Maybe a law preventing yoga being used in Alabama schools will be overturned

When I first saw this article I had to do a double take. As someone who practices yoga in my home for over six years, its benefits are very helpful to these old bones and muscles. So, to see it categorized in such a negative light was troubling but not shocking. But, that is changing.

In 1993, Alabama legislators banned teaching yoga in public schools*. In an article called “Alabama might overturn its 28-year ban on yoga in schools. Just don’t say ‘namaste.’” by Meryl Kornfeld of The Washington Post, it reveals most of this law may be overturned. Here are a few paragraphs from the article. The whole article can be linked to below.

“Students will no longer need to bend over backward to (legally) practice yoga in Alabama.

In a 73-to-25 vote Thursday, the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill that will lift a quarter-century ban in public schools that some believe is unique to Alabama. Yoga was forbidden by the Alabama Board of Education in 1993 after opposition by conservative groups over its Hindu roots.

Amid reports of racism and violence against Asian Americans and other minorities, the measure is a positive step, said Nikunj Trivedi, president of the Coalition of Hindus of North America. He said practicing yoga, which many non-Hindus use for health benefits, is cultural appreciation, not cultural appropriation.

‘Yes, it has roots in Hinduism, and it’s a Hindu practice, but it’s a gift Hindus have shared with the world,’ Trivedi said.

The reason I was not shocked is I have seen this kind of push back before. A minister gave license to a suggestion by a female church leader to start an exercise program mainly for women. It actually worked so well, church attendance increased, Then the minister saw that they were doing yoga and put an abrupt end to it. He saw it as practicing another religion.

Fortunately, this mindset has changed for the better. Not only are there many places to learn and practice yoga, there are at least fifty commercials that use women and men practicing yoga in groups or at home as background to the theme to sell product. Let me emphasize this – it is so normative it is used to sell product.

In my personal experience, yoga is taught as a breathing and exercise program. The breathing part is as important as the exercise part as it helps one focus on what they are doing. One of the news reports cited a proponent of the law saying yoga was bad for mental health. In my experience, this is total off base, as it actually helps people with their peace of mind as well as stretching those muscles.

The only caution with yoga is usually made during the classes. If you cannot do a stretch or if it causes you discomfort, then don’t do it or do it to a lesser stretching pose. My level of yoga is more basic than some one much younger and more agile, who does moves and poses “with which I am not familiar.” Or, I should say know, but cannot even fathom doing.

So, I encourage people in all fifty states to find a sustainable exercise and “just do it’ as the Nike ad says. It may be yoga, pilates, isometrics, calisthenics, taibo, spin class, light weightlifting, etc. It need not be an hour work out to be effective – I work out fifteen minutes every day after I shower (it loosens up my old bones), varying three sets of routines to keep it interesting. One day I focus on arms and torso more, the next day legs and torso more, and the final day light weightlifting more.

And, for those who feel they are cheating their religion by saying “Namaste,” feel free to replace it with “have a nice day” or “peace be with you” as it is said in greeting as a sign of respect more than anything else.

*Per NBC News, Alabama in a 1993 law barred yoga in public schools along with other practices such as “meditation” and “guided imagery,” under a general prohibition of the use of “hypnosis and dissociative mental states.” Gray, elected in 2018, said he only recently learned about the ban, which was favored by religious leaders at the time.

Alabama yoga ban may be lifted after House passes bill – The Washington Post

Workouts need not be long to add value

Having spent more than fifty years working out in some fashion, I have learned that workouts need not be elongated affairs to add value to your body and mind. The key is to do something that is sustainable, something you can do with regularity. And, the amount of time needed can vary based on age, body style, health, etc.

I would also encourage you to start slow and build up to the routine that makes the most sense, listening to your body. Don’t do things that will cause harm – backs, knees and hips are very dear, eg. I am very careful with my back as I am tall.

For several years now, I have gravitated to a routine that makes sense for me. I workout for fifteen minutes AFTER I shower in the morning, so it is not too intense. The shower loosens the muscles and my back. I vary the daily routine between three workouts based on Yoga, Pilates, isometrics, calisthenics and light weigh-lifting using two 20 pound dumb bells as a maximum, but the weight can vary and be effective for you.

But, a key to each of these workouts is breathing. Since these exercises are not heavy duty, I breath in and out through my nose. If you feel the need for more oxygen, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. I used to do more of the latter, but have learned I snore less at night when breathing more naturally during exercise. On repetition exercises, breath in on the lesser portion of the exercise and out on when you exert.

The first set of exercises are standing stretches, a series of about a dozen exercises, but for those who cannot stand well, several can be done while seated. I will highlight two of the more productive exercises.

  • The Yoga warrior pose is one of the best exercises, which is a stretch and hold routine to twelve nice breaths. varying my arms three times for a total of 36 counted breaths. One leg is out front with foot pointed, the other leg being behind with foot slightly perpendicular to your body as you bend into the front leg. I start with my arms over each leg with palms down, then arms over my head and ending with arms out palms up. Then, I switch sides and do 36 more. It is one you can start with a count of three and build.
  • The other is a calisthenics exercise. Standing up put both arms over your head straight up from your shoulder. Then bring one leg up bending at the knee as you lower your arms. Then raise your arms again as you lower your leg. Then do the same with the other leg. You breath out when you raise your leg and in when you lower it. I do 24 of these.

The second set of exercises for the following day is a floor routine of about a dozen exercises, as well. These focus more on the legs and core areas. Let me focus on two exercises.

  • On your back, bend your legs so that your knees are are up and feet on the floor. Now, gradually swing both legs toward the right, not touching the ground with your knees and then swing them to the other side. Breath out when your knees approach the ground and breath in when you move them up. I do a count of 24 of these. Try to be smooth with your movements.
  • Again on your back, do stomach crunches which is an easier way to do sit-ups and not hurt your back. While bending your legs at the knee with your feet on the ground, put your hands behind your neck and lift your chin up and part of your upper torso off the ground. The key is to make your stomach muscles feel the exertion. Then, return your torso to the ground. Breath out when you exert and in when you let you head back down. I do 24 of these, but like the above start with a few and build up.

The third set for the next day is light-weight lifting exercises.

These are simple exercises, again about a dozen of them. I warm up with an 8 pound medicine ball, then move to one dumb bell then two, each weighing 20 pounds. But, use weight that is comfortable to you. The key is the technique and repetition more than the weight. Just picking two:

  • Take a small medicine ball and while standing hold it in front of your waist in both hands. Rotate the ball to each side with a small twist breathing out as you do. Swing it to the other side, breathing in, then breathing out. This works on your love handles. I do fifty of these, 25 on each side. If you don’t have a medicine ball, you can use a small dumb bell or just interlock your wrists and twist.
  • Using one of your dumb bells, kneel down with your left knee and place you left hand on the floor. Using your right hand, lift the dumb bell up like you are slowly pulling a lawn mower cord. Breath out when you pull up the weight, breathing down when you lower it – don’t drop the weight, lower it. Build up to fifteen of these. Then switch legs and arms and do fifteen more. Start slow and with a light weight. This is the best way to work your back lateral muscles without harming your back.

Remember to start slow with fewer reps and lesser weight. The key is to use smooth movements and get your breathing right. Also, please check with your doctor or a trainer if you need to get counsel. Even five minutes will help each day, but whatever you do keep it sustainable. I have had many routines in the past that would wane after a few months. I have been doing a variation of these for more than five years.

Brussel sprouts, breathing and beaches

“What an odd title?” you might be asking. “Outside of the alliteration, what does it mean?” These three terms represent a list of things I learned more about as I got older.

Brussel sprouts were nowhere close to being something I would eat when I was young. Okra, orange marmalade, spinach, etc. would also be in that category. Now, to my wife’s surprise, I will even eat brussel sprouts, preferably broiled or sautéed in a pan with bacon bits and olive oil. The brussel sprouts are a good metaphor for many things I now enjoy.

The breathing is an odd one. As a high school athlete, I was taught to breathe through my mouth as I worked out. Inhale when lessening the exertion and exhale when exerting. With yoga, more measured breathing is suggested, breathing in and out through the nose, exhaling through your mouth as you need it.

The yoga advice is sound. But, I read recently that breathing normally is better for your lung and heart health, as the sense of smell is activated and it better maintains the  breathing organs. The other observation is I find out I snore less at night by breathing in this manner when I exercise.

Now, what about beaches? I was thinking of the “Sunscreen” song where an older person shares a few pieces of wisdom including wearing sunscreen. I grew up twelve miles from the ocean. So, we hit the beaches often. Sunscreen was sparingly used especially with high schoolers. Yet, as more information emerged at the same time my scalp did so through my thinning hair, caps and sunscreen became paramount. And, don’t forget to re-apply the sunscreen after being out on the beach more than an hour. The sea breeze masks the burning.

So, breathe more naturally, protect your skin, and eat your veggies, including brussel sprouts. And, try other things you passed on. Our great-niece used to say to her mother when asked to try something, “I don’t think I could like that.” That feeling will change.

Yoga is not anti-Christian

It may surprise people that a 59 year old man took a Yoga class with his wife for thirteen sessions. It may also surprise you that I do a short daily routine of exercises after my shower that includes some Yoga stretches and breathing techniques. I mention this next fact as it is germane – I grew up a Southern Baptist and remain a Christian to this day, but must confess I am not a regular church goer.

I have tried on several occasions to encourage my sister to exercise more. On at least three occasions, I have suggested some relative easy Yoga poses and noted the breathing techniques will be of benefit. She noted her breathing has gotten heavier with some unwanted weight gain. But, when I use the phrase Yoga, she shuts me down. Why?

Unlike me, my sister became even more evangelical in her worship as a Southern Baptist. For those not in tune, the Southern Baptists believe strongly that their manner of worship is the only way to find heaven. I know some other religions feel the same, but this is my perspective having grown up with it. People may disagree and that is fine.

She has been taught that Yoga is more about being a mystical religion than it is about improving your body and mind. She has been taught that it is at odds with Christianity. I shared that many Christians do Yoga and if you check out TV commercials about almost any product, you will witness people doing Yoga in the background or forefront. I can count at least 30 commercials that fit this bill.

Yoga is more about being at peace with your breathing, meditation and stretching. Becoming and remaining flexible will serve us all well as we age. But, the breathing is essential as well. It helps oxygenate the muscles as they are used and helps the lung power. People who sing can breathe better because they have to control their breathing between notes. Measured and deep breathing is helpful.

As for the meditation, not everyone does this part. But, it is your brain. You can meditate over any thoughts you want. My wife shared with me a post that spoke of woman starting and building a women’s exercise group at her church. The minister was supportive and appreciated the growing church attendance until he walked in on a class meditating. It was irrelevant that they were meditating over an offered bible verse. The next sermon was on the evils of Yoga and church service declined as a result of his shortsightedness. A link to this post is below.

In my latest suggestion to my sister, that fell on deaf ears, I said let’s don’t call it Yoga, let’s call it George. She laughed but left the Yoga with me. The next time, I will just show her a few different stretches without naming them. My thrust is I want to be able to self-ambulate (walk on my own) until I die. The inability to walk without help is one of the milestones where a person’s demise hastens. Her added weight is causing her concern on this matter, hence her brother’s interest.

I am a Christian. I believe in the overarching theme that we should treat others like we wanted to be treated. Yoga was not mentioned in the bible. So, in my way of thinking, if I am making a suggestion to do Yoga as it helps me, I am following the Golden Rule. I am treating another the way I want to be treated. Yoga is not anti-Christian and don’t let anyone tell it is not.

Note: Here is a link to the post:

https://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/southern-baptist-yoga/