Yoga Regulation Debate Heats Up in Texas

The debate for regulation of yoga teacher training (YTT) programs continues. In Austin, Texas, a contingency of yoga studio owners and practitioners, represented by the Texas Yoga Association (TYA), staged a yoga demonstration recently to support legislation excluding yoga teacher training programs from regulation efforts headed by the Texas Workforce Commission.  Supporting the TYC in their anti-regulatory efforts was John Matthews, president of Yoga Alliance.

The bill (in committee) would render Pilates, karate, yoga, and other recreational activities exempt from professional certification licensure regulation.

Enter a third faction: The Professional Yoga Teachers Association (PYTA), envisioned by its creators to have a national role in advocating for the recognition of yoga as a profession requiring licensure and regulation. The PYTA suggests that for yoga to evolve beyond its current paradigm and into healthcare settings, regulatory oversight will be necessary.

Failure to regulate, the PYTA suggests, would render yoga instructors non-professionals—a serious setback in the recognition of yoga as a legitimate vocation.  

Conversely, the TYA contends that “Yoga is an [an art form], expression of physical movement, meditation and spiritual practice more than a vocation.”

Of merit but unmentioned are the differences between yoga instruction and yoga therapy and how regulation may differentially benefit each as well as consumers.  

The field of yoga therapy is defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists as a profession.  Teaching yoga, on the other hand, has been classed as a “recreational activity” by the TYA in its attempt to avoid regulatory efforts–a classification supported by Yoga Alliance’s presence at the demonstration.   

While both yoga instruction and yoga therapy stem from yoga traditions, there are clear differences.  Yoga therapists are more likely to work with clinical (patient) populations and one-on-one, similar to physical therapists or acupuncturists.  Formally regulated training of yoga therapy practitioners could prove of benefit to both consumers (in the form of increased safety, access through health insurance, and well-trained practitioners) and the profession at large.

By contrast, yoga instruction can be more of an “art form” as suggested by the TYA, analogous to karate or Pilates.  Yoga instructors tend to work with healthier groups than do yoga therapists.  For YTT programs, benefits to avoiding regulation include fewer fees for yoga studios and instructors.  For the consumer, this translates into more affordable yoga classes and workshops, and a potentially greater diversity of course and class offerings.  One drawback of non-regulation includes the lack of formal “professionalization.”

The TYA bill would broadly classify all yoga teacher training programs (including yoga therapy) with other (non-professional) “recreational activities,” challenging the PYTA’s efforts for yoga professionals to be recognized as such.

In light of the above, there may be utility in considering differentiated approaches to regulation for yoga instruction and yoga therapy.   

Do you think yoga should be regulated by state governments?  Should yoga teachers, yoga studios, yoga teacher training programs and yoga therapists be grouped under the same category and regulations?

Comments 2

  1. It unimaginable to me that yoga could be classified as a recreational activity, void of training or proper regulation. The art of yoga is so precise in its teaching that I fear lack of proper training and regulations will lead many to suffer injuries. There’s simply too much room for improper physical practice of yoga. The lack of proper spiritual teaching also frightens me greatly…

  2. First let me just say as one who just joined this website, that this is a great website with very interesting articles, I hadn’t realized so many important questions are raised about yoga and its place in society. Silly of me, seeing as how I very deeply believe in the value of nontraditional holistic health practices in comparison to the traditional primarily medicinal ones.
    Anyway, that being said, I find the end of this article pertinent. The difference between yoga instruction and therapy.
    Yoga is something that is often a part of peoples’ everyday lives with or without instruction. Just as ballet or dance in general has specifics, but is still an art form based on the creative individual, yoga has many different styles which focus on things like alignment or strength training and whatnot. Some people EAT, SLEEP, and BREATHE the focus, determination, and grace of ballet; Just as others EAT, SLEEP, and BREATHE the mindfulness of yoga.
    I think Yoga Instructors should be without the need for a higher level of regulations because it does take work to further one’s self in practicing yoga, let alone being able to instruct other on it and certifications are job-specific. One hopes such instructors would take deep study/seriousness in their technique and be mindful of their students and what knowledge they have to give them. Yoga Consultations I think for those who ARE healthy but looking to improve themselves I think is the closest yoga instructors should be able to get to giving therapeutic advice to the sick.
    Therapy however IS different and should involve more regulations for those very interested in the holistic health AND alternative medicine aspects of yoga and how it directly improves the health of the ill. Such a therapist could work in a doctor’s office/health clinic as well as in a yoga studio, while the former yoga instructor would be more related to the studio…perhaps even the health clinic but not in so many ways.
    That’s my 2 cents! :D
    As far as spiritual teaching is concerned, save the meditation and holistic/mindfulness aspect…I don’t think Buddha (or whomever) would cry if Americans regarded it as a recreational activity that promotes mindfulness minus the external karmic aspect.

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