Soderstrum: Alabama's yoga ban 'protects' students from something harmless

Trevor Soderstrum
Guest opinion writer

I would like to salute the great state of Alabama for protecting its people from a great evil for the last 30 years! Human trafficking? No. The fast-food industry that entices our children to ever grander levels of obesity? No, not even close. Something much more insidious. Yoga!

I apologize if a cold chill just ran down your spine. Yes, that horrifying activity that mothers handing out juice boxes and apple slices do. For the last three decades, it was illegal to teach yoga in public schools in Alabama.

No child should ever have to suffer through having to assume the warrior pose. They should remain fat and inflexible like Jesus intended. We all know it is a slippery slope from downward dog and cat-cow poses to eating granola and then, god forbid, believing in science and brushing your teeth.

Where was the state of Iowa when I grew up to protect me for having to square dance? I was forced to comply through high school physical education! I will still go into the fetal position if I hear Coach Kray’s voice mutter, “Time to square dance. Pick a partner.” If you have ever seen me dance, you would know why I needed protection. It was child abuse, especially for the other children whose feet I stepped on.

In 1993, Alabama made it illegal to teach yoga in schools.

The reason Alabama decided they needed to protect their kids from yoga is its Hindu roots. Although, I am pretty sure early practitioners of the spiritual discipline of yoga could have imagined a bunch of materialistic soccer moms with rubber mats and wearing plastic prayer beads that cost $5.99 on eBay, following their teachings. Not one of them thought to themselves, “The world will be a better place when women eating bonbons on their couch will be wearing extremely form-fitting pants named after my spiritual art.”

American yoga is as close to real yoga as Fruit Roll-Ups are to real fruit. A lot of Christian churches now even hold Christian yoga classes in their basements. Although I should warn people: watching your middle-aged minister trying to get out of the lotus position has scarred many a soul.

I have the need to confess something. I hate yoga. I hate every position, every pose, every namaste. Why? Because I have to do it. For some people their body is a temple, I treated mine like a frat house. The porch is now sagging, the roof is leaking, and there are unidentifiable stains on the carpet. If I want to be able to walk when I am an old man, I have to do yoga. Pray for the sake of those around me that I don’t pass gas in an unprotected moment. In the nursing home, you don’t need any hair, hearing, or bladder control. You may mutter incoherently, but if you can walk, to the female residents, you are a rock god. Just as Keith Richards.

In 2019, the Alabama House of Representatives rejected lifting the yoga ban. Even though, like most American children, Alabama youngsters' blood sugar levels resemble pixie sticks and Mountain Dew. It took a year-long education campaign by physicians and yoga practitioners to finally ensure passage in the House of Representatives, 73-25.

There were some stipulations in the bill. Much like sex education, parents can opt their children out of participating in yoga. I totally agree. No child should ever be forced to touch their toes. If God had meant for people to be limber, he would not have given men beer guts.

No spirituality. No foreign words can be used, especially “namaste,” which means “greetings to you” or “I bow to the divinity in you.” God forbid a teacher teaches children to respect others. With that kind of thinking, Donald Trump would never have been president.

Still, twenty-five representatives of the people voted against it. This is the same state that got angry when a federal judge ordered a monument to the 10 Commandments removed from a courthouse. So, the ban had nothing to do with keeping spirituality out of the classroom.

Government does a lot of stupid things, whether it is Alabama or a liberal state like California. It tries to protect people from things that are for the most part harmless or personal choices and leaves those same citizens to fend for themselves when the real wolves of our society circle.

Government shouldn’t be a helicopter mother or a stern, deadbeat dad. Although, if you see me dancing, feel free to ask officials to intercede.

Columnist Trevor Soderstrum was born and raised in Story City. He can be reached at tjsode@gmail.com.