November 29, 2011

Licensing Yoga: Who the F*ck Let You Become a Yoga Teacher?

The amazing awesome annoying infamous Inappropriate Yoga Guy.

My friend called me in disbelief the other day after trying a new yoga studio and teacher:

That yoga class was so bad I can’t even explain it to you. It made no sense. The teacher should be arrested it was that bad.

Many of us, I’m sure, have experienced a similar feeling before. After a truly horrific experience we can’t help but think: Who the f*ck let this person become a yoga teacher?

I want to return to a subject that has been an ongoing discussion in the yoga world since the creation of Yoga Alliance in 1999. In 2009, The New York Times came out with an article “Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Presses Back” citing the efforts of states, New York in particular, to regulate yoga schools and teacher training programs. Similar to licensing of massage – yoga teachers can expect increased regulations in the future as the yoga industry continues to grow by every OM sounded throughout the thousands of registered yoga studios in our country every day.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea of regulating yoga schools on a state level until recently. Many people that are against regulation believe it would be an infringement upon a religious belief system or that it would limit freedom. For myself, I’ve come to believe that we have a serious problem that could be fixed by regulating and licensing schools and teachers on a state-wide basis.

The problem is the fact that anyone can teach yoga.

And even scarier – the fact that anyone can open a yoga studio.

Problem # 1 – The Integrity of Teacher Training Programs: Most yoga teachers have been through a 200-hour teacher training program if the school is registered with Yoga Alliance. More recently, however, it has become apparent that schools have found a way to cash-in on their teacher training programs by breaking down trainings into 100-hour or 50-hour programs instead. Yoga Alliance requires registered teachers to receive their 200 hours from the same school – which means – these studios are making a lot of money by making their teacher trainees take multiple trainings in order to receive their certificate.

Problem # 2 – Follow-up and Accountability: How are these trainings being regulated by Yoga Alliance anyways? Despite the application process to become a registered yoga school and the requirements these trainings are supposed to meet – there is no follow-up process. Whose to say these schools actually teach what they say they are going to teach?

This subject was lit fresh in my mind recently when a person claiming to be a yoga teacher opened a studio nearby. This is Problem # 3: People who say they are yoga teachers that have no real business saying so.

This particular person has not only never trained formally with a yoga school – but has never practiced yoga regularly. Ever.

How has this person been allowed to open a studio? How is this person allowed to stay in business?

Here is the question I am posing to the universe: Are credible yoga studios and teachers responsible for watching out for non-credible studios and teachers? Is it our job to warn students of an unsafe situation?

Would licensing and regulation of studios really be that bad if it meant more credibility for studios that are actually doing it right?

Yoga practitioners have differing tastes in what makes a good or a bad yoga class. Different styles speak to different practitioners – and this is another obstacle in the way of licensing: How to regulate while maintaining the differences between yoga styles. Would Kundalini and Hatha schools have the same regulations as Ashtanga and Power Yoga schools?

Who decides?

I’ve been a member of Yoga Alliance for two years and believe in its mission – but I strongly believe it needs to do more. It is not enough to place “RYT” next to my name anymore. Not when anyone can turn in their certificate and pay the fee to become registered. There needs to be follow-up, integrity and accountability.

Who’s going to make that happen? I’m at a loss – Please, tell me what you think.

Read Part II in this conversation here.

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