harpers.org /archive/2021/06/sweet-om-alabama/

[Readings] Sweet Om Alabama,

4-5 minutes 5/7/2021

From emails sent to Alabama state representative Jeremy Gray regarding a bill to legalize the practice of yoga in K–12 schools, which was banned in 1993.

I have only done yoga once or twice, but knowing that there was more to it than stretching and strengthening, I decided to do some research. As a follower of Jesus, I always want to be careful with what I introduce into my spirit, soul, and body. Based on what I have found—my trusted pastor’s teaching, even the teachings of Indian yogis—yoga cannot be separated from the Hindu faith. The poses are used to worship multiple gods. So I can’t, knowing what I know, in spite of the apparent benefits, participate. But this isn’t about my personal decision. My concern is about introducing the practice to innocent children without informing their parents and the community about the religious aspects. People seem to be ignorant of yoga’s origin and ties. I can gather a few resources and share them, if you are interested.

Thank you for sponsoring the bill for yoga. It doesn’t surprise me that you still have all this backwoods thinkin’ that yoga is bad or evil. I am a firm believer in meditation and yoga. If more people did these two important practices, we might have fewer problems, or at least better attitudes. I work at Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, but much of my spirituality is based on Christianity and Buddhism. I just don’t see why we can’t all learn to appreciate and respect a person’s right to believe what they do.

I read in the New York Times that you passed a bill to allow yoga in schools. As a Democrat and a yoga enthusiast, I applaud you for your efforts. That was a really stupid ban. However, I also read that the bill bans the word “namaste.” No offense, but that’s a stupid ban, too. Normally, I spend five months a year conducting training in India for work. While “namaste” has been appropriated by a bunch of white ladies in California trying to market yoga classes as having some spiritual meaning, it is actually just Hindi for “hello.” This is how many people in South Asia say hello. If I couldn’t say “goodbye” to my trainees in India because the word originated from a Christian term for “God be with ye,” that would be stupid. This is stupid. It’s like banning hola, bonjour, adios, or konichiwa.

Thank you for yoga. Maybe Alabama should go back to Roman numerals and not use Hindu numbers. The first Christian kingdom to use coins was an African kingdom, and Iraqi and Syrian Christians brought Christianity to India in the year 500. Europe did not invent Christianity. Hinduism is tolerant of all religions because we Hindus believe that we are all God’s creation.

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