Should Yoga Schools be Regulated?

yoga school
Photo by carabros

If you search the web for Yoga Teacher Training schools, you will be inundated with hundreds of styles and approaches in almost every corner of the globe. All of these programs promise to graduate exceptional, knowledgeable teachers with a penchant for presenting the practice of yoga in a safe and accessible way. But as the number of Yoga schools explodes, are the thousands of new teachers they are producing every year really credible and safe?

In New York, the state Department of Education doesn’t think so and is requiring Teacher Training schools to obtain a Vocational License similar to what any technical school would have, and have threatened 79 yoga training schools with closure and up to $50,000 dollars in noncompliance fines if they don’t. These stricter regulations may be a trend in the yoga world as its popularity continues to grow, and more and more people are becoming students and teachers.

Though it is not a requirement to become a teacher training program, many of today’s yoga schools are registered with Yoga Alliance, the industries current supervisory agency. Yoga Alliance is not affiliated with any state or national governing body, and seeks mainly to uphold the standards of the ancient practice of yoga as well as ensure the credibility and safety of the teachers that graduate from a registered program. The standards of a Yoga Alliance registered school are broad though quite thorough and help students and potential teachers to know what to expect from the registered program.

Whether or not to bring more regulatory standards into the scope of yoga is an ongoing debate. Currently, there are no requirements or standards that one must meet to “teach” yoga, though more and more people are choosing to train through a registered school before going out into the world to teach. Students, also, are becoming more educated on how to choose a certified teacher. But, the practice of yoga, just as any physical practice, can have its risks. Risks that won’t necessarily disappear with stricter regulations.

What could happen if yoga schools become state and federally regulated could be a double edged sword. On one side, yoga will become much more of a business than it already is potentially losing the individual creativity and interpretation on which many schools thrive. Schools may often have to teach, or not teach, based on regulations with materials being standardized or omitted based on the opinions of people in business suits who may or may not know anything about the practice and teaching of yoga. But, conversely, having your school or your certification recognized by a state and/or federal licensing board may elevate the credibility and the compensation of yoga teachers. As a fellow yogi/physical therapist recently pointed out, in the 70’s physical therapy was an emerging art that was not state or federally regulated, thus physical therapists weren’t viewed with the respect and credibility that they have today. With regulations and standardizations, physical therapy has grown into a well-respected field which is not only credible but also well compensated. Maybe the potential is there for yoga, too.

What do you think about the regulation of Yoga schools?

Comments 7

  1. Yes, I would like to see Yoga given the respect and credibility it deserves and point people to safe and technically correct teachers.

  2. I am soneone looking in to Yoga Teaching programs and the massive variety out there is challenging. Having the Yoga Alliance Accreditation helps weed out some, still the differences in price , duration, methods of teaching and more is mind boogleing!

  3. I do believe there should be recognized standards for yoga teaching programs but I don’t believe state government regulators should be that source.
    This should be something that the yoga community at large can and should intiate.
    I don’t see government intervention as the way to perserve and protect the essense of this ancient discipline.

  4. Hi. It’ s Danielle Tergis from Yoga Alliance. I think it’s important to note that the licensing issue is primarily about the business of operating a yoga teacher training program (YTT) , not the actual teaching of yoga. Based on the conversations we’ve had with states that have been licensing YTT’s for years or are starting to, they are concerned with protecting the consumer and making sure these businesses are operating ethically. Given the cost of a YTT ($2000 – $5000) relative to the amount of money a yoga teacher makes (not that much), that’s significant. Unfortunately there have been instances where an YTT takes money for a program then closes down without refunding the students money and the student has no recourse.

    The licensing usually consists of ensuring basic business practices like refund policies, fire egress, teaching what a program says its going to teach, etc. There is also a curriculum component and that’s where the Yoga Alliance standards come into play. So far, every state has accepted Yoga Alliance’s 200-hr standards as the benchmark for the curriculum portion of the application. These standards were designed to protect the integrity of yoga so the fact that the states are accepting them is extremely important and of benefit to the entire yoga community. Imagine what would happen if the states decided to create their own curriculum standards.

    Hope this helps give everyone a more in depth understanding of the issue..

  5. Thanks so much for the knowledge and insight, Danielle. It is very helpful to know more about what the process of regulation consists of and what it affects.

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