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What the Hell is Going on at Yoga Alliance? Everything You Need to Know Right Now

in Business of Yoga, For Teachers

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These are interesting times for yoga. For instance, for the first time ever, a major American university is offering a master’s degree in Yoga Studies. And the Yoga Alliance, essentially an online directory, is starting to make some real moves in a potentially positive, somewhat corporate-y direction, even speaking out in the public forum in defense of yoga, more than once. Yes, these are strange times, indeed.

The other day we posted YogaCityNYC’s recap from a recent Yoga for New York meeting where Yoga Alliance president and CEO Richard Karpel answered a few important questions about all these new and crazy changes happening. While there were a few discrepancies (which we were alerted to several times by YA – seriously, we were even visited in our dreams by three YA ghosts – and which have since been cleared up), the updates come as a relief for some who cheer for an overseeing organization, and frustration for others who still aren’t convinced of YA’s relevance, or that they’ve finally outgrown their dysfunctional years.

Perhaps it’s because, for a lot of yogis, this is the first they’re hearing of all these new rules and changes from an organization that’s still trying to figure out how and where they fit in this ever evolving yoga world, industry and culture. If you’re still confused, or are just finding out there are any changes at all, we’ve put together a cheat sheet of sorts. We got all of this info buried in the currently less than easy to navigate Yoga Alliance site and splayed it all out here to help make sense of it, with no (ok, hardly no) commentary.

The Next Generation Yoga Alliance – What Gives?

1. For one, they have a new mission:  “to spread the power of yoga, one person at a time.”

- They know membership hasn’t brought many perks besides the supposed “credibility” of being listed in a directory. They want to try and fix that. (Because let’s be honest, the more members they have, the more profitable their business is, too.)

- They’re going to try and do more to help the individual while supporting the business and profession of yoga so ”members can turn their passion for yoga into a sustainable living.” To that end they’ve introduced liability insurance and health insurance programs and will host yoga business-related workshops online as well as conferences for members.

- Other member perks: Discounts on some brands and services like Hugger Mugger, YogaUOnline and Zipcar. See the full list of perks here.

2. New website:

- The new directory will give each teacher their own profile page to display their “personalities” and yoga selfies.

- No more paper registration. It’s all moving online, which YA promises which will be more streamlined, along with the clarification of standards so RYTs can more easily ”grow along the designation ladder.”

- Starting in November, RYS profile pages will also have the capability for reviews and feedback from registered trainees, Yelp style. (More on this in a bit.)

- New community aspect: YA has collaborated with Off the Mat, Into the World to offer tools and guidance for members wanting to organize local yoga community groups.

What else, what else. We know there was something else new they were really excited about. Oh, that’s right.

3. New logo!

- There’s a new logo they’re super proud of and seem to have spent a lot of time and effort on. (See above image and video.)

4. New credentialing and rating system:

- Look out. “We’re building a new-to-world system we call “social credentialing,” which combines our traditional credentialing system with the best practices of social ratings sites.”

- Basically, starting in November, Registered Yoga Schools must provide a syllabus and must verify trainees’ completion of the program. The syllabus must be submitted before the end of the school’s first training in 2014 or your trainees can’t register. On the flipside, trainees will evaluate the training programs (see: Yelp note). The entire evaluation can be found here.

- There’s an almost 90-minute youtube video on this from director of credentialing, Pam Weber, and director of programs and training, Nicole Mitchell if you care to check it out (which we doubt anyone will, though yoga studios who want to register really should).

- Though at first they were requiring yoga schools to publicly post syllabi on their YA page, this is no longer the case, because everyone freaked out when they heard that. (See: intellectual property scare.) However, they are certainly guilting everyone into doing it. Like, if you don’t post it, what are you hiding anyway??

One of the ways that you, the yoga community, and Yoga Alliance can earn more credibility with the public is through transparency. Since your syllabus is the basis of your registration with Yoga Alliance, the public has the right to expect to be able to view it. By being transparent and publicly sharing your syllabus, you are building credibility for your own teacher-training program and playing an important role in enhancing the credibility of the entire yoga community.

- Registered schools must display their public rating based on the evaluation responses to the question: “How likely are you to recommend this teacher-training program to a friend or fellow yoga teacher?”

The rest:

  • Lead trainers have to be registered with YA.
  • Your school registration can’t lapse past 6 months (it used to be a year). If it does, you’ll have to re-apply and pay more fees. Also, if it lapses during a training, none of the trainees will be able to register because you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain and have likely ruined all their lives forever.
  • Relatedly, if a teacher did a training in the past, but their school of choice wasn’t registered at the time, that training doesn’t count, according to YA, even if the school is now registered. No soup for you!

You can read all of the RYS updates here.

5. Fees:

- Ah yes…the fees. Nothing really new here except that maybe you’ll be getting a wee bit more for your membership costs. You’ll be happy to know they still take Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

6. Two separate legal entities:

- This is not on the website yet from what we could tell. Richard Karpel confirmed in his updates the other day that the credentialing will remain a 501c3 public charity, which it has been, and the new trade and professional association that will offer member benefits and services will operate as a 501c6. Two separate legal entities with a joint staff. This shouldn’t effect any of us too much, but it’s nice to know they’re cool with the IRS.

To read more and choose your own adventure, go to this Next Gen Resource Center link, which we can’t seem to find anywhere on the YA homepage.

What do you think? Is it all worth it? How are you feeling about the Next Generation Yoga Alliance?

——

Earlier

27 comments… add one

  • Forrest Yoga even though is RYS is not in the online form for registration..

  • Actually, the first yoga masters program in the US has been offered for years through the Hindu University of America.

    http://www.hua.edu/masters_programs.php

    As for the changes with YA, I like what I see so far.

  • Katherine Nobles

    Is that university accredited though? I could see nothing on the website to indicate that is is. Americans worry about that.

  • Thanks for the recap of all the changes. It is nice to have them all in one place! I am encouraged by Yoga Alliance’s new steps. The organization has come a long way in the short time it’s been under new leadership.

  • While some are doing business, others are doing Yoga….

  • Vision_Quest2

    Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Aby

    Amen!

  • Today is a far cry from yoga’s origins of transferring knowledge from one teacher to one student and so on. I know some excellent instructors who have been practicing and teaching for decades who do not see the point of going through YA. My own training of hundreds of hours with yoga therapists, Anusara and Iyengar teachers, and meditation and dharma talk teachers are completely not recognized because there is no grandfathering in from pre-YA days. But, nowadays, people want to see credentials and proof of knowledge through YA credentials. Marketing through professional affiliations is expected in the Western world. For that reason, I paid for and completed a month long intensive 200 hour training at YogaWorks in Santa Monica with the awesome Annie Carpenter and Sonya Cottle, (and their assistants at the time, Kia Miller and Gigi Snyder) and yes, it was worth it because being a yoga student is part of being a yoga teacher. In Sweden, a group of yoga teachers started Nordiska Yogalarärförbundet as a way to provide smart professional accreditation since YA is not there yet. And, the benefits of countries and geographic communities self regulating is important to bolster local markets. This business of yoga is challenging because an important service is provided to consumers (students), and yet there’s a hotbed of potential hypocrisy waiting to provide even more life lessons. It’s pretty clear from various meditation teaches I’ve encountered that the next step yogically (is that a word?) towards the Self collectively is by practicing one’s yoga being part of the world and not hiding in a cave alone.

  • Kerry

    I watched the whole video you linked last week. In the Q and A there was a brief discussion about Immersions and the future of YA accepting Immersions for accreditation. Have you heard anything more about this – one way or the other?

    Thank you,
    Kerry

  • Hi Kerry, I am not totally sure about your question. We have not made changes to our standards beyond clarifying requirements for the advanced RYS “300″ program. Many of our RYSs offer their training’s in an intensive format and that is still allowed under the standards. If you have a specific question about your school, I would encourage you to email us at info@yogaalliance.org or call us at (888)921-9642

  • Kerry

    Hi Katie,

    Sorry for not being more clear. It was very briefly mentioned in the Q and A section of this video The New Credentialing System – A Must Attend Workshop for RYSs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DItmnJqRBL8 (very briefly mind you) that the YA would be looking into the Immersion Program format and the rather small possibility of removing Immersions from the YA accreditation in late 2014. It was very a very short answer and no concrete statements declared one way or the other at all. I am mostly just curious to hear if and when more would be announced. Sorry if my post was alarmist, I am just curious.

    Thanks for your help Katie.

    Warmly,
    Kerry

  • Hi Kerry,

    Thanks for clarifying your question. I checked in with Pam Weber, Director of Credentialing and she said that what she meant is that our Standards Committee is doing a Standards Review in 2014. One of the issues that they will be considering is around the issue of standards for schools that offer a program in an intensive format. On one hand the issue may primarily be a compliance issue. And some of those issues may be cleared up when schools are required to submit their new syllabus to us with the launch of the new website. This is part of why the new system is so needed right now, a school may have applied to us years ago and may have outlined a program that did meet our standards, but is now delivering the program in a way that does not comply (ie. a 200-hour training offered in 10-days. Those trainings will be more apparent through our new system and feedback. But the committee may also decide to put specific provisions into the standards, for example they could decide the minimum number of days a school could offer a 200-hour program would be over 21 days. The specific decision around this issue will only be made after the committee is able to fully consider the issue in 2014.

  • Hi YogaDork,

    Boooooo… This is Katie from YA again and this time (hopefully) not haunting your dreams!

    As you mention, we do have a lot of change going on over here and struggle to provide the information in a way that is bite-sized, but also comprehensive. Thanks for putting together this one-pager for us, perhaps we should hire you to join our marketing team ;)

    We did want to comment on the comparison to Yelp. Like it or not, social ratings sites like Yelp and others are part of the new media landscape for all businesses, including yoga studios and schools. We are not trying to be the new Yelp for yoga, we are actually trying to do something different.

    Because we are a non-profit organization that was created for and by the yoga community we have a special responsibility to both serve the public as well as our members. This responsibility has lead us to create a few guiding principles when developing the system:

    1) No anonymity: Feedback is done exclusively by verified graduates of registered teacher training programs. It is not possible for fake reviews from competitors to influence the outcome of the ratings and system.
    2) Objectivity: The review questions are specifically designed to cull information that relates directly back to the learning objectives inherent in YA standards as well as specific objectives that the schools themselves have established.
    3) Feedback: Ultimately we believe that the entire system of yoga training can be improved through a constructive cycle of feedback. Through our experience as the credentialing organization for yoga we know that many schools do not get the feedback on their programs that they need to better meet the needs of their students. We know that because their students call and write us to tell us and they have no safe space to provide that feedback.

    This all speaks to the overall conversation about the role of Yoga Alliance in the yoga community. There are those who rightly ask if our organization does enough to monitor the yoga schools that are registered with us. No one wants Yoga Alliance to become the “yoga police” and that is truly not our intention. And yet, the credibility of our standards system depends on being able to identify schools that are registered with us and not meeting our standards as well as a fair mechanism to respond to consumer feedback about the programs. Our new website and ratings system will be a huge step towards this and will ultimately make Yoga Alliance registration more meaningful to the community and public.

    Thank you for your work in facilitating this conversation. We know that there are still details to be worked out and points of view to take into consideration. We are listening.

    (Cue spooky music and chain rattling. . .)

  • Hi Katie. The problem with the feedback process you are working towards is this: A client or customer can give feedback on something they are familiar with (a product like a computer, or a service like a meal). A customer taking a flight on an airline can comment on the departure time, the courtesy of the flight attendants and so on. They can’t with any authority comment on the level of skill of the pilots. Yoga students come to training because they want to learn about yoga, because they are not experts. They can only comment on what they can see happening and they have no touchstone to refer to for their feedback about things like how effective the asana training was. If they know nothing before, of course they will learn something. But what is effective asana training? There is no benchmark to work from so the feedback will be subjective and to my mind, not particularly effective. Objective standards for teaching asana are what is needed, not the opinion of students who are new to practice.

  • I totally agree with Dan Clement’s comment – those are very important words on the subject.

    The same as a student in a public yoga class may not be able to give the teacher an objective feedback on their teaching skill – a TT trainee would not be able to meaningfully assess the quality of a TT.

    That is not to say that the feedback is useless… Let’s just make a point of knowing that it may be highly emotional and subjective.

    Before we start rowing hard, let’s check first if the boat is heading in the right direction.

    (Just my 2 cents. Thank you.)

  • Dan and Tomasz – I’m Pam Weber, Director of Credentialing for Yoga Alliance. You raise some really good questions about how this new feedback system is going to work and what to expect from the trainees taking the evaluations. Objectivity is one of the guiding principles we established for our social credentialing process, and that principle is built into the survey.

    A couple of the survey questions are more factual based and attempt to leverage the power of crowdsourcing. One asks trainees whether or not the syllabus the school registered with us is the one the school actually taught. Another asks whether or not the lead trainers actually taught the minimum hours that are required by our standards.

    Another question on the survey asks trainees how well the school met their own overall learning objectives (an optional aspect of the school’s syllabus). Along with the ones from the school, we will provide a set of common learning objectives for each level of training (e.g., for an RYS 200, trainees will be asked whether the program prepares its graduates to begin teaching the principles and techniques of yoga safely and competently).

    The final question is based on what is commonly known as the Net Promoter Score: “How likely are you to recommend this TT program to others”. The NPS is a widely recognized method of assessing customer loyalty. We settled on this question because it will allow our schools, should they be interested, to tap into the rich ecosystem that has been built around the NPS and that provides tools and resources for businesses to address the internal issues that have the most impact on their customer’s satisfaction.

    The survey also gives trainees the option to provide open comments.

    Due to our commitment to objectivity and feedback, we will be working hard to create an environment where the trainee evaluations are constructive in nature and useful for schools. We will publish tips for giving and using feedback, and in the future will provide other similar resources for both schools and trainees.

    We realize that this system isn’t perfect. For instance, although the fact that student evaluations are verified and not anonymous will tend to encourage respectful, constructive responses, it will also tend to encourage a positive bias in their feedback. And depending on their personality, some trainees may respond more emotionally than rationally. It’s also true, as you suggest that entry-level teachers may not be experienced enough to answer the learning objectives question, for instance, as well as they could after many years of training and teaching yoga.

    However, those imperfections will affect every RYS equally, and our ratings system is relative. The ratings and comments will mean nothing standing alone; the only way that the general public will be able to compare schools is through a relative analysis of the data. And viewed in the aggregate, that data will provide the public with a rich body of information to learn more about the effectiveness of the schools that are registered with us, and will provide the schools with the feedback they need to continually improve.

    It’s also worth noting that the only rating that we will require the schools to publish is the Net Promoter Score question. It will be up to the school to determine whether and/or which the other categories of rating and comments will be displayed publicly on their profile. We are on the side of transparency and hope that our schools agree to allow the public to view as much information as possible, but this is a new system and so we are letting our schools decide these matters when we launch the site.

    Because it is new, we are still learning. We’ve already made many adjustments to our social credentialing system based on feedback from the yoga community. We will continue to do that moving forward. We have a real opportunity to learn together and to have an open dialog with our schools about ways to ensure we are equipping you with what you need to run a successful TT.

  • Pam thank you for your thoughtful and thorough reply. I think we all agree that having some kind of standard for training is a good thing. Western biomechanics and anatomy have assisted with an understanding of what beneficial and healthy alignment can be in yoga postures (for example, the knee joint works best when bent to a 90 degree angle in a weight-bearing standing pose like warrior 2), and that is really what is at stake here, not how someone chants or meditates. Duration of poses vary in different styles or schools, but it is generally agreed in hatha yoga that the breath should envelope the poses, and that smooth and resonant breath is used while practicing. Those are a couple of objective standards I think pretty much every competent practitioner and teacher would agree on. Why not start with standards like this and build toward agreement on a recorded example of competency, both in the trainer’s practice, their teaching, and finally the student’s ability to practice and teach with competence? Relying on a newly graduated student to comment on whether the school has taught them to practice safely and competently simply does not make sense, for what is the standard for safety and competence? Currently there is none, and therefore the question has no relevance. I really encourage YA to take a step back, look at a school of yoga like Iyengar and assess their standards of competence – he’s been at it a long time – and start from there. Thanks Pam

  • Cathy Gee

    ok, I feel upset.

    I have offered advise and expertise and am on an advisory board. No o one has sent me anything to ‘advise’ about. No one has sent me anything. Period.

    There is a lot of good which we can create together. I am well aware of the problems with yoga teacher credentialing. I have practiced yoga over 45 years. You have to get it together. You, YA, have to communicate to people who want to help you and honor us and all who write to you with concerns.

  • Hi Cathy. I had hoped to have engaged the standards committee advisory group by this point in the year. The standards committee working groups and the subcommittees have been focused on three main areas: ethics, compliance, and an alternative pathway to YA registration. As you can imagine these are tough issues and ones that they are dedicated to resolving the in the coming months. We will engage the advisory group on these issues, but it will be later than we had planned. We will continue to have the advisory group in place and take more advantage of feedback from this group in the future. Thanks for your continued contributions.

  • Semper Fi

    This video is eerily corporate and reminds me of those compliance trainings I have to do on my work computer. Also, that WE BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF YOGA at the end sounds like those poor ladies have been hypnotized. That being said, it appears like the traditional Guru/Sishya relationship is out the door at Yoga Alliance and online trainings are the new normal.

  • sherry

    To me, it seems as though YA is just trying to make more money (I know, it’s a 501c3, but someone’s making the dough). There are still studios offering YTT that don’t even touch on asanas and alignment but are accredited by YA. It’s nuts and dangerous for the students. It seems any studio that pays its fee and submits a YTT curriculum gets this accredition — regardless what’s in that curriculum. IMO.

  • Hi Sherry- If you mean that Yoga Alliance is interested in being a financially stable non-profit organization so that we can provide the yoga community with more programs and services, then you are probably right ;)

    Our Standards Committee, a diverse committee of teachers from a wide background of lineages and experiences, is taking a look at our standards and will be talking over the coming years about how they can be enhanced to better serve the community.

    In the meantime, I think it is helpful to understand that when YA standards were set the idea was to honor the diversity of the yoga tradition. Different lineages approach yoga philosophy and yoga differently. The idea of Yoga Alliance was always to create a place that honored all traditions and it is not always palatable to try to standardize the specifics of curriculum. In a sense, our greatest strength as an organization to be inclusive, also poses some challenges.

  • sherry

    *the YA accreditation. (typos !!)

  • Good article. Thank you!

  • Hi and Namaste. I have been looking for a Degree in yoga studies and I have not yet found a degree course in the UK. As a yoga teacher myself I would love to study a degree in yoga and to able to offer this to my students.

  • Phil

    One month teacher trainer courses where the only requirement is attendance, and the prerequisite is nothing.

  • I have been practicing yoga since the early 70′s. I studied intensively for 9 years in the 80′s under one woman. She owns a studio in Seattle for 20 years now. She has never been certified nor have I. I have owned and operated a yoga studio for the past 4 years. I am astonished the way yoga teachers are being knocked out into the massive yoga craze without a true understanding which truthfully comes from one’s own practice in my opinion.
    I’ve been told I could get grandfathered into a certification with yoga alliance but from what I scanned on your website this is not true. Please advise. Thanks!

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