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NY State Lays SmackDown on Yoga “Vocation”: Studios Must Register for License or Else

in Business of Yoga, YD News

sirenCrap. Unfortunately, we really can’t say we couldn’t have seen this coming. After Michigan licensing and the Washington taxes tackle…well.

Right, so here we go… The State has gone ahead and pulled the mat out from under NY yoga studios, those that have been, or were hoping to start, raking in profits from training commoners on the yoga ropes. In fact, the state (more specifically, the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision) issued a letter insisting studios register for a license or suffer the consequences, the worst of which could cost $50,000 smackaroos.

Cease and Desist: Letters (sedletter_yogateachertrainers pdf) were mailed in mid-April to what we understand to be Yoga Alliance registered studios/schools in NY offering teacher training (not all yoga outlets offering training received letters). The very basic gist is that yoga, and yoga teacher training, fall under what the state considers to be a “vocation” meaning it is subject to the rigmarole and countless hours of mind-numbing paperwork just like the poor bartender training schools have been enduring for years.

Notable Loopholes/Exceptions as cited by Jo Brill:

  • Some people object to any licensing at all, although it is important to realize that the NYS Education Department (NYSED) considers it part of their mission to regulate all vocational training in the state.
  • There are some exceptions to the law, and some teacher trainers have written to NYSED indicating that they believe yoga teacher training is exempted. NYSED disagrees, as this memo (pdf) makes clear.
  • Even if you accept that licensing will be required, the letter seems to imply that teacher trainers must suspend all their programs immediately and until they complete the license approval process, which takes at best eight months and sometimes longer. That of course is a hardship for teachers-in-training as well as to the trainers running the programs. Some kind of grace period is essential to prevent disruption.
  • Licensing presupposes fixed premises that meet certain standards (despite the fact that not all teacher training programs have a physical site) and regular filing of audited financial statements.

Lots and lots of questions:

If studios are getting the smackdown, how soon will regulation individual yoga teachers come hurdling down the pike? Will yoga studios really have to cease and desist, like in the middle of current training? Or is that just a big namby pamby big word scare tactic by the state? What about continuing ed workshops? (seriously, we were deliberating budgetary consequences of attending the Street Yoga training this weekend – yeah we know it’s probably too late. ugh).

Is this all legit? Is yoga a vocation? How much does the state get involved besides collecting fees? (maybe consult with YA on that last one).

Chance of a silver lining? The threat we mentioned earlier for yoga therapists may be proved moot by the newly defined regulation, perhaps preserving the “trade”?

And who doesn’t love credibility? Take it away Mr. Davis, (from Yoga City)

“Schools can develop a relationship with the labor department,” he said. “Because you’re a licensed school, students will be eligible to apply for state and federal grants or loans to take your teacher training program.” He added that “it certainly lends more credibility to your program” if you are licensed with the state.”

More credibility!

Director of the BPSS, Carol W. Yates, wrote that, “Yoga teaching is an occupation, whether employed or self employed.” Any training, the letter reads, which provides a student with skills that could potentially be used in a future occupation, must be regulated by the state.

“If the training involves teacher training…we do not view this as exempt,” Yates wrote. “We view yoga as more than recreation and athletics. Yoga is a specific system of exercise for physical and mental well being. It goes beyond recreation and athletics.”

Er.. that’s a good thing right? Like, that’s kinda what we were asking for was acceptance, so such programs like the one at PS 217 can flourish? Right?

Oh it is a toughie isn’t it.

Highly recommended further reading:

Invaluable Resource Page by Jo Brill – presents the full picture, letters and memos from the state, breakdown of the sitch, useful info for contacting state officials and everyone’s favorite Yoga Alliance President and CEO, Mark Davis (rmdavis at yogaalliance.org)

Great recap post at Yogoer

YogaCity has super rundown replete with journalistic quotes from NY teachers as well as Mister Yoga Alliance, Mark Davis, who claims no responsibility. (argh-worthy note: the link just goes to the Yoga City “news” page, no permalinks guys?)


Because we’re yoga dorks who twitter, we hear from one lkaminoff that there will be notes posted after Yoga Journal’s Business of Yoga conference tomorrow and Fri, which will surely be largely slathered in regulation chatter.

to be continued…

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