Mr. Gray pointed out that his bill would allow schools and students to make their own decisions about whether to offer or participate in yoga classes. It also says that public schoolteachers cannot say “namaste,” a greeting often used in yoga, or any kind of chant.
“You have to compromise in order to get that bipartisan support,” he said.
Mr. Gray came across the issue largely by chance. In a speech at a public high school in Auburn, Ala., in 2019, he mentioned that yoga had helped him stay grounded while juggling responsibilities.
After his remarks, teachers told him that they had been unable to arrange exercises for their students. “That’s how I learned it was banned,” Mr. Gray said.
Around the time of the ban in 1993, parents in the state were raising concerns not only about yoga but also about hypnotism and “psychotherapeutic techniques.” According to an April 1993 article in The Anniston Star, one mother in Birmingham said her child had brought a relaxation tape home from school that made a boy “visibly high,” The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
But for Mr. Gray, a former football player, yoga has long been a useful part of his exercise regimen. The gentle stretches helped him cool down after practices, he said, while the breathing exercises strengthened his lungs. (That, he added, may have helped him recover quickly from a bout of Covid-19 last year.)
He introduced his first bill to challenge the yoga ban in 2019, but it quickly failed. His second attempt passed the House in 2020 but was put on the back burner because of the pandemic.
This time, Mr. Gray is optimistic about the bill’s prospects. He said a Republican senator, Tom Whatley, had agreed to carry the legislation forward in the Senate, where, like the House, Republicans have a majority. (Mr. Whatley did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Friday.)