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.

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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.”

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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?

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