Our latest article for YogaCityNYC:
So it goes with many a great relationship, when sheen starts to lose luster, and that dreaded shroud of doubt creeps in. A woeful, ‘We just don’t talk anymore’ leads to ‘Where has the romance gone?’ to a resentful ‘You only love me for my money!’
No, we’re not lamenting an old flame, but referring to our strained engagement with daddy mack, Yoga Alliance. The students and teachers have grown tired of YA’s empty promises, lack of communication, and little in return for our investment.
YA, this diamond ring doesn’t shine for us anymore.
There have been changes: a new president, a new twitter and facebook image, a shiny new website featuring staff bios for some 20 or so program specialists, program managers, and program associates, which would be even more interesting if they told us the difference between each.
Yoga Alliance has a new face, but can they deliver? And what exactly are they delivering again?
Founded in 1999, Yoga Alliance’s current mission statement claims to be a “support organization for yoga in the United States.” What’s clear is the party of ‘99 is over and a new era of yoga has ushered in thousands of practitioners and instructors, and millions more in industry profit. We’d like to trust that Yoga Alliance, the largest yoga organization in the country, to whom many dutifully send their registration checks every year, would have our backs in a fight, standing up as ethical champions rather than slinking away like greedy gold diggers.
Yet, for a teacher at the 200hr level your $80 registration fee ($55 yearly renewal) and an optional $25 for additional training such as pre-natal, yields nothing more than an “RYT” suffix and your name in the directory.
“It’s just a rubber stamp, there’s no oversight,” says J. Brown, of Abhyasa, who points out that just about anyone and everyone can register. Trained at a non-registered school? No problem! That’ll be $155. For your convenience, major credit cards are accepted and submitting online takes just two days. That is, if the database is functioning correctly.
It sure seems like a lot to shell out for paperwork processing, which is where all the money goes, according to freshly appointed YA president, John Matthews, when pressed about financial transparency at a Yoga for NY meeting this past November, shedding light on the subject like a lit match on the dark side of the moon. (And we are still wondering how rubber stamping paperwork can cost that much.)
Yoga schools can pay a minimum of $350 for a new registration to show they meet the minimum training standards as approved by Yoga Alliance, but more studio owners like Mel Russo, of Yoga High, remain unconvinced of its real value. “I love the idea of having standards and regulations, I think that’s very important. Clearly YA set out to be that organization, but obviously failed on so many levels,” says Ms. Russo who runs teacher training and has no plans to register.
“It’s just a middleman, a place to give your money to seem relevant, when it’s actually not,” says Bryn Chrisman, a director at Yogamaya, even after admitting to registering the studio’s new 200hr training in order to appease public opinion. There has to be some bar to measure from, doesn’t there? Even if to quell the fears of potential students or a hiring manager at a gym looking for a mark of credibility, to act as starting guidelines for yoga schools with teacher training, or as Bryn points out, to obtain certain liability insurance.
Not if you ask Leslie Kaminoff, of The Breathing Project, who informed us of playing a part in the original YA standards-setting team, though is now regretful. “If there are people out there who want to set high standards, then do it,” he says, in support of word of mouth and reputation over registration status. “What the hell do you need the Alliance for?”
Contrary to popular belief, Yoga Alliance presents the standards, but does not, repeat, does not enforce them. This may come as a surprise to those who assume Yoga Alliance follows up with a program after fees have been paid. But, in fact, John Matthews was at a loss in answering who had created the standards in the first place (we suppose he doesn’t know Leslie), how they keep track of a studio’s integrity, or who might convene to reassess guidelines in the future. To be fair, various initiatives have been presented in idea phase for improved oversight and readdressing standards, but choosing officials to perform these duties is as murky as trying to set the same rules for power vinyasa and kundalini.
Still, there may be hope! Alison West, founder of Yoga for NY, and strong believer in the communal/service aspect of YA ‘s potential, shares her “guarded optimism” on their success “if they’re willing to listen more to what members and nonmembers have to say.”
“Many people have felt in the past and still do that their comments have been completely ignored. It’s an essential ingredient in improving their relationship,” says Ms. West, who created Yoga for NY out of the state licensing crisis, a battle that was fought without the help of Yoga Alliance, who some say caused the debacle by leaking the database of studios to the government.
Dana Flynn of Laughing Lotus echoes the cautious, yet positive vibe: “The beauty of Yoga Alliance disappearing on us is that all of us got together. We all felt the bigness and potent roll that we all have coming together, finding the unity and diversity, the power of being together.”
United we stand? And together we will go forth to navigate ongoing debates on standards, credibility, and the hairy, imminent topics of yoga therapy and healthcare, continuing ed. in specialties like prenatal and kids yoga, government regulation and increasing anatomy requirements – the one thing just about everyone seems to agree on! Is that worth your yearly dues?
Yoga Alliance, an organization founded so “the public can be confident of the quality and consistency of instruction” has a lot still to prove. They have categorically refused to speak to the press, even Yogacity, the news organization of the NY yoga community, so we can’t ever actually find out whe they are doing.
So we’ve arrived at a crossroads in our relationship, left to ponder their commitment and our investment into a relationship that, lately, has produced little more than bureaucratic headaches and an RYT rubber stamp. But even naysayers agree, what we want is clarity, communication, and support. And a truthful answer when we ask the question, “So, Yoga Alliance, what have you done for us lately?”