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What Do YOU Want from Yoga Alliance? Notes from Meeting with President John Matthews

in Business of Yoga, YD News

Yesterday the Who’s Who of steamed and concerned NY Yogis gathered together in a cramped midtown Manhattan yoga studio to grill hear from freshly appointed Yoga Alliance President John Matthews, an even-tempered gentleman with a slight drawl and southern-bred manners, who had no idea what he was getting himself into.

Mr. Matthews stepped up to be the self-described “broom” this past March when it appeared YA was ready to toss in the yoga towel, and everyone had had it up to their third eye with runaround bullshit. Oh, don’t worry it was a civilized meeting all right, but with great thanks due to the awe-inspiring command of Yoga for NY chieftess Alison West (whom you may recall lead the fight and subsequent victory over government regulatory legislation last year). So what happened at the meeting and why should you care? Well, lucky for you we have the power of the mighty bulletpointed list!

Here are the exciting highlights! Gripes, followed by responses.

Yoga Alliance stinks! Mea culpa – Straight off the bat Prez Matthews apologized for the lack of organization, poor judgment and overall poor operation of the org, but promised that’s in the past. The new staff is 23 strong and all but 5 are regular yogis. John himself is a Transcendental Meditater.

Great, so what is Yoga Alliance good for again? Their main job to is set and enforce standards, Mr. Matthews confirms.  The problem is, a great lot of studios don’t agree with the standards (which were created, not by the board, but by some secret underground group no one knows who or how) and there is no compliance mechanism in place to do checks.

About standards, are you planning to reassess specialties like kids yoga, prenatal or senior yoga? Yes, er at some point. This goes for teacher trainings and continuing ed credits as well. They’re aware of it now, thank goodness, but it remains a someday scenario. Still, not even the president of Yoga Alliance knows who actually set these standards to begin with and who will consequently make any changes to current guidelines.

How will you keep track of studios adhering to guidelines after writing their check? A new strategy of satellite committees by state is in the works. Stay tuned for more info on the Yoga Alliance website. (don’t hold your breath)

I paid and registered and my (insert name/studio) is still missing from the site! Bugs. A lot of the old staff has been ousted, as well as old systems. However, the new database behind the directory for yoga schools and teachers is still wonky and we’re told it’ll be another 3-6 months to work out issues. Keep nagging them.

What does Yoga Alliance do for me anyway? For Yoga Studios and Teachers, Yoga Alliance registration still only gets you a rubber stamp. And for the fee you pay? That’s just for processing paperwork. That’s it. For now, John says.

YA was all but absent in the NY State fight against government licensing for teacher training, what’s your official stance on government regulation? YA is strongly against government regulation, but not opposed to working with government bodies in the future. What needs to change is the language involved in teacher training to be less vo-tech and more knowledge based. This is going down right now with a battle in Texas similar to what happened in VA and NY. Matthews is involved, and you can read more about it here.

Speaking of fees, where does all that money go? Pays for processing paperwork! A-duh. Right, but the better news is that, like any other non-profit, YA will start to publish an annual report, 2011 being the earliest.

Obviously, there’s so much left unanswered and so much to “sweep up”. Our best advice if you still have questions, comments concerns? Email, call and write!

In closing and in truth, this organization is supposed to be here for yoga teachers, studios and students. A new fancy website and a broom-sweeping won’t whip it into shape on their own. We implore you to get involved with Yoga for NY, or your own local lot of yogis who give a damn.


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32 comments… add one
  • Ummm. As a RYT 200 hrs. newbie (2009), I thought it was just me that it took 5 mths to process my paperwork. I can tell you that I belong to several professional (medical) organizations and they are no better. I support standards, credentialing, etc. but it seems that administering these things is globally elusive. Perhaps local oversight would be better and less cumbersome.

  • YA comes off so weird to me. First off why are there 8 Program Associates and what is a Program Associate (and what do they do)? The rest of the job descriptions are so murky (Administrative Services Assistant) and why do they need 23 people? To do what? They just seem to be maintaining a database and curiously enough, there is not one IT person on their staff. Very odd organization.

  • I called them the other day after hearing rumors. And everything is just fine and dandy, didn’t get a word out of them, so I really appreciate this so I know what the heck is going on.
    We definitely need standards in this growing industry and YA is it for now. How the heck are you supposed to regulate Iyengar and Kundalini at the same time? No wonder their standards are so vague.

  • Good work! You have my vote!

  • YA is not it for now, there are so many options available. Iwellpros.org is one option.

  • I gave up my registration in 2008 – paying money for a rubber stamp does not a professional organization make in my book, thanks. I’ve never looked back. It’s alarming that YA is so well known because other countries have higher minimum requirements for yoga teachers and it would appear that the US-based standards are going to globally dumb down people’s expectations of what it takes to instruct yoga.

  • Kim Wilson

    My evolving opinion is that YA is an etherial entity that exists only for the purpose of taking money in exchange for granting arbitrary “certifications” to satiate the demand by corporations & state regulatory agencies for compliance with (nonexistent, unenforced/unenforceable, thus unattainable) standards. Air quotes around the word standards.

    And frankly, now that they’re being called to action, they’re simply surprised at the attention directed their way & are ill-equipped &/or completely unprepared to respond in any tangible manner. Whoever came up with the idea of a certifying entity that provides no “member” support is laughing all the way to the bank.

    I have never been able to grasp any actual benefits YA provides, except that by having my “500 hours” I can SAY I have 500 hours of yoga certification. This sometimes impresses people. Then again, I gave up on YA a long time ago so – to their credit – I may be missing out on something other than the yoga teacher directory listing I’ve not yet taken advantage of.

    to answer the question already, I think asking for or WANTING anything from YA is an exercise in futility, much like traveling down a dusty, cracked, deserted road without a map or full tank of gas & wondering why no service stations are within sight when the going gets rough.

    again, just my opinion.

  • I knew that YA was nothing but a money-generating (for themselves) scam when I wanted to conduct my own teacher training.

    I am 200 RYT and since I have over 1000 hrs of teaching/training by now (more now since that time), I wanted to apply for the E-500. I figured hey, a piece of cake, since I have all my documentation. but oh no……

    they told me I had to be a 500 level FIRST for a certain length of time before I could apply for E-500. in other words, pay first for the 500 level, then pay again for the E-500. I told them that according to their own standards I am already an E-500, why should I pay for 500 RYT? they never gave me a good answer.

    So I have two words for YA: bite me. oooooh….how unyogic….;) 😀

  • Yoga grew and spread for 5000 years without regulations.

    UPDATE: It looks like kids yoga and prenatal yoga have been turned into 95 and 85 hour courses on YA. More fees.

  • admin

    YYM – this was actually a huge bone of contention at the meeting. They were appalled and confused by the newly released standards, and the president could give no answers on who established them, how they did it and if/when there will be reassessment.
    it’s quite a mess!
    which is why most yogis have simply ignored them.

  • I was one of the members of the ad-hoc committee (not “some secret underground group”) that originally came up with the 200 and 500 hour standards, and I’ve also been on the record as a vocal critic of the Alliance ever since it was in the planning stages.

    For more info, read this: http://iyea.us/Declaration.htm

  • Sandy

    I was certified and registered with the big rubber “RYT-200” stamp in ’06 and have yet to see any benefit to having it. Looks good on my business cards, though…

  • Yoga Alliance uses the excuse of “not being prepared,” too much. They were not prepared when New York Yoga came under-fire from the local government – after Mark Davis had been quoted at a 2008 Yoga Journal Conference as saying that “Don’t fight it, regulation is inevitable.”

    Yoga Alliance was so unprepared for Virginia’s regulation that they actually moved to Maryland… So I ask you? Who is bullshitting who?

    Now Yoga Alliance has moved back to Virginia (apparently because they were wrong- I would have never guessed), and now are playing dumb again for the rest of yoga asking for forgiveness.

    YD mentions the proverbial “Broom” like that insinuates that John Matthews of Yoga Alliance “cleaned house,” when it’s really completely the opposite.

    Yoga Alliance got rid of anyone that could incriminate them further, when all of the employees, even Mark Davis, had to get their actions approved by the board of directors…. who approved and knew about everything they did.

    Yoga Alliance brought this all on themselves and it’s time they stop saying “we didn’t know” and start asking harder questions like “what does yoga need.”

    If Yoga Alliance’s Mark Davis plot had been successful, then every yoga practitioner nationwide would have been required to become YA Certified, without any true benefit to yoga, or yoga teachers.

    The widespread “dumbing down” of yoga education began with Yoga Alliance when they wrote in their mission that states: “A school whose curriculum satisfies or exceeds our minimum training standards .”

    Either we all take responsibility for yoga education or we put the fate of all of yoga into the hands of a greedy non-profit that has corporate alignments and no real legal power.

  • TWO TYPOS: actually think it was the 2009 Yoga Journal Conference.

    Now Yoga Alliance has moved back to Virginia (apparently because they were wrong- I would have never guessed), and are playing dumb again by asking for yoga to forgive them for not knowing what was happening… when they really did know.

    I have been trying to get Yoga Alliance to comment for years, they do not act, they do not return phone calls or emails, they respond in safe environments.

  • @YogaDork

    Please get an “edit” button up in here.

  • Third Typo:

    If Yoga Alliance’s Mark Davis plot had been successful, then every yoga [teacher] nationwide would have been required to become YA Certified, without any true benefit to yoga, or yoga teachers.

  • admin

    Hey Brian,
    Thanks for your comments! Would love to hear more about the corporate alignments you mentioned.

    To clarify, the “broom” was an actual quote from Mr. Matthews from the meeting.

    ps. sorry bout the lack of edit button.. that would just make it too easy.

  • There are multiple issues going on here.

    Issue One: Credentialing

    If Yoga Alliance cannot legally credential yoga teachers, why does yoga refer to them as the yoga standard.

    Issue Two: Corporate Affiliations

    This is too obvious. Look on there Website, Twitter, and Facebook and see who the affiliations are.

    Issue Three: Yoga Alliances Involvement in Mark Davis’s State to State Licensing Crusade

    All of Mark Davis’s actions and plans as President of Yoga Alliance had to be approved by the Board of Directors. Apparently, Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy had resigned. (who is still on their website… that is the story told to me by a Yoga For New York representative. I have no confirmation)

    Issue Four: Why is this an Issue?

    It is important to remember that we have dedicated our lives to the practice and discipline of yoga… and our passion is worth more than Yoga Alliance’s bureaucratic mediocrity.

    Right or wrong, people depend on Yoga Alliance for credentialing and licensing of yoga teachers and teacher trainings. By being secretive they completely forgot their MISSION and abandoned Yoga.

    Are they guilty or not? Did they plot against US yoga and fail.

    Mark Davis is on record as saying that regulation is inevitable… and maybe it is inevitable, but do we want a Yoga Organization based on secrecy and private dealings to lead us there?
    Do you need still proof?

    Issue Three: Non Profit Secrecy
    When John Matthews says: “there was no obligation for YA transparency and that transparency was not usual for non-profits. YA is purely responsible for processing registrations. They have no other obligations.”

    He is saying that Yoga Alliance has the right to be secret, that they have the right to have private business dealings as the ” national education and support organization for yoga in the United States.”

    Well sorry, the answer is a cop-out.

    It usually does’t happens means that it DOES happen, and Yoga Alliance just isn’t doing it.

    Where Yoga Alliance places the money that their subscribers pay SHOULD be available to them for subscribing.

    That is information that should be public knowledge to the people they supposedly serve. How much money do they give Yoga Journal on a yearly basis?

    Do they sell their subscriber information for profit?

    GREAT so they are helping the PRE-NON-YA-Established Texas Yoga Association fight against state regulation… they have already mostly won on their own. So that doesn’t really count either.

    What about Missouri, what about the ongoing regulation in Washington State?

    Oh, forgive me, I forgot that Yoga Alliance doesn’t have to answer interviews, or questions at their own expense. Well you know what? That isn’t good enough.

    The active attitude of closed secrecy is what is tearing yoga apart. That is why Yoga For NY formed, why the TYA formed, why Yoganomics formed.

    When they have open transparent communication, that will signify growth, until then they are wasting our time.

    We just came out of the Bush era, it’s time for them to get with the program.

    They need to incorporate yoga teachers into the process, and give credit were credit is due and fess up to what they are guilty of.

  • George Kay

    All yoga alliance has ever done is take money from teachers and studios. They do nothing to really regulate trainings or credentials. I take classes all the time and more often than not the RYT’s are the worst instructors. Most trainings do not prepare people to teach, and most studios are surviving by conducting TT-programs.

    Teachers and studios need to realize that having “RYT” on a business card or website is bullshit. Not when the title can easily be acquired as soon as your checks clear…

  • Yoga Alliance was unable to comment for the years of 2007 – 2010, until Non-profit guru John Matthews took control. NOT OK! When we want answers to how Yoga Alliance is run they need to answer. When we ask you direct questions we expect direct answers.

    You want to re-structure Yoga Alliance, great… fine –

    Make Yoga Alliance actually useful (which hasn’t happened yet) – they are still trying to figure out what’s happening legislatively in the states as I am finishing writing the articles on who it affects and whats actually happening.

    John Matthews can get Yoga Alliance in order, hire even more yoga teachers for the Yoga Regulation issues popping up all over the states (possibly because of Mark Davis), but Yoga Alliance had better start listening. Yoga is out-growing Yoga Alliance and if they maintain the course they are on, they will become obsolete and take lots of trusting yogis down with them again.

    Yoga Alliance is a Non-profit business thats mission is to supposedly help yoga, so lets figure out how they can help.

    After they confess the truth, after we know whether Mark Davis and who ever else was involved, in the cover-up in the mandatory state credentialing process.

    When I spoke candidly with Jeanine Frest this past January at the 2010 YJ San Francisco Conference, I wanted to help. Now all I want Yoga Alliance to do is to be honest. All the documented evidence needed to make an informed decision is on my website: http://Yoganomics.net

    Either as yogis we stand together, or we don’t – but the outcome will have a lasting affect on the entire yoga industry. To practice the discipline of Yoga does not mean become a pacifist, it means search yourself, ask the questions and do not fear the truth and surpass your limitations.

    At this point Yoga Alliance is limited, and still cannot perform the even the most minimal actions needed to bring Yoga into the present. This is a fact, recognized and being discussed worldwide, and peoples blind trust in this benign organization does not change that fact.

    If you check the news, Yoga Alliance was just reprimanded in London by the British Wheel of Yoga – you tell me – has anything changed?

  • Kim Wilson

    Considering dropping my “RYT-500” since it really essentially is meaningless.

  • Don’t give up on them, we need Yoga Alliance to really change, not according to what they thing needs to change, but for what we are asking them to become.

    Until they change, until they become transparent, until they start by being completely honest, and until they actually place actual “value” in teaching yoga (meaning other than a piece of paper — and make credentialing and certification of yoga actually *mean* something) – they offer nothing but an expensive subscription to Yoga Journal and a thin lament corporate discount card that holds no weight.

    … don’t register for it.

    Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.

    Ask them why the are absolving the Board of Directors of any responsibility or involvement with Ex-president Mark Davis’s involvement in Government Regulation?

    Ask them why the 200/500 hour Credentialing Process does not mean anything legally?

    Tell Yoga Alliance that you will not use their service because it is not useful in terms of today’s yoga discipline/practice.

    Tell Yoga Alliance that you will not subscribe to a service that does not promote complete transparency.

    If they don’t become transparent, don’t admit fault publicly about their “Mark Davis” involvement in state regulation, if they don’t take responsibility for themselves – how can we expect Yoga Alliance to be responsible for living up to the mission on their website??

    This is the main reason I have dedicated the last year to building http://Yoganomics.net – is in part because yoga is overloaded with propaganda, and people need to know that they are being misled through suggestion and marketing of yoga loyalty.

    Yoga Alliance has not changed or proved themselves. Either they will lead as their mission statement states, or they will continue to warp the truth for their corporate buddies.

    If Mark Davis had been successful, every state would have adopted the 200/500 hour minimum Yoga Alliance requirements, and every yoga teacher yoga teacher training program would be required to register with YA to meet state requirements.

    By my understanding of Non-Profit laws, the actions of the President of any Non-Profit must be approved by the board of Directors – which means that the Yoga Alliance Board of Directors not only knew what Mark Davis was doing, they also approved his actions.

    Does Yoga Alliance want to foster the growing distrust between their subscribers, continue to keep separating themselves from the people they supposedly serve, or do they want to be a true beacon and reflection of what yoga is supposed to be.

    They have not even begun to work, it will take more than a blame shifting new President to lead them into present day yoga….

    It will take the truth.

    It is their choice to be honest and it’s your choice to support them.

  • Elizabeth

    I applied for my RYT-200 in December 2005. I had all of my paperwork processed, and my YA card in hand, in January or February 2006. When I renewed online, the new card was in my hand in a week.

    My understanding is that YA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In order to maintain 501(c)(3) status, an organization may not engage in lobbying activities or political action.

    The heart of the problem is that (1) it is difficult for yoga students to assess the education/preparation of yoga teachers (either because they don’t know how, or because the information they need is not easy to obtain), (2) there are no universal standards that everyone can agree upon for yoga teacher training, and related (3) there are plenty of yoga teacher “schools” that will take your money to give you a certificate.

    I’ve been in multiple 200-hour programs at different schools, and am familiar with several other training programs. Just a quick overview illustrates some of this.

    Program A provided no feedback to instructors on their own practice. (Students are not required to have any prior yoga background to participate in this training.) During the master classes, I was horrified to see participants–who were all currently teaching yoga!–repeatedly excute some serious misalignments, ranging from RSI disasters in the making (e.g. torqued knees, misaligned weight-bearing hands) to potentially critical injury causing ones (e.g. headstand with a reverse cervical curve bearing weight, “super banana back” handstand). The language the school teaches the instructors to use is imprecise, and sometimes incorrect (in terms of describing either the anatomical action or the body position). School A also claims to value alignment and teaches alignment of asanas one at a time, but actually places an emphasis on “flow” styles of yoga, without teaching how to teach alignment during the flow. In Program A, I had teacher trainers with less yoga experience than I had.

    Program B, not quite as well known as program A, doesn’t cover the Gita at all (which I found super puzzling); the pradipika isn’t included either (perhaps more understandable?). There is a lot of focus on anatomy and alignment, but many teachers end up merely repeating the specific instructions for each pose as given in the training materials (without being able to rephrase or reinterpret). Several instructions tell students to “spin” body parts (e.g. spin the inner thigh back), which isn’t actually possible; I question the utlity of that, given that students need to learn the engage the muscles to make it happen. Program B does not cover any therapeutics or injury management. It does not teach pranayama beyong ujayi and maybe alternate nostril breathing.

    Program C is billed as intense training, and is wildly popular. (This is not a YA listed program) Teachers are not taught how to modify poses for safety, injury management, or very stiff beginners, and are directed not to teach students to modify. I do not know what anatomy, if any, teachers learn. At one class I attended, after class a student told the teacher his knee hurt in side angle pose; this did not surprise me, since I saw his side angle pose and his knee was totally collapsing (laterally). The teacher told him that he should keep practicing, and that his body was “releasing toxins” and it would start to feel better if he practiced more. (Needless to say, I never went back.)

  • pretty freakin’ scary…..

  • Wow Elizabeth – thank you for sharing this. We seriously need standards – and an organization that can enforce them. Ahimsa is the first principle of the first limb of the 8 – I don’t know how that gets so lost in translation.

  • So do we not currently have a written standard? It is called the Yoga Sutras. There is no way to create standards for the physical aspect of yoga as everyBody is built so differently not to mention getting any lineage to agree with standards created by a different lineage.
    “ Teacher Education” is a misnomer; the more appropriate term is “Studentship.” B.K.S. Iyengar has said on numerous occasions he continues to be a student of yoga.
    I will always be a student and practitioner. I share my practice and only share what I know to be true in my body. I feel it is a diservice to everyone if you jump right into an indepth study program IE teacher training, with out having a strong committed personal practice of 1 to 2 years. And any one who thinks they can go thru a two week program and be able and ready to teach is not practicing Satya.
    Teaching a script is irresponsible, one must be able to teach what one feels, and knows to be true in their body. That is all we can do and the only way for that to happen is thru a strong personal practice and a dedication to continual learning on and off the mat.
    Mentoring should be required and time. It takes time. I have been teaching yoga for almost 10 years and find the more I learn the less I know and that my understanding continues to evolve and change as does my body.
    We need to move away from this one size fits all approach to the physical practice and teach people how to listen to the wisdom in their body. “If you are not in ease, you are not in yoga” The Sutras
    YA is not unlike alot of regulating bodies. They are a business, set up standards to follow and then buyer be ware. We as teachers and studio owners have given our power away to YA and now it is time we take it back.
    Stand strong for what you believe. If you are against YA, then drop your RYT status with them. don’t hold on to it because you think others expect it. I have never once been asked for my certificate or a YA card, it has always been based upon word of mouth and or an audition.
    My Indepth Yoga study may not attract as many would be yoga teachers who are looking for that piece of paper that says “look at me I am a yoga teacher”. I don’t care to spend my time mentoring someone who is only after that. I have truly committed yogis wanting to advance their understanding of yoga. they realize this is not something that happens overnight. We work together for a minimum of 10 months, some will stay with me for much much longer as we work together to grow in our knowledge and understanding of this very personal practice. It is a journey that takes time, patience and dedication.
    I have found as a studio owner young teachers fresh out of a program that have never taught a class where they studied. I make sure that my teachers have several opportunities to co-teach and teach classes at my studio before I send them off into the yoga world.
    They are mentored by me and several of my other teachers and given time in front of the class room. It is not the teacher training that is going to make a good teacher. It is time practicing teaching, being mentored and allowed to actually be in front of a class under the watchful eye of a more experienced teacher.
    Corporate yoga we are not.

  • Bottom for for me is that we all need to communicate more out all the corporate marketing catch phrases.

    And Yoga Alliance is all about dictating “what they feel” is correct according to their biased members.

    The majority of yoga is NOT Yoga Alliance, nor any other European Yoga Alliance (a different alliance), and International Yoga Federation.

    We can pretend that Yoga Alliance has our best intrests at heart, but the mistake is that in relation to the yoga being practiced around the World, teachers know and can agree upon what makes an advanced teacher, what makes an intermediate teacher and what makes a beginning teacher.

    This is our time. We make a stand for not only ourselves as teachers, but also teachers world wide.

    If Yoga Alliance doesn’t adapt, then they are completely unable to perform even the most rudimentary functions as a supposable yoga charity non-profit.

    No one in America is comparison shopping because they aren’t aware of what-else exists.

    Corporate yoga we are not, and non-corporate focused yogis we will remain.

  • Bottom for for me is that we all need to communicate more… Leave out all the corporate marketing catch phrases, it cheapens the intention.

    Yoga Alliance is all about dictating “what they deem” is correct behavior according to their biased board members.

    The majority of yoga is NOT Yoga Alliance, nor any other European Yoga Alliance (a different alliance), and International Yoga Federation.

    We can pretend that Yoga Alliance has our best intrests at heart, but the mistake in that decision is that in relation to the yoga being practiced around the World, teachers need to practice what they know. Yoga Teachers can generally agree upon what makes an advanced teacher, what makes an intermediate teacher or what makes a beginning teacher.

    This is our time. We make a stand for not only ourselves as teachers, but also teachers world wide.

    If Yoga Alliance doesn’t adapt, then they are completely unable to perform even the most rudimentary functions as a supposable yoga charity non-profit.

    YA Mission that states they can “foster the spirit of yoga” – but really, which spirit? No one in America is comparison shopping because they aren’t aware of what-else exists.

    Corporate yoga we are not, and non-corporate focused yogis we will remain.

  • After realizing that I had the Maryland Virginia move mixed up, I needed to clarify some of the facts.


    Mark Davis was following directions from the Yoga Alliance board.

    John Matthews has worked for Yoga Alliance as a consultant since 2004.

    Thanks –


  • http://Yoganomics.net

    Another teacher training discussion about Yoga Alliance closing down, (misinterpretation from somewhere on this post) – was brought up – somewhere in the middle it struck me that there is a ton of mis-information going on out there. Most yogis don’t know a thing about Yoga Alliance. So I wrote. Alot.

    If you are interested the post is called Yoga -Teacher-Training.


    BTW, as with most people who write, I would love what ever feed back, especially if it’s criticisms – it is very important to me to get my points across and I don’t always have an editor … actually since I am the editor, I don’t always feel like editing. Even though I try.

    Thank you and Namaste –

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