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VA Licensing Update: Yogis Rally Rebuttal, Open Avocation vs. A Vocation Debate

in Business of Yoga, YD News

Yogis doin’ it for themselves. VA edition.va_is_for_regulators_yoga

Way back at the end of June we incited VA yogis to follow NY and unite! Though we’re pretty sure it didn’t take much coaxing to set the letter-writing campaign to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) et al in motion, as well as rally the troops online at the Virginia Yoga Teachers group on facebook. Way to go ‘Ginny yogis!

Perhaps one of their greatest triumphs to date though is getting enough buzzing prana to make it in today’s Washington Post, in an article highlighting the certification dilemma and shedding light on an even muddier argument: is yoga teacher training job prep?

Yoga Teacher Training: A Vocation or Avocation?

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) says yoga teacher training is preparation for a job. In short, their claim is that teaching yoga is a vocation and thus involves a $2500 fee, audits, annual charges of at least $500, and a bucketload of paperwork just like any other vocational school is saddled with presently. VA studios are denying the pants off that claim.

In one corner, state lawmakers for vocation!

“But the teacher training is preparing people for a job. They can take the skills they learn and open up their own studio or just teach,” says Linda Woodley, the higher education council’s director of private and out-of-state postsecondary education.

In the other corner, the studio owners for avocation!

“Maybe we shouldn’t call it teacher training — maybe it should be yoga immersion or an apprenticeship,” says Maryam Ovissi, co-owner of Beloved Yoga in Northern Virginia, which trains about 15 teachers each year.

“This is definitely an avocation. Most people aren’t doing this as a way to support themselves,” Susan Van Nuys, a ‘burned-out computer programmer-turned-studio owner.’

Hm. Basically, folks, anyone training to become a full-time yoga teacher, especially these days, is completely bonkers. Pshaw.. like anyone in their right and left minds would come out of YTT expecting to be a full time yoga teacher. yah right (*nervous laughter*). We’ve surely seen and heard of people attending teacher trainings to deepen their practice, and perhaps integrate yoga into their day jobs, which we just assume are as lawyers, hedge funders and neurosurgeons, because they can afford it! Oh we kid, there are plenty of other professionals with credit cards. We wonder though, is downplaying the YTT programs’ ability to churn out capable teachers the right root to tug?

Help from With-out

So far VA yogs have seen a glimmer of encouragement as State Del. David E. Poisson (D-Loudoun) jockeys to defend the “classic case of regulation run amuck” by prepping legislation to exempt yoga from the licensing requirement, which he intends to present during the next session of the Virginia General Assembly in Jan 2010. Here’s hoping everyone decides to take a siesta until then.

In the Post article there’s no pointing to Yoga Alliance as the inadvertent snitch to the gov, as The NYTimes outed, but rather a random advertisement spotted by a state employee that set off alarm bells. In fact, YA CEO Mark Davis has actually been very much involved in the VA countercharge efforts and just recently attended a meeting between yogis and SCHEV (State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) as a silent observer. (Read his letter to VA yoga teachers).

Meanwhile, yankee yogis are celebrating the Yoga Association of NY‘s newborn ‘Yoga for NY’ and the freshly christened website (yogaforny.org). As YANY’s efforts have been somewhat successful in causing the state to recoil in child’s pose (for the moment), it has also provided the yogs a chance to unite, and enough breathing room to lobby lobby lobby. So far, still breathing. Still inspiring others, obviously.

With state governments cracking down all over the US, is a national association on the way? Is Yoga Alliance wedging its way into leading it?

Also, is it us or is it odd we’ve yet to hear any rumbles from California on the subject, where budget deficit is borderline disaster level, and yoga studios are as copious as stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Let’s all knock on a Redwood.

[Washington Post]

EarlierLicensing Update: Virginia Joins in ‘Pay Now or Pay Later’ The State vs. Yoga Studios

NY State Licensing Update: Part “DO”, Yoga Association of New York (YANY) is Born

16 comments… add one
  • Thanks for the update! Great to hear about the Post article. Hope VA (and NY) get their exemptions…

    If anyone wants to support the efforts of Yoga for NY, they are having a party / fundraiser tonight (August 24th) at Om Factory. 8–10pm.

    More details at their website.

  • Thanks for the very interesting blog.

    Bob Weisenberg

  • Thanks for the press, Yogadork!

    We wonder though, is downplaying the YTT programs’ ability to churn out capable teachers the right root to tug?

    Just to clarify, we are NOT downplaying our VA YTT programs’ ability to churn out capable teachers.

    What we are saying, is that teaching yoga is an avocation, in that people are not teaching yoga as a means to fully support themselves.
    Every teacher I know is either supported by a partner or they have a “job job” or they are supplementing their small yoga income with other part time work or they own a studio.

    How many yoga teachers out there fully support themselves by ONLY teaching yoga?

  • Are we going to add massage therapists into the mix here? Dance teachers? What’s next? Why are yoga teachers being targetted like this?

    Honestly. I kinda started my training this year with the intention to *not* be a yoga teacher, thinking I wasn’t ready. But somehow with the encouragement of the school’s principal, I find myself about to do just that. By the end of the year I’ll be a qualified yoga teacher.

    But that scares me shitless. Its something I’m in the middle of writing a post about right now (still in draft mode). Teaching yoga is… not about yourself. Its about the people in your class and your ability to open up to them, connect and share some asana, meditation, pranayama etc.

    Will it ever be a full time career? Unlikely. My initial plan is to cut back to four days a week in my current line of work and teach one day a week. And if I can, sneak in a couple of ‘corporate yoga’ type classes in places I’ve worked previously.

    Eventually, I’d like to do part time consultant work (current career) and teach yoga and belly-dancing (another skill of mine) the rest of the time. Fingers crossed, eh? But I really doubt I’ll ever teach full time unless I meet some lovely sugar daddy who can earn the ‘real’ money.

    Teaching yoga is definitely for love, not money.

  • admin

    Thanks for comments all!
    OK, just want to be sure y’all know we’re not trying to screw the studios before I say this…
    Just thinking here…there may be something to the name change idea. afterall, why call it teacher training if it’s not?
    Also, many people have vocations that they do part time, for example, bartending or culinary arts.

    So the problem may very well be in the name. No one cares what’s in a name until uncle gov fee collector comes rapping at the door.

    Dance teaching would fall under the same regulations probably if it were not of ‘the arts’, if it had specifically named ‘dance teacher trainings’ and if it were a booming business found in gyms or even brought to offices and hospitals throughout the country.

    Personally when I did my training I had hoped to exit fully prepared to teach, which is what I paid money for (and didn’t entirely get). Maybe the actual teacher training certification courses have the extra fee and ‘study’ courses do not (lord knows I do not want trainings to cost more, but again, a thought)

  • admin

    To Svasti…let me know how that sugar daddy works out, and if he has a brother 🙂

  • Good thoughts, Svasti. I enjoyed discovering your blog site.


  • Haha, have to meet said sugar daddy first! 😉
    And if there’s a brother, I’ll be advertising his availability on Yoga Dork, hehe…

  • I can see a realitiy show in the making here, Svasti.

  • Eric

    I hope that YA realizes that if regulation is passed by the states they set themselves up to become irrelevant and disappear. Once the states set precedence of regulation and fees, they will want to take over the standards organization and corner any funds they might be generating as well.

  • Just found your blog, very interesting. One person commented “what’s next dance teacher training being regulated?”. Well, YES. I own a ballroom dance teacher training program in Virginia and we are required to be certified by SCHEV (State Council of Higher Ed. for Virginia). But we are the only one in Virginia that is certified. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of ballroom teacher training programs in Virginia that are not required to be certified. They get around it by calling their programs “apprenticeship” or “employee training”. The name of your program apparently does matter. Either that, or I have been unfairly singled out.

  • “Are we going to add massage therapists into the mix here?”

    in my state massage therapists are most definitely regulated by the state — they need to be licensed.

  • Massage therapists are different BECAUSE they are licensed by the state. Yoga teachers are not – therefore it doesn’t make any sense to license the teacher training programs.

  • Hi Julia,
    Dance teachers are not licensed by the state but our teacher training program is required to be. I agree, it doesn’t make any sense to require one but not the other. I am all for consumer protection but I think there needs to be a different (lesser) fee and less burdensome regulations for our type of schools. I am a very small school (only 6 students), and the financial and regulatory issues are a huge burden. The state lumps us all in the same category as private schools like Strayer University, Bryant and Stratton college, etc. That said, however, I have found having a certification from SCHEV gives us alot of benefits. It sets our program apart from other non-licensed schools. Students can get scholarships and some other financial aid, and it makes your program appear more professinal and attract a higher quality (more serious) student. Also the state promotes us along with other vocational schools in their liturature, career fairs, etc. The licensing process forced us to put down all our policies (including refund policies) in writing which protects you as a school owner in case of a dispute with a student. Yes, it is an expensive and burdensome process, but for me, the benefits have out-weighed the negatives.

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