Licensing issues have got many yoga studios across the country chanting obscenities, but NY is leading the way for ACTION. We are delighted and honored to once again present our guest and noted yogi-blogger, Joelle Hann of Yoga Nation, who will catch us up to speed on the latest in The State vs. Yoga Licensing Debacle, an update to ‘Yogis Unite‘ and what we’d like to call Part “Do”. Mass media has caught wind, the yogis have caught fire.
Last Wednesday, the Yoga Association of New York (YANY) was officially ratified at its second official meeting, held at OM Yoga in Manhattan. All in attendance agreed on a working mission statement that had been meticulously combed over by member lawyers. Now the fledgling organization can go forward with incorporating—and fighting for justice for yoga studios everywhere (in New York state).
(above) Meeting at OM Yoga, Wednesday, July 8
Following the meeting, on Friday, the New York Times published an article on the controversy of the state trying to license yoga teacher training programs not just in New York, but in the whole country (states such as Wisconsin and Virginia and others have targeted yoga studios as well): Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Pushes Back.
The Times article presented the important angles of the issue, several key voices, and also seemingly distorted a quote from Sybil Killian of OM Yoga (taken from a private email—that caused hubbub on the listserv). But ultimately it was sympathetic. It showed yoga centers and teachers objecting to the huge new fees and lots more red tape that studios are currently facing. (really, $50,000 is nothing to sniff at when you’re a tiny business.)
If you are moved to, please comment on the article. All voices are needed in this discussion.
Even before last week, things have been active. For the July 4 holiday, Leslie Kaminoff, a vocal dissenter for licensing since way before the current crisis, wrote a Declaration of Independence for Yoga Educators.
“I do not overstate when I say that the entire field of yoga in this country is now at war with state regulators, and the stakes in this battle could not be higher. If we don’t overcome this intrusion into our beloved field, it will cease to exist as we know it.
“Government enforcement of licensing and Yoga cannot co-exist. Yoga is about freedom and Yoga is about relationship, and force destroys both. If we are not free to conduct our relationships free of interference by third parties, there can be no yoga.”
On June 24, Alison West, president elect of YANY, was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show on NPR.
The general public’s immediate reaction is that TT programs should be regulated so that they are safer. But this is a simplistic understanding of how yoga has been taught to date (I mean, are yoga experts dangerous buffoons?). The press typically allows more reactive than clarifying comments (which is why your comments are badly needed!). The real issue—that the governments need money and yoga “schools” look like lucrative targets—gets lost.
But there is good news. As Alison said at Wednesday’s meeting, YANY’s first efforts have been effective. A June 19 letter sent to Betsy Kase of Yoga Haven in Tuckahoe, NY, from Edward Kramer, Supervising Investigator at the State Education Department, says prosecutions have been temporarily halted:
“Our position is that yoga teacher training schools should be licensed. However, since there is pending legislation regarding an exemption, we are deferring any prosecutions at this time.”
Also, the enormous package that Heather Principe of Yoga and Polarity Center of New York sent to the State in an effort to comply with their request to license was returned unopened about a month later, and without an explanation! This either confirms that the State has suspended processing of licenses for the moment or it indicates that the State has bitten off more than it can chew: perhaps both!
In any case, time is what YANY first asked for in May—and it seems to have been granted. Breathing space to organize and lobby is what we now have.
Going forward YANY will be welcoming everyone to join—not just yoga studio owners, but teachers, students, and even friend of yoga (people who support the idea of yoga even if they don’t practice)—as it expands beyond the current crisis to “uphold yoga in all its forms,” to lobby on behalf of yoga, and to join forces as a pro-yoga marketing entity.
YANY is gathering forces to promote and protect yoga as it should be—by the people who are deeply invested in having it prosper in all its true forms, not in bureaucratic forms regulated by non-experts.
Join the Google Group for YANY to hear about upcoming meetings and developments.
Become a fan of YANY on Facebook.
Stay tuned for YANY web site under construction.
For our part we’d like to point out the most glaring ‘graph from NYTimes:
The conflict started in January when a Virginia official directed regulators from more than a dozen states to an online national registry of schools that teach yoga and, in the words of a Kansas official, earn a “handsome income.” Until then, only a few states had been aware of the registry and had acted to regulate yoga instruction, though courses in other disciplines like massage therapy have long been subject to oversight.
(‘online registry’ being Yoga Alliance)