Yoga Teacher Training Licensing Hits New York

Sheriff BadgeWell, 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 City NYC has a great article on the topic. (Thanks, J. Brown, for the link.)

Yoga Journal is holding a Business of Yoga Workshop tomorrow and Friday (May 1415) 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?

4 thoughts on “Yoga Teacher Training Licensing Hits New York”

  1. I am meeting with state officials this morning, Friday May 15, and will send Jo Brill the results of the meeting. Here are the best links:

    She has a fantastically useful blog up with relevant information:

    Yoga City NYC has hired reporters to follow the matter, and post daily about the situation, meaning up-to-date all-round information, interviews and so forth:

    The law itself:

    You should write, as some of us already have, to Mayor Michael Bloomberg (this concerns NYC residents–yoga teachers and those who receive the benefit of Yoga–, Senator Eric Schneiderman and Governor David Patterson. The more letters they receive, the better. Emails and addresses at “Contact” on their websites, if you don’t already have them. Other major NY studios have lawyers addressing the issue and are in contact with various State officials. We hope to co-ordinate our efforts, even though each center has a different mission and may be affected differently by the law.

    Take the name “school” out your name if it’s there. There are laws about that too!


    Alison West
    Yoga Union
    NY NY

  2. PS I realize I included some of the same links as the blog article itself. What I wanted to communicate is that they provide on-going, evolving news every day and can be relied on for the latest news, not just one article or posting.

  3. Thanks for the info, Alison. That’s great that YogaCity has hired reporters, hopefully we can get some major press coverage… Kelsey Kaufman also suggested contacting Ron Paul and his Campaign for Liberty; they have a huge mailing list and are vocal supporters of freedom.

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