It is with great pleasure, and gratitude, that we welcome a guest post today! Blogger Extraordinaire, Joelle Hann, of the illustrious Yoga Nation, will take you through the treacherous twists and turns NY State has strewn out for teachers and studios trying to provide training. It is so Action Time! Read on for significant updates and vital details on: what happened? and, what’s next? and the 50 thousand smackeroos.
The licensing issue that exploded in May continues hotly into June and promises that pitta season (a.k.a. summer) 2009 will be pretty fiery for all concerned.
On an up-note, the licensing crisis has had the effect of bringing New York yoga teachers together to create—under a lot of what-sounds-like solid legal advice—the Yoga Council of New York State (no website yet). This happened June 2 at the town-hall meeting hosted by OM Factory that more than 80 intrepid yogis and studio owners attended to hash out the situation.
As Alison West, director of the newly created council’s executive committee, (and teacher trainer of yours truly) says, there might be a joyful conclusion to the hassle so far. As yogis work together to protect and foster the growth of yoga, they might also be able to do much more than just ward off the State. They could help market yoga and set standards (that, presumably) update those of the Yoga Alliance (which has come under some heat lately for being a bit of a lame duck on the licensing issue in NY).
Many attendees signed up for active duty with the council’s various sub-committees (legal, PR, outreach, standards) and contributed 20 bucks towards the $50,000 the council hopes to raise for a legal fund. Way to go, yogis! Nice power to the people move.
The Yoga Council of New York State already has some muscle behind it—and a clear vision. According to minutes from the June 2 meeting:
The Yoga Council of NYS was created to
- Seek exemption from State licensing for Yoga Teacher Training Programs
- Lobby state officials on current and future legislation and regulation as it relates to Yoga and the business of Yoga in NYState
- Negotiate with NYState regarding licensing and take legal action as deemed necessary
- Communicate with state officials regarding the diversity of Yoga traditions, and the business of Yoga
- Serve as a resource and networking forum for all Yoga studios, teachers, students and friends
- Market and promote Yoga in New York State
- Uphold Yoga in all its forms
“We have realized that we have a common interest in making sure that teacher trainings can continue with as little interruption as possible, and to resolve the matter with BPSS keeping costs—in terms of time, money, and risk—as low as possible.” (Refresher: “BPSS” stands for New York State Education Department’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision.)
(I’m amazed at how many of the yogis and yoga studio owners present at the June 2 meeting are also lawyers: Vijai Wilansky (Integral Yoga), SJ Khalsa (Kundalini Yoga East), Jacqui Vernon (Yoga Spa); also Lanny Alexander, and Len Easter Esq (Leslie Kaminoff’s attorney) who showed up in support. Is there a secret society of NY yogi lawyers?)
That said, the challenges are real and not about to disappear. The best strategy for studios who have received threatening letters is, for now, to write reply saying they are taking the situation seriously.
Alison showed impressive strategy-in-action by quickly organizing a meeting with BPSS officials on May 15. According to the meeting minutes, her action served to dispel tension between yogis and the State. “Alison’s impression from the meeting, as well as further correspondence with Carole Yates, is that BPSS wants to set up a workable system for licensure and that they are sympathetic to issues such as the lack of permanent domicile for some teacher training programs.”
Senator Eric Schneiderman has championed the cause, introducing a bill to protect yoga studios from harassment from the State. But on June 8, Assembly member Deborah Glick introduced a slightly horrifying revision of the outdated 1939 bill that seems even worse—increasing licensing fees to $5,000 and shortening the time between certificate expirations, forcing studios to be continually mired in paperwork and expenses. Read Jo Brill’s informative web page on Yoga for Awareness for details (esp. if you understand legislative proceedings, which I really don’t).
If you want to keep up to date on developments, get on the yoga teachers Google group via the impressive Jo Brill. Email her at jo at yogaforawareness dot org.
If you want to volunteer for the council, contact Rhonda Nolan at rhondahillnolan at msn dot com.
The next meeting will be Wednesday, July 8 at 12:15 at OM Yoga, 826 Broadway at 12th street (above The Strand bookstore), 6th floor. 212 254 YOGA.