Saturday, July 11, 2009


The great yogi Sri Ramakrishna always used to tell his disciples that the two greatest obstacles to enlightenment were "women" and "gold" (i.e.; lust and greed).

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Ten years ago, The Yoga Alliance was created as a voluntary licensing organization for yoga instructors and schools. The idea was to create a set of standards before the state stepped in and started doing it. (It also seemed like a way to make money). The group came into being after I'd started teaching yoga, but not long enough afterwords for me to be "grandfathered" in. Hundreds of hours of teaching experience were required for that to happen. The other option was to take a training at one of their certified schools... which didn't yet exist. Anyway, many local teachers and studios thought the group was bogus - until years later, when YA got so big that students stopped signing up for teacher training programs that weren't certified by them. (Teacher training programs are a huge source of revenue for these schools). Suddenly, everyone got in line and joined the group.

Recently, some states began making noises about regulating the schools that train yoga teachers. They want a piece of the pie, of course. And they've been using the Yoga Alliance's registry of certified schools for reference. Oops! Here's an excerpt from yesterday's New York Times article, by A. G. Sulzberger:

'In April, New York State sent letters to about 80 schools warning them to suspend teacher training programs immediately or risk fines of up to $50,000. But yogis around the state joined in opposition, and the state has, for now, backed down.

In other states, regulators were not moved. In March, Michigan gave schools a week to be certified by the state or cease operations. Virginia’s cumbersome licensing rules include a $2,500 fee — a big hit for modest studios that are often little more than one-room storefronts.

Lisa Rapp, who owns My Yoga Spirit in Norfolk, Va., said she was closing her seven-year-old business this summer. "This caused us to shut down the studio altogether,” Ms. Rapp said. “It’s too bad, because this community really needs yoga.”

The conflict started in January when a Virginia official directed regulators from more than a dozen states to an online national registry of schools that teach yoga and, in the words of a Kansas official, earn a “handsome income.” Until then, only a few states had been aware of the registry and had acted to regulate yoga instruction, though courses in other disciplines like massage therapy have long been subject to oversight.

The registry was created by the Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit group started in 1999 to establish teaching standards in an effort to have the industry regulate itself. In a recent newsletter, the alliance warned its members that nationwide licensing might be inevitable, “forcing this ancient tradition to conform to Western business practices.”

“We made it very, very easy for them to do what they’re doing right now,” said Leslie Kaminoff, founder of the Breathing Project, a nonprofit yoga center in New York City, who had opposed the formation of the Yoga Alliance. “The industry of yoga is a big, juicy target.”'

Read the rest of the story here.

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