Update! The licensing battle of VA Yoga studios VS. the State is getting hairy – Three yoga teachers have moved to sue! Operating on the defense that regulating YTT is “just dumb” and that any sort of state clampdown is a threat to free speech, VA yoga teachers are coming out swinging:
“It’s just daft. It’s just a ridiculous idea,” said Suzanne Leitner-Wise, one of the plaintiffs and a yoga instructor who has provided training to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. “It’s the students who determine whether you’re a competent teacher,” not the state.
Attorney Robert Frommer has their back:
“The Virginia bureaucrats who will pass judgment on these instructors have no expertise whatsoever in yoga,” said Frommer, adding that there is significant debate within the yoga community about what is considered proper technique and philosophy.
More broadly, Frommer said that teaching is a form of free speech. And if the state wants to regulate free speech, it needs a compelling reason to do so. Keeping tabs on the development of new yogis and gurus does not meet the bar, he said.
The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), which regulates training for vocations like bartending and dog-grooming, sniffed out yoga teacher training late last year as a target for $2500 fee, audits, annual charges of at least $500, and a bucketload of paperwork .
Sounds like a huge, and expensive, pain in the asana, but council spokesperson Kirsten Nelson maintains that ”the licensure requirements mostly involve mundane, content-neutral issues revolving around development of a solid business model and posting a bond that enables students to be reimbursed if a program goes defunct.”
WHAT ABOUT YOGA ALLIANCE? Don’t they already “regulate” to a certain extent? (and to some yogi’s chagrin). Shouldn’t they be supporting the studios fighting back?
R. Mark Davis, president and CEO of the Arlington-based Yoga Alliance, said more than a dozen states are regulating yoga teacher-training; many of those states incorporate the alliance’s standards.
He said the alliance’s goal was to establish a form of self regulation and takes no position on whether states ought to issue licenses, but he said in other states most practitioners report no problems.
For NY State the battle is in a holding pattern as we await legislature. While the fate of fellow ‘Ginny yogis is yet to be discovered, at least they have some inside support. As we mentioned in an earlier report, Virginia Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax is working to introduce legislation to exempt yoga from regulations.
“I have not seen a compelling reason so far for why we should go ahead and add this burden on yoga studios, especially in this economy,” Bulova said.
Seriously. (but don’t hold your breath)
Not only do we have to debate how OLD yoga is, apparently we have to define WHAT yoga is, not for the yogadorks, but for everyone else <sigh>