be practiced apart from Hinduism? Many Americans practice yoga regularly for exercise and stress relief, and have not become Hindu. And many Americans adhere to Hindu tenets without realizing it, as many aspects of that religion are the same in other religions, including Protestantism.
Gray hopes the absence of two committee members will allow the measure to come up for a vote again in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and its fate will likely depend on whether it’s viewed as a religious practice or a practice used in a religion.