Well, it’s happened. The New York state government wants to bring yoga into the fold of regulated industries. Teacher training programs are now considered “vocational training” and the state wants to require its own applications and fees. This would be in addition to the Yoga Alliance applications and fees.
Leslie Kaminoff warned us (in his anatomy class) about this possibility a few months ago: several states have instigated the licensing process for yoga. (Minnesota, Arizona, and Michigan, I believe.) It’s of course a new revenue source for struggling governments (and they’ll be more able to draw yoga “therapists” into the morass of health insurance providers and paperwork).
The letter was a full-out cease-and-desist order, threatening a fine of up to $50,000 for operation of a school without a license. Recipients were instructed to cease operating teacher training instruction until they complied. No matter if you’re halfway through a training, or advertising a new one. Your Yoga Alliance license? Irrelevant. You have to wait for the eight-month-plus process of state licensing to conclude; then you can finish up.
It appears that the state got their list of programs from the Yoga Alliance website, as not all programs were served with the letter (on April 16). Studios in other states could of course preemptively remove their teacher training programs from this website, without losing their Yoga Alliance certification… Also, programs advertised and focused on personal enrichment, not providing actual teacher training certificates for their graduates, would probably be exempt.
One problem is that the state board is pushing a one-size-fits-all vocational training application, while the range and methodology of programs is vast. A license to teach “yoga” is like a license to teach “science” — it’s a huge topic. Even Yoga Alliance has famously broad guidelines. It’s up to the student and studio to clarify their expectations. But the state sees vocational licensing as part of its mission. Exemptions seem unlikely; even if a school offers “only language, religion, and athletics”, the director of the State Education Department insisted that “If the student would expect to learn skills which may be used in an occupation at a later point, whether employed or self employed, then the training needs to be regulated by our bureau.”
If you’re a yoga student, this means your local yoga studio might go under. Teacher trainings are generally the main source of revenue for studios — even $20 classes are no match for New York’s five-digit rents — and additional costs of hundreds or thousands of dollars might be impossible. Especially for smaller studios. So, what to do?
Jo Brill has compiled a resource page including PDFs of both letters, resources for studios, and contact information for the state regulators.
Yoga Journal is holding a Business of Yoga Workshop tomorrow and Friday (May 14–15) — I’m sure this topic will come up.
And you can use the hashtag #NYSYogaReg to post or follow the topic on Twitter.
Does anyone know if there’s a senator or congressperson that it would be appropriate to contact?