Impact of State Laws on Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Teachers

Author’s note: This article was completed in December 2010 and does not reflect changes in laws in Virginia and New York to exempt yoga teacher training programs. I have left the article in its original form, however, because I think the history of those two states’ original implementation of licensing laws shows clearly why those particular states met with challenges to their laws from organized yoga teachers’ groups.

Recent changes in the application of state laws in Virginia, New York and in Michigan have required yoga teacher training programs to become certified or licensed vocational schools. My research so far is published below. This is a work in progress, and further input is welcome. I update it as I hear from additional sources.

I am soliciting input  from yoga teacher training program directors who have been affected by the new enforcement of these laws, and by those who have not. I would like to know

1. The impact on individual yoga schools and affiliated studios. Are they going out of business? Enhancing their faculty and curriculum? Flying under the radar –i.e., finding a way to stay in business without having to become a vocational school?

2. The impact on the supply of qualified yoga teachers. Will potential teachers get better training, less training, out of state training, no training? Will community colleges and four year colleges start to offer yoga teacher training within exercise science or allied health programs?

3. Are there any other legal requirements such as licensure being asked of individual teachers in any state?

 I appreciate as much clear and useful information as you can share.  The data  on this site is public and available to anyone else researching this topic. My aim is not be a competitive academic who gets to be the first to publish, but to be of service to yoga. I welcome collaboration on this project. Feel free to post anonymously if you do not want to specify which studio or school  or teacher is having challenges with the state.

If you have thoughts on the topic but no data to add to a study, I  also welcome your thoughts.

Research as of  August 26, 2009:

States Move to Licensing Yoga Teacher Training

Several states now regulate Yoga teacher training (YTT) schools under the licensing laws that apply to other private vocational schools, such as those that train in massage, culinary arts, truck driving, HVAC, dental assisting, medical records and other fields. Detailed catalogs, refund policies, surety bonds, a fixed and safe location, financial stability, and a record of administrators’ and faculty’s credentials are among the requirements for licensing. This is does not appear to an attempt to control Yoga –state licensed schools typically still follow the Yoga Alliance curriculum guidelines– but the correction of a regulatory oversight. Such laws are meant to protect the public from unstable schools that take tuition money and close. They also protect the public from unqualified educators. The impact on YTT has been varied, from beneficial to disruptive.

Early Licensing States

Licensing of YTT programs is not new in 2009.

Texas

“Texas requires all career schools to either be licensed or exempt if they are offering training to residents in the state of Texas.  Thus, it would be illegal to operate without either of these,” according to Virginia Bosnan, program specialist with the Texas Workforce Commission . “Yoga Teacher training does fall under our jurisdiction.  In most cases a school must be licensed in order to receive any funding.  The law has been in effect since 1972.”

Exemption may be given to schools that are bona fide religious, denominational or charitable institutions, and to those that can prove they are non-profit organizations.

The approval process can take two to three months, and schools may not operate during that period, nor advertise  nor solicit registration.1

Texas lists seven licensed schools, four of which are in private vocational/technical schools that train for many careers, and which offer yoga teacher training as a 12.5 academic credit hour program. This would translate to close to 200 hours. Yoga Alliance lists 43 RYS in Texas, including the three non-academic private programs. The other forty may include both exempt programs, and those unaware of the law.

Arizona

Arizona first required yoga teacher training programs to comply with existing licensing laws for vocational education in 2004. Keith Blanchard, with the Arizona State Board for Private Post Secondary Education, gave a brief history of the process in an interview for this article. YTT programs have, he said, always been required to comply with the law like any other school, but the state only became aware that YTT schools existed in 2004. A member of the Arizona board then contacted the president of Yoga Alliance. The state was grateful for YA curriculum guidelines, since they would not have known how to proceed with this, but determined it necessary to license schools since YA does not provide any student protection.  Letters were sent asking the schools to complete a ten question letter of intent. The review process for the letter of intent takes ten days. 3 If it was determined a license was required, the schools were allowed to complete any current students’ training, but not to recruit and enroll new students until the application process was complete. An $800 application fee, a surety bond of $1,500  minimum and a CPA prepared financial statement are required, to protect students’ tuition investment. 2The application requires a detailed course of study plan and instructor and administrator credentials.  A school will be ordered to cease and desist if they do not fill out an application within 60 days after being found to need a license.

 Maredith Estrada-Schroeder, administrator at  Inner Vision Yoga in Chandler AZ says she was notified by mail in 2007, with plenty of notice in order to comply with the law. She has noticed a substantial increase in administrative time, and knows to notify the state before making changes in tuition or refund policies. She gives credit to the studio’s staff for all the work involved in getting licensed. “If we did not have these people (which most yoga studios that are operating do not) it would have been very difficult to get licencing as quickly as we did.  We did have to increase our tuition upon implementation of licencing to cover the cost of more administration and class time. ”  Licensing has not affected Inner Vision’s curriculum,  or number of students.”State licencing is the watchdog for protecting consumer rights but that seems to be it.”

Students in private YTT programs are eligible for VA benefits in AZ, and also for benefits through a local workforce investment program, ArizonaHeat.

YTT fees in AZ range from $2,150 to $3,500 for a YA registered 200-hour program.

Arizona currently has seven private licensed schools and two or three in the application process. There is also a teacher training program at Scottsdale Community College, a public institution.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has eight licensed YTT programs, half of them in business since licensing began in 2004. Tuition fees are typically $3,300.

Wisconsin’s Educational Approval Board gives unapproved schools 60 days from the date they receive their application from the EAB to complete it, or the case will be referred to the attorney general.  An institution offering one non-degree program pays a $2,000 application fee. The surety bond ranges from $1,000 up, depending on unearned tuition held.  4

One Wisconsin YTT director with 20 years’ experience said she appreciated the licensing requirement because “The EAB did prevent a teacher with two years of experience (who was very unorganized) from starting her school without the proper systems in place. She is no longer offering teacher training… The licensing also prevented Yoga Fit from coming to our State and offering weekend certifications. ..Licensing is labor and time intensive, but only serious teachers will follow through with the process. A lot of newer studio owners are trying to offer teacher training to increase cash flow vs. training quality teachers. I’m happy with the way the State of WI has treated my business.” 5

“The Education Approval Board of Wisconsin has been very helpful and I can’t say that it is necessarily a bad thing to have someone overseeing the process.  I don’t believe I would have been as thorough or as forward thinking about the process without their guidance,” says Marci Tousey of YogaLoft in Sheboygan, who started her program after the licensing requirement had already been in place for several years.

The following email from Scott Anderson of Alignment Yoga in Blue Mounds WI reflects describes the transition well.

“Here in Wisconsin, the Educational Approval Board started regulating us 4-5 years ago. At first it was a big shock/stress, then once we went through our first year under their jurisdiction, we got used to the new routine and have adapted.

“I’m fundamentally glad for the EAB, as it’s made us operate much more professionally. Yoga Schools were sprouting up like mushrooms, and many of them were mediocre. The EAB culled out a lot of the dabblers and the remaining schools have very solid programs. It’s provided protection for the consumer (teacher trainee) that I think is very important.

“When the EAB first contacted us, we were given a few months to comply. We were allowed to continue operating, though it was made abundantly clear that if the process did not go through, our school would be closed. That being said, the WI EAB staff was wonderfully supportive and encouraging. They seem highly motivated to see students get good educations, which demands that schools be accountable. As providers, if we showed good-faith efforts at helping our students and working toward full compliance of WI statutes, the EAB was right there for us. It was not an adversarial experience – rather, it was collaborative in nature. The EAB wanted to see us succeed in providing our students a good education.

“The biggest hurdle was getting bonded. Bonding agencies were hesitant to work with yoga schools, even though our balance sheet was highly credible. Thankfully I have some friends in the insurance industry who made some connections for me. If we didn’t get the bond, we couldn’t operate! More than a few sleepless nights were spent with this dilemma.

“”The state oversight definitely adds administrative time, though the initial investment is being amortized over the lifetime of our school. Now that we’ve been working together a few years, I’d say we spend <40 hours per year on additional administrative duties – a modest increase. We’ve increased tuition almost 20% in the past few years, as the state statutes have very lenient tuition-refund policies that are very costly to comply with. I’ve raised tuition each year and am about at the equilibrium point, now.

“Our program has filled every year since 1995, so it’s hard to tell how enrollment has changed since the EAB started overseeing us 4-5 years ago – certainly having few schools hasn’t hurt our endeavor.

“The EAB continues to nudge us into making better programs. I’m not always happy when they’ve got a new idea for us, but without exception, they’ve forced me to craft a better school. We’re offering our students a much better program in the post-EAB era than in the pre-EAB era.

“In summary, I think state oversight has been a good thing for WI yoga students. It’s not always been easy, but has asked us to rise to the challenge.”

Pamela Bliss of Yogasylum in Brookfield WI said she could echo much of Anderson’s view. She says the EAB representative visits the school, pays close attention to details of the program and talks with the students. He is “a liaison between students and school if there is any problem; this is a consumer protection agency. It’s not a bad thing. It’s intimidating at first, but now I appreciate it. The state is a great resource.”

Notification Process

All YTT program directors contacted in WI and AZ, including those who opened as recently as 2008 or ’09, found out about the licensing requirement through the state board regulating them, or through word of mouth from other program directors. None were notified of this by Yoga Alliance, although YA had been contacted in 2004 by the regulating body in AZ. Yoga Alliance advises schools and teachers to comply with all state and local laws in its code of conduct but does not, in the process of registering schools, advise what those laws might be. Schools may in pay their fees to YA believing this is all that is needed, and then find out they are operating illegally. The YA registry for WI shows 11 schools and the state only eight. 6 These other three may be in the application process with the state, since there is a 60 day period in which to do this. As noted earlier, the discrepancy between the state’s registry and Yoga Alliance’s  is much greater in Texas.

Newly Licensing States

Michigan

An organization of trade schools called Michigan’s attention to the fact that YTT programs were not licensed. 7In late March 2009 Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, Proprietary School Unit, gave YA RYS YTT programs a week to comply with a 1943 law requiring all private vocational education programs to be licensed with the state. Operating an unlicensed school, they were warned, could result in penalties including a fine and incarceration. The application fee of $1,275 and the requirement for a $5,000 surety bond caused the closing of some smaller programs, and some studios that depended on the income from YTT. 8

Virginia

          In the same time frame, New York and Virginia also sent notices to YTT programs registered with Yoga Alliance. Virginia schools were warned they could lose their business licenses if they did not comply with the law. With a $2,500 application fee— among the highest in states that license YTT schools – and the required $5,000 surety bond, Virginia is also losing smaller programs. 9Schools were given until December to be in compliance, allowing current classes to graduate, but no new students can be enrolled until licensure. 10

          New York

          New York schools were told to close if not in compliance with the law or face a $50,000 fine. Currently enrolled trainees were not to able to complete their programs until schools complete licensing, which can take several months. According to Jane Briggs of the Communications Department of the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision YTT programs will definitely not be allowed to continue operating during the application process.  “Unfortunately, these programs require licensure. We don’t have the authority to circumvent the law…” 11 New York’s application fee is $250, with an additional $50.00 per faculty member and $100.00 per administrator. 12It has been made clear in NY that the fact that many YTT graduates do not go on to teach is irrelevant to the need for licensing; the fact that graduation means they couldat some time choose to teach is sufficient;13  but Yoga teachers in New York formed a group to fight back, and so far, with support of a state legislator, they have kept licensing at bay, been allowed to keep training future teachers, and established a lobbying effort to make yoga exempt from licensing.(14 )

 Utah and Kansas

Both states get good reviews from YTT program directors who have recently become licensed. While Utah’s fees are dramatically lower, both states seem to provide support,  and excellent communication. Programs are allowed to keep teaching current students while getting applications processed. One program director in Kansas said that licensing is the best thing that has ever happened to her school; enrollment has gone up 30% in an already well-established program with nationally known guest teachers.  

          What Next?

What can we expect in the future? My still incomplete survey of the 50 states and the District of Columbia awaits responses from some states. Amost all states have proprietary school laws, and it seems logical to assume that all these laws apply to YTT as well as to training for other occupations, and probably will eventually be enforced. It seems that the “personality” of  the sate agency itself has a lot to do with how well the licensing process goes. Those that are abrupt and even frightening in their enforcement may create resistance, or crush small businesses. Those that are supportive and flexible seem to help schools enhance their organization and planning. .

Yoga Alliance in a recent newsletter lists New Mexico as state that requires licensing. The state’s web site has not been updated for two years, but does not mention Yoga among the professions taught in state licensed proprietary schools. A reputable YTT program in Albuquerque was unaware of any requirement to be licensed when contacted in May 2009. I can’t yet confirm or disconfirm this requirement as of  yet. The state has not gotten back to me. This is my list so far:

1. States that do not regulate or license proprietary vocational schools at all (whether they are culinary schools, tattooing schools, horseshoeing schools, or yoga teacher training schools).

California ( but it may reinstate regulation), Montana, South Dakota, Vermont

2. States that do have vocational schools licensing but do not  include yoga teacher training, and the reasons why:

Arkansas: Only recently became aware of YTT schools.They will be requiring licensing in the near future.

Georgia: YTT schools are under the size that requires licensing; if YTT schools had over 20 enrolled at a time they would fall under the law.

Rhode Island: No reason given, they just don’t require it and don’t plan to.

West Virginia: There are, according to both the Yoga Alliance web site and the vocational school licensing board for the state of West Virginia, no YTT programs in West Virginia, so licensing is irrelevant.

States that have vocational school licensing laws and that do apply them to yoga teacher training programs are in the following chart:

Chart of states that License YTT

State, Regulatory Body and Web Site or Contact Information Application fee (and renewal fee if known) Surety bond (1) Other fees Allowed to train current students during application process***
AlabamaAlabama Department of Postsecondary EducationP.O. Box 302130Montgomery, AL 36130-2130

334-242-2959

http://www.accs.cc

$25 application$1,250 license $20,000   Depends on situation
AlaskaJo Anne HaydenInstitutional AuthorizationAlaska Commission on Postsecondary Education

PO Box 110505

Juneau, AK  99811-0505

 907) 465-6741

 joanne.hayden@alaska.gov

$2,500 $5,000 min.   Yes
Arkansas*Arkansas State Board of Private  Career Educationwww.sbpce.org Scaled to tuition per student per course Also determined by tuition   Yes
ArizonaArizona Board of Private Post Secondary Education www.azppse.state.az.us $850 $15,000 min/scaled to income   Yes 
Colorado Colorado Dept. of Higher Education Division of Private Occupational Schools http:highered.colorado.gov/DPOS/Schools/forms.html#new $2,000 Must cover unearned prepaid tuition held   Yes
Delaware (3)Private Business & Trade SchoolsDirector, DE State Approving AgencyDelaware Department of Education

35 Commerce Way

John Collette Education Resource Center

Dover, DE 19904

302.857-3313 (T) 302.739.1770 (F)

$100 $25,000 min. $10 (B) per agent No
Idaho  (3)Office of the State Board Of Education (OSBE)     http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov … (pull down) Higher Education — (then select) Proprietary Schools Registration.Note: This is registration, not licensing; does not imply approval of quality as license might 5% of net tuition income previous year or estimate of first year Based on unearned tuition held   Yes
IllinoisIllinois State Board of Education, Private Business Vocational Schoolshttp://www.isbe.state.il.us/pbvs/Default.htm           $500Renewal $250 Based on tuitionSale rep. bond $2,000   No**** 
KansasKansas Board of Regents , Private Post Secondary Educationwww.kansasregents.org/institutions/career/index.html $850 $20,000 $75(B) Yes
LouisianaLouisiana Board of Regents Proprietary Schools Program http://www.regents.louisiana.gov/PropSchools/forms.htm $2,000 $10,000 $1,000  (A) No
MassachusettsMassachusetts Department of Education, Office of Proprietary Schoolshttp://www.doe.mass.edu/ops/procedures.html $300 good for 2 years/ $200 renewal Scaled to revenue   Unclear
MichiganMichigan Department of Energy, Labor and Commerce Proprietary Schools Unitwww.michiganps.net $2,000Renewal much lower, scaled to income $5,000   Unclear
MinnesotaMinnesota Office of Higher Education, Schools Licensure and registration, Private Career Schoolswww.ohe.state.mn.us/mPg.cfm?pageID=204 $1,500– 1 program. $2,000– 2 or more programs $10,000 min.   No****
MissouriMissouri Department of Higher Educationhttp://www.dhe.mo.gov/proprietarycertification.shtml $250/renewal:$.001 multiplied by the net tuition and fee income for the preceding year, min. $250 .$5,000-$2500 based on gross tuition or 1st year estimate   No****
New HampshireCareer School LicensingN.H. Postsecondary Education Commission (603) 271-2555 x 354

Fax 603-271-2696

www.state.nh.us/postsecondary

$3,000 $10,000 $1,000 Yes
OhioOhio State Board of Career Colleges Schools andhttp://scr.ohio.gov   $300 $10,000 $500 (A) Yes
OklahomaOklahoma Board of Private Vocational SchoolsDirector – Mr. Dennis Rea3700 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 250

Oklahoma City, OK  73118-2864

Phone:  405-528-3370

Fax:  405-528.3366

e-mail:  drea@obpvs.ok.gov

no web site for contact or forms

$1,200.00.  Renewal fee $700 – $1,500 based on tuition $5,000 first year, based on tuition income after first year.    “Not legally”
TexasTexas Workforce Commission www.twc.state.tx.us/svcs/propschools/propproc.html  $1,001/ $500 min. renewal Repealed in 2003. None required. $20 per instructor and director No
Utah (3)Department of Consumer Protectionhttp://consumerprotection.utah.gov/registrations/schools.html $100 min.scaled to income  maximum is $2,000.  25% of the gross tuition income.  In the process of a rule change; may affect the amounts.    Yes
VirginiaState Council of Higher Education for Virginiahttp://www.schev.edu/schev/formsIndex.asp $2,500 $5,000   Yes in first year of enforcement, 2009
WashingtonWorkforce Training and Education Coordinating Board www.wtb.wa.gov/WorkforceBoard.asp360-753-5662. $250 to $2,500 scaled to income none $305 to $1,523 (A)1st year, scaled to income/ reduced subsequent years, still scaled See note 2
WisconsinEducational Approval Boardhttp://eab.states.wi.us $2,000 Scaled to income   Yes
Wyoming**Private School Program ManagerWyoming Department of Educationwww.k12.wy.us/F/psl/asp $200 $10,00 to $50,00 scaled to # of students $100 (B) unclear

*included because it will soon require licensing, and might be doing so by time of publication

**included because the response from the state was to send me copies of the laws and application process, and nothing indicated an exemption for YTT.

***This permission to continue the education of currently enrolled students usually has time limits and conditions such as evidence of good faith efforts to complete the licensing process, and no advertisement or recruitment of new students until licensing is complete. Some states have a 60 day window. It is never an unconditional yes.

****Technically it is not allowed but they are being nice about it. Illinois is letting schools comply on their own and will probably not send out letters for 2 years. Minnesota “Technically no, but each situation is handled based on the situation of the students already enrolled.” Missouri “Normally this department does not allow applicant schools to operate until final certification of approval to operate is granted.  However, under the circumstances, this department is allowing yoga instructor providers to continue their operations with the understanding that they will submit all requested materials for department review in a timely manner.”

. “

(A)  Tuition recovery fund also called student protection fee in some states. These funds are used first if a school closes or otherwise is unable to honor refunds .As explained by Louisiana’s Carol Marabella “Should a school abruptly close and leave students stranded, and a teach-out situation could not be arranged, we would first file against the $10,000 school bond to cover the tuition losses for the students.  If tuition losses exceeded the school bond, we would tap into the Student Protection Fund for the balance.  Fortunately, we have tapped into the fund very few times.”

(B)   Agent, representative or administrator fee. States use the term agent to refer to administrators who recruit students into the program.

  1. From www.investorwords.com

“Definition of surety bond
A bond issued by an entity on behalf of a second party, guaranteeing that the second party will fulfill an obligation or series of obligations to a third party. In the event that the obligations are not met, the third party will recover its losses via the bond.”

The actual fee to the insurance company for being bonded is much lower than the bond amount itself. One director gave the example of paying $125 to be bonded for $5,000.

  1. Washington has a unique process which I will not attempt to explain here. The state requires that a school first obtain a Master Business License from the state’s Department of Licensing and register with the state’s Department of Revenue
  2. Most states take 2 to 3 months to process applications, but Delaware and Utah say 30 to 45 days, and Idaho 2 to 3 days if the entire application is complete and accurate.

If  a state is not on this list it is because, as of August 26, 2009 I have not been able to contact  a source. If a state has a vocational school law, licensing may be under the board of education, the board of regents for higher education, the secretary of state, or the workforce commission; identifying the agencies and successfully searching their web sites for the information takes time. In some cases even three attempts to find a contact have been unsuccessful.

In more populous states that do not enforce licensing, there can be over 20 Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Schools, while states with low populations may have fewer than ten. In the two states with five years of well-enforced and publicized mandatory licensing ( AZ and WI), there are seven and eight licensed YTT schools, making it uncertain if licensing reduced the number of schools dramatically or only moderately.  A number of states seem to enforce licensing very lightly, given the large discrepancy between the number of state licensed schools and YA registered schools. As states require licensing, we can expect some reduction in number of programs, and a probable increase in tuition, which in both licensing and non-licensing states ranges from $2,000 to $3,500. Lowest fees are more common in non-licensing states, but the higher fees are not exclusive to licensed schools and are found around the country.

Smaller programs with lower incomes will probably be the ones to close, regardless of quality, in the states with high fees. Both good programs without money and less qualified programs that do not meet licensing requirements will close.

Aspiring yoga teachers will have access to various types of financial aid and to organized, reliable programs with qualified personnel and solid consumer protection.  As it completes it own survey of states,Yoga Alliance should include information about state licensing when processing RYS applications. New schools and existing schools may benefit from state licensing, as it seems to improve the YTT program as well as provide student protection.

Question that need to be explored in follow-ups to this initial survey:

  1. What is the measured impact on individual yoga schools and affiliated studios? How many are going out of business? Are those that get licensed enhancing their organization, faculty and curriculum, or just filling out forms?
  2. Are schools finding legitimate ways of “flying under the radar” –i.e., ways to stay in business without having to become a vocational school?
  3. Will YTT programs taught by traveling or international teachers, and workshop-based programs that are offered in intervals at locations around the country, be exempt or required to be licensed in multiple states?
  4. What is the impact of school licensing on the supply of qualified yoga teachers? Is Yoga like medicine before the Flexner report—oversupplied with under-qualified teachers from programs that have never been evaluated? Or have the YA standards been sufficient to assure both effective schools and safe, competent teachers? How can this best be assessed?
  5. Will more community colleges and four year colleges start to offer Yoga teacher training within exercise science or allied health programs as a result of any decrease in private YTT schools?

The research required to answer these questions will take time, and many more researchers involved in the process.

References

  1. 1.    www.twc.state.tx.us/svcs/propschools/propproc.html
  2. Blanchard, Keith ; Arizona Board of Private Post Secondary Education; personal communication, May19, 2009
  3. 3.    azppse.state.az.us
  4. http://eab.state.wi.us/
  5. Williamson, Debbie; Midwest Power Yoga; Personal communication,  May 20, 2009
  6. www.yogaalliance.org
  7. www.detnews.com/article/20090411/BIZ/904110355/1001
  8. Beamish, Michael; State of Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth;  Letter to Yoga Alliance registered Yoga Schools , March 31, 2009
  9. www.schev.edu/schev/formsIndex.asp

10.  Rapp, Lisa and Richardson, Ann; personal communications, on school closings and continuance, March 2009 and May 2009

11. Briggs, Jane; New York Education Dept. Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision; quoted on www.yogacitynyc.com

12.www.highered.nysed.gov/bpss/

 13. Yates Carol, Director, BPSS, Memo May 1, 2009, cited by Jo Brill on www.yogaforawareness.org/yogaregulation.htm 

14.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/nyregion/11yoga.html?hp

 

40 Comments

  1. Patty Kearney said,

    April 14, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Contributed from Michigan:
    Here is the website that all yoga teacher trainers have been directed to for infor on becoming a licensed yoga teacher training school: http://www.michiganps.net/default.aspx

    Patty’s observation after looking at the web site and application:
    My correspondent declined to stay in business for now because of the fees. I noticed in reading the (very long) application that it is a misdemeanor to operate without a license. While the “cease and desist” orders may have only gone to Registered Yoga Schools, this does not mean that the others will not encounter this law at some point.

    I contacted all 19 RYS in Michigan and all 26 in Virginia. I got 20 e-mails of these 45 returned as undeliverable. Does this mean 20 schools closed?

  2. Patty Kearney said,

    April 14, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    This was sent from Virginia:
    I rec’d an e-mail from (another teacher trainer) asking for help with this State mandated licensure for VA Yoga Teacher Training Schools. I do have information for I am going through the process right now. This is not a new law, however they are just now coming down on Yoga TT programs. We aren’t the only State involved in this mess.
    As far as VA goes if the TT programs do not conform it will be considered a class I misdemeanor (sp) as well as fines, and if we still don’t conform they will go to the city and have one’s business license revoked. Do we really have a choice? There are certainly good things that come along with this as well. The option for a student to apply for federal aid. The downside? They mandate everything!

    peace and light
    good luck

  3. Patty Kearney said,

    April 15, 2009 at 1:38 am

    After discussing developments in Virginia, I thought I should also post a link to the requirements that yoga teacher training programs have to meet in order to legally stay in business. Go to:
    http://www.schev.edu/schev/formsIndex.asp

    Below are the forms you’ll find there, but just as a list– go to the web site if you would like to read them all.
    New School Certification Process and Forms
    Instructions [MSWord]
    Institutional Certification Application Form [MSWord]
    Institutional Certification Checklist for Postsecondary Schools [MSWord]
    Institutional Sites Listing [MSWord]
    Program Type Listing [MSWord]
    Program Notification [MSWord]
    Projected Accounting Budget [PDF]
    Administrator Qualification Form [MSWord]
    Instructor Qualification Form [MSWord]
    Sample Catalog [MSWord]
    Surety Instrument Calculation Worksheet [MSExcel]
    Surety Bond [MSWord]
    Sample of the Clean Irrevocable Letter of Credit [MSWord]
    Acknowledgement of Prior Postsecondary Involvement [MSWord]
    School Catalog Checklist [MSWord]
    Directions for Preparing School Plan Report [PDF]
    Sample Enrollment Agreement [PDF]

  4. Patty Kearney said,

    April 22, 2009 at 1:52 am

    I have added a new link. Scottsdale Community College in Arizona has a yoga teacher training program within the college. Is this the future of yoga teacher training in Virginia and Michigan? It looks like an excellent program. I have in the past worked on the development of a similar program –which has not been implemented — at a Massachusetts community college. Many of the challenges independent yoga schools face in trying to meet state certification or licensing requirements are already part of the a college’s operations.

  5. Patty Kearney said,

    April 22, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    I received these responses to my inquiry letter, from the director of a small yoga teacher training program. I think her points about the need for states to consider the size of school in the size of fee are important; this does have an unfair impact on smaller businesses, and as she says, size and quality are not synonymous.

    States are starting to regulate yoga and yoga teacher training.
    How will our profession respond?
    “I was hoping that when it happened, the State would be interested in helping schools stay in business by making the fee reasonable to the size of the school and considering that most schools are following standards set by the Yoga Alliance. Yoga schools should not be classified with the standards and requirements as a mechanics school. But: States say pay or close, that’s it.”
    Is the Yoga Alliance registry enough?
    “It means nothing once the State is involved. It just gives the State an easy list of who to contact. I would have like to have heard about this prior to getting the letter in the mail.”
    Can we enhance our standards ourselves before more are imposed on us from outside?
    ” In my State, I really only think it was imposed because the State needs money and if they see this as a growing industry, they want a piece of it.”
    Do we need a national certification exam?
    “Only if States acknowledge it. Then they would have to require all teachers be certified.”
    How are current and new regulations affecting us as teachers and as trainers of new teachers?
    “I had to close my yoga school due to the expense of the license. I just became a school last year and only train a small group at a time. In a slow economy, it helped to have a program to supplement my income. Without it, I don’t know how long I will be able to have my studio open.”
    Do we need a national certification exam in additional to graduation from registered yoga schools?
    “Either the yoga community regulates it or the government will. The government will treat yoga like any other business, which it should not be. ”
    How are state laws regulating teacher training programs affecting yoga schools and the supply of qualified teachers?
    “It makes small schools close. It has nothing to do with the quality of a school or program. States in need are looking for money, not for keeping the quality of yoga instructors. It comes down to the money.”

  6. Patty Kearney said,

    April 24, 2009 at 12:55 am

    A dialog with Erin Hughes at the Providence Institute, Tuscon AZ.

    EH: We are a school in Arizona that already has our vocational license. All training programs in Arizona that prepare an individual for a new career are required to be licensed with the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. We have done the licensing process with them for all of our vocational programs (we have a couple of others). The process isn’t too complicated or expensive but I believe that we might be the only yoga teacher training program in Tucson that is licensed.

    PK: Thank you. It sounds as if it is less expensive in Arizona than in Michigan or Virginia, and that schools are not being told to close the way they were told to in Michigan, where they were given a 30 day cease and desist if they did not become licensed. I appreciate learning about the various ways states are handling this.

    EH:I would guess that schools would receive a ‘cease-and-desist’ type of letter if the State Board became aware of the existence of an unlicensed program. Part of the reason that the State Board exists is to offer administrative structure and support to programs and especially to students if a problem was ever to occur. In my experience they have been very helpful with providing support and answering any questions we have had and I have been grateful to have their support. As far as cost, the annual licensing fee is based on the school’s income and I would imagine that most all schools would fall in the $600-750 range.
    If you want you can read more about the Arizona State Board at their website, http://azppse.state.az.us/ There might have been an initial fee for the license that I am not aware of as the yoga teacher training was already in place when I came to work at Providence.
    PK: I plan to look into Arizona’s fees and history more. I hear none of the frustration , at least from you, that VA and MI programs directors have expressed.

  7. Jo Brill said,

    May 10, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Patty, thanks for your blog. Looks like we have a similar situation on New York. I have written to all the 81 teacher trainers registered with Yoga Alliance and we are starting to talk.

    Here’s all the info I’ve gathered so far:
    http://www.yogaforawareness.org/yogaregulation.htm

    Thanks again!

    • Patty Kearney said,

      May 17, 2009 at 2:35 am

      You have done a very thorough job of organizing not only New York legal information, but links to health freedom laws and licensing information in other states. Thank you so much for your work, and for linking it to this site.

      I encourage my readers to look at Jo’s web site. It is an excellent resource.

  8. cynthia kling said,

    May 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Dear Patty: This is really great. We are covering the same thing for New York State at our site, yogacitynyc.com

    Check it out and let me know what you think.

    Best,
    Cynthia Kling

    • Patty Kearney said,

      May 15, 2009 at 11:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing this. I think it is worth citing here in full, in case my readers don’t go to your link. This is a valuable contribution to the discussion. I want to have data here from every state affected. I find it interesting that your web site got such a detailed response from Yoga Alliance; I have had no response from them at all, although I invited them to look at my work. I guess it helps to be in New York City– what happens there gets their attention!

      From http://www.yogacitynyc.com
      “Surprise! Yogis need to ‘professionalize’
      Some 81 yoga studios around New York were reeling last month after receiving letters from the New York State Education Department, stating that they must “cease operating” teacher training programs or face a $50,000 fine.

      The letter, addressed only to yoga studios with teacher training programs, is from the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) at the State Education Department. It states that under Section 5001(1) of the Education Law, yoga studios are required to register with the state as vocational schools, similar to bartending or pet grooming schools.

      “It was a real shock because it’s basically a cease and desist letter,” said Alison West, owner of Yoga Union in Manhattan. “It’s extraordinarily intrusive.”

      Intrusive is one word for it. Confusing may be another.

      The licensing process is a labyrinth of applications, building permits and financial records. The initial application is $250, but the separate “personnel” applications for program directors and teachers are $50 each–while the “agent applications,” for each individual who receives payment from the program, or solicits students, is $100.

      Studios must submit a detailed “curriculum” application and a “quarters” application—although it is unclear so far exactly who or what will be setting curriculum standards for New York. The quarter’s application includes a certificate of occupancy, and health and fire department approval of the training space.

      The quarters application is not required with the initial application but a license will not be granted until the application is approved—which means that owners running training programs without a fixed location could become fugitives.

      Mark Davis, President of the Yoga Alliance, a national non-profit that regulates and sets standards for training programs, said that it was only a matter of time before states began requiring yoga teacher training programs to be licensed.

      “It’s a six-billion dollar industry now,” Davis said. “It’s no longer fringe, it’s mainstream. The yoga community has to act like other businesses out there.”

      Other states have already felt the sting. Michigan sent out notices to yoga studios in March, informing them that they had seven days to file a $1,275 license. Owners in Michigan must also purchase a $5,000 “surety bond” to protect against student financial loss, according to an April 11 article in the Detroit News. Four schools filed for licenses, four are currently under review, and another four have closed. California is now considering their mandatory licensing options.

      Regulations from state to state, but New York law seems more draconian than others. While New York studios face being slapped with a $50,000 fine and are expected to wait up to eight months to receive licenses, failure to register in Michigan results in a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. Arizona’s review process lasts about 10 days, while New York’s review process is 8-12 months.

      Davis said that despite the hardships yoga studios face under the new requirements, licensing with the state could be a boon to studios.

      “Schools can develop a relationship with the labor department,” he said. “Because you’re a licensed school, students will be eligible to apply for state and federal grants or loans to take your teacher training program.”

      He added that “it certainly lends more credibility to your program” if you are licensed with the state. While some studios are wondering how this could possibly be a good thing, others who hadn’t registered with the Yoga Alliance didn’t receive a letter. Did the Yoga Alliance hand over their list? Davis said that sometime last fall, states began to take notice of the Yoga Alliance, which provides a record of studios with teacher training programs – and used that information to contact yoga studios.

      At this point, how much can Yoga Alliance help? Davis said that because the Yoga Alliance is a non-profit they are limited in how much “lobbying” they can do on behalf of yoga studios, although studio owners complain that the Yoga Alliance did not do enough to alert them to the problem.

      “Personally I feel that the Yoga Alliance does very, very little,” West said. “We’ve received one letter from them saying, ‘We’re looking into it.” But, Davis said, the Yoga Alliance is trying to convince states to accept their training standards as “an educational benchmark.” He also said that in addition to educating state officials about yoga, he has “tried all kinds of tactics” to convince officials that “yoga teaching does not represent a vocation. Unfortunately, he added, the state isn’t buying it. “They say the law is the law and we have to enforce it.”

      That’s definitely true so far. Although the law provides for a number of exceptions, which include organizations providing religious, athletic, and recreational training, the BPSS says that absolutely no exceptions will be granted to yoga. In a May 1 letter addressed to “Schools Offering Yoga Instruction,” the Director of the BPSS, Carol W. Yates, wrote that, “Yoga teaching is an occupation, whether employed or self employed.”

      Any training, the letter reads, which provides a student with skills that could potentially be used in a future occupation, must be regulated by the state.

      “If the training involves teacher training…we do not view this as exempt,” Yates wrote. “We view yoga as more than recreation and athletics. Yoga is a specific system of exercise for physical and mental well being. It goes beyond recreation and athletics.”

      Jane Briggs of the Communications Department of the BPSS said that there is no chance that yoga studios will be allowed to continue operating training programs during the application process, and that schools that do not comply with the law are typically fined the full $50,000.

      “Operating a school without a license is viewed as a major violation,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, these programs require licensure. We don’t have the authority to circumvent the law. We are required to enforce it. We cannot tell them that it is okay to operate without a license.”

      Teacher training is a large source of revenue for yoga studios, and the letter has left many studio owners and teachers wondering how they will make up for the lost revenue.

      “Even if we comply with the law, for eight months, we won’t be able to do our work,” West said. “This kind of thing could move some of us to be unable to pay back business loans, or pay our mortgages.”

      Liz Buehler, co-owner of Yoga High on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, spoke to the Yoga Alliance last Friday in order to register with the organization, but surprisingly, they informed her of all the work necessary to join the Yoga Alliance but did not inform her of the new license requirements for New York state.

      It was only later when her co-owner Mel Russo ran into a colleague at OM that they found out about the licensing. “The big question for us is do we get state licensing and Yoga Alliance licensing, or one or the other?” Buehler said. “It’s a big burden.”

      To compound the problem, Yoga High has already begun accepting payments for their September teacher training program. “We would really like not to have to refund people their money,” Buehler said. “So we’re just kind of waiting around to try to see what comes out of it. We’re really hoping that it doesn’t become something where the small studios don’t have the resources to provide teacher training.”

      One co-owner of a Manhattan yoga studio that opened in April 2008 and is beginning teacher training program in June, is most concerned about the economic ramifications of the law. “I’m uber-freaked,” said the owner, who wished to remain anonymous because her studio has not been contacted by the state. “If we got fined $50,000, we’d close. Teacher training is part of what keeps us afloat.

      Sybil Killian, general manager of Om, said the process itself is intimidating. “There’s reams of paperwork you have to send,” Killian said. “All the teachers have to have individual licenses. You have to send floor plans. And then you have to renew this license every two years?” “The law was written in 1939,” she added. “It seems out of date in requiring things that are not necessary. We don’t object to the idea of a license. But we feel as if the process should be more appropriate to the particular industry that you’re talking about.”

      So what now? Most studios are confused about what to do. Some have hired lawyers to try to fight for an exception. Some are going to fill out the paperwork, while others plan on waiting it out.

      In terms of future interactions with the state, Davis didn’t say whether the Yoga Alliance had concrete plans either. Rather, he seems to be leaving it up to studios to decide how to proceed.

      “If the yoga community decides to become politically active, they may or may not be successful enough to garner a legislative exception,” Davis said.

      For now, one thing is clear: most in the yoga community feel that they have been left in the dust.

      Dear Editors,

      I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify some aspects in the yogacitynyc.com post “State Puts the Kibosh on Teacher Training.”

      Yes. It is true that yoga teacher training programs in NY are now being required to become licensed as vocational schools. New Yorkers are not alone. This is happening in states across the country. Since yoga has become mainstream and grown into a $6 billion a year industry it has attracted the attention of regulators. Which in turn is forcing this ancient tradition to conform to Western business practices.

      Ten years ago the founders of Yoga Alliance, a non-profit charity, foresaw this would happen. They believed it would be in the best interest of the yoga community to be proactive by setting voluntary compliance standards. Inclusive of all yoga lineages and traditions these standards were established to set the benchmark for a future possibility of licensing.

      This foresight is paying off today as many states recognize Yoga Alliance’s 200 and 500 hour standards as the benchmark for the curriculum requirement of the licensing process. Without Yoga Alliance’s standards each state would have the opportunity to create their own criteria which could lead to undue restrictions on the practice of yoga.

      Due to our charity designation with the IRS, Yoga Alliance is not permitted by law to engage in political or legislative advocacy on behalf of the teachers and schools that are part of our registry.

      Yoga Alliance reaches out to regulators, as well as the medical and fitness communities, to educate them about the importance of our professional designations and how RYTs and RYSs hold themselves to a higher benchmark. We understand this is a difficult and confusing time for many in the yoga community and are working with our registrants to help them understand the complexities of the issues facing them.

      As yoga has grown in the U.S. so has Yoga Alliance. Today over 25,000 teachers and schools are proud to be registered with Yoga Alliance because it shows their adherence to internationally recognized standards of training, experience and education that protect the health and safety of yoga practitioners.
      By doing so they hold themselves to a higher level of professionalism — representing the global yoga community with integrity and credibility.

      Our website is the most comprehensive resource available to the public to help them find these outstanding yoga practitioners. In many cases it’s the only place where an RYT or RYS is listed on the web. Yoga Alliance does not share registrant information with anyone. Nor are we working with regulators to push licensing on the yoga community.

      Item #8 of the Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct, which all registrants verify they have read and agree to, states they will “Follow all local, government and national laws that pertain to my yoga teaching and business.”

      We realize that small yoga schools and studios may not be able to comply with NY’s lengthy and involved application process, forcing them to drop their teacher training programs, and for this we are sad. Sad because the fierce individualistic entrepreneurial spirit they embody is a true manifestation of Seva and all of our quests for peace and harmony in our lives.

      Yoga Alliance stands strong behind its teachers and schools and will continue to do everything it can to support them during this time of need.

      Namaste,
      R. Mark Davis
      President & CEO
      Yoga Alliance”

      • Vibhooti said,

        May 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm

        after reading Mark Davis CEO letter I asked the Yoga Alliance to cancel my membership and to immediately remove my name from their site for 2 reasons #1 his letter which if you read it carefully says the Alliance will not do anything and #2 it appears that the Alliance website is where the states are getting our names
        Vibhooti in Princeton NJ

  9. May 15, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    [...] yoga teacher from Virginia, Patty Kearney, has started a  blog to discuss the impact of these licensing [...]

    • Patty Kearney said,

      May 16, 2009 at 1:07 am

      Thanks for linking to my page in yours, and for adding to this discussion. I hope my readers will take a look at the comments your readers have made, too.

  10. Patty Kearney said,

    May 15, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    New Jersey is considering a different type of licensing law. It would require all fitness professionals– personal trainers, group fitness instructors, yoga teachers, Pilates teachers–to have state licensing and to pass a state exam. The proposed law would create a state board for this purpose, and apparently an examination, and would accredit certain continuing education providers. Unlike other state laws, this one would regulate individual instructors rather than training programs. To read the full text of the proposed law, which has been in progress since October but has not yet passed,go to
    http://www.statesurge.com/bills/510106-s2164-new-jersey

    • Patty Kearney said,

      June 16, 2009 at 4:51 pm

      As of today I have confirmation that yoga teachers are being exempted– should this law ever pass. It might not. It appears to be an attempt by a group that wants to establish itself as a board of fitness examiners in competition to the existing certifying agencies.Yoga Alliance was able to provide helpful information to someone working on the bill, and the 200 hr. standard was accepted.

  11. Patty Kearney said,

    May 16, 2009 at 12:07 am

    The following is the text of a letter sent by the State of Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth to the owner of a small yoga studio and RYS teacher training school in Lansing. The school owner did not receive the initial letter that this letter says was sent. Everything is copied verbatim from the letter, leaving out only the name and address of the recipient to protect her privacy, and the contact information of the state officials to prevent unhelpful contacts with them as well. Note that the second letter was sent exactly a week after the first one. There was certainly no grace period on their seven-day notice for compliance! I personally did contact the official who sent the letter, explaining that I was a professor doing research and would like to know what prompted the abrupt enforcement of this old law in such a way. I have had no response so far; it has been over a month. The teacher training program addressed here closed immediately.

    “March 31, 2009

    Dear Owner,

    You were provided written notice on March 24, 2009 that the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, Proprietary School Unit, has become aware that you may be operating an unlicensed proprietary school in the State of Michigan. This notification required a response within seven days with either the provided Application for License to Operate a Private Trade School, Business School, or Institute in the State of Michigan, or an acceptable explanation of why you are not subject to Public Act 148 of 19443 (MCL 395.101 et. seq.). As of this date, you have failed to comply with this notice.

    The fact that you offer a yoga teacher training program means a proprietary school license is required. Please understand that this office has no concerns with your community based avocational yoga offerings. Since we have no record that your school is currently licensed to operate in the State of Michigan, you must cease and desist enrollment and recruitment of individuals for the yoga teacher training program effective immediately. Be advised that this matter has been referred to the local prosecuting attorney and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for consideration of violation of MCL 395.101 et. Seq. Violation of this state law can result in legal penalties including a fine and incarceration for owners and administrators.

    For assistance you may contact Ms. B__ H___ at 517 — —- or _____@michigan.gov

    Thank you for your cooperation on this matter.

    Sincerely,
    M____ B_________
    Post Secondary Education Specialist
    Proprietary School Unit

    Cc: D___J___, Assistant Attorney General, Michigan Attorney General’s Office

  12. Patty Kearney said,

    May 21, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    In reflecting on Vibhooti’s decision, posted above, to cancel her Yoga Alliance membership, I thought I should mention some new material I have learned.
    I talked with a member of the board that approves private vocational education in Arizona. He said they spoke with Yoga Alliance back in 2004 when Arizona first became aware that there were such entities as yoga teacher training schools. He said the conversation was productive, that he appreciated Yoga Alliance’s curriculum guidelines, since the state would not have known what to suggest; but that since Yoga Alliance offered no protection for students, the state needed to license the schools. All these state school licensing requirements are consumer protection, not an attempt to control yoga itself. It is to prevent schools from taking people’s tuition and vanishing, and to prevent truly unqualified people from setting up schools. Wisconsin teacher trainers, who have also been under state school licensing since 2004, speak very well of their relationship with the state Educational Approval Board, finding it constructive and supportive, although somewhat time-consuming. Teacher trainers in AZ and WI who have opened their programs in 2007 through 2009 all learned of the licensing requirement through the state or through other school directors, not from Yoga Alliance. In other words, YA has known since 2004 that at least Arizona requires licensing, but has not, apparently, informed RYS applicants of this. YA takes a fee for permission to use its RYS logo and to be listed in their RYS directory. They also take a fee for being listed as RYT and permission to use that logo. They provide a very limited service: curriculum guidelines, and a registry. It would be considerate of them to warn new RYS applicants that their state might require licensing and bonding because these fees are so much higher than the YA $150 fee, that some schools might never choose to get started, and others might be better able to effectively budget and plan, as well as go through the state application process before opening.

  13. Vibhooti said,

    May 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    “It’s a six-billion dollar industry now,” Davis said. “It’s no longer fringe, it’s mainstream. The yoga community has to act like other businesses out there.”

    Yes, I canceled my membership with Yoga Alliance after reading the letter from Mr Davis

    I live in NJ very close to New York and am stunned at the “cease and desist” letters all sent to schools on the Yoga Alliance website
    and disgusted that Yoga Alliance has not addressed this issue on their website.
    Re: licensing, it appears that each State Board of Ed can do their own thing. So who knows what is next?

    Also, I was trained in India and live Yoga as a spiritual path, so (tongue in cheek?) maybe I can be exempt from licensing if I teach Yogas as a religion?

    Warm regards, Vibhooti

  14. Patty Kearney said,

    May 23, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Each state does have a slightly different law regulating private vocational education. New York’s approach in having schools close while processing applications is unlike the approach taken in Virginia, which allowed time for compliance, or in Wisconsin or Arizona, which also allowed schools to stay open while going through the approval process. This New York application of an existing law for vocational schools does not affect yoga teachers offering avocational classes to the general public who seek to practice but not teach yoga. However, the proposed law in New Jersey for licensing individual teachers would indeed affect Vibhooti if it passes.

  15. Patty Kearney said,

    June 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    This post is from Jeff, a teacher training program director. I moved it from the main page to this page, which is why it comes up as my post, but all that follows is from Jeff.
    I feel having national standards and a national exam will not serve the practice of yoga or the larger yoga community and feel that something as diverse and alive as the practice of yoga cannot be standardized by institutions which would, over time, have to continue to exist and charge fees in order to perpetuate themselves.

    Organizing bodies in yoga do not seem interested in stopping state licensing, but in perpetuating it or creating more restrictive standards and testing for yoga teachers – based of course on their own idea of what is right. In reality these organizing bodies have absolutely no influence over state legislatures imposing state licensing, a process which imposes a huge burden on non-cookie-cutter yoga studios that don’t have hundreds of teacher trainers every year.

    Even now organizations like the yoga alliance seem only interested in this issue not in terms of the burden and possible difficulties it creates for its ‘members’, but as a way to get their standards adopted as THE standard of teaching. But in my opinion, such standardization can rob yoga of its incredible richness and lead to a homogenization of what is offered throughout the country . Such a standardization excludes those who do not have the same understanding or belief of what yoga is a the organizing or licensing body. Are bhakti yoga ‘teachers’ going to be required to teach triangle pose and anatomy of the shoulder? Is the Jnana yogi going to teach kirtan? How does a hatha yoga teacher exclude teaching the spritual underpinnings of yoga asana so that there are neatly divided asana and philosophy sections to satisfy some externally imposed idea of what yoga is nd how it should be taught? Or is the teacher who primarily connects with the physical practice going to be forced to mention the Bhagavad Gita and surrendering the fruits of your actions? The strength of yoga teachers and yoga teacher trainng programs is their diversity.

    What would I share with studios/teachers/organizing bodies? After going through three years of this licensing process for our studio and spending thousands of dollars and countless hours to get licensed, it seems important to understand this:
    States DO NOT care about standards. They just want to collect the extra revenue in the form of initial licensing fees and renewal fees, revenue which is sorely needed, especially now. They could care less about the yoga alliance and standards and, in our state, have no one in their offices of licensing of vocational trades who even knows what yoga is about.

    How has our teacher training program changed since licensing?
    Registration not effected by licensing. Fees had to be raised to cover significant added time. (Some studios spend 6K or more, we spent over 3K in employee hours and fees initially). Better employment for graduates — definitely not. Such care translating to future employment will have to be artificially manufactured by the states and the organizing bodies until it becomes ‘required’. Administrative time and workload MORE than doubled, especially initially.

    Only benefits to consumer I’ve found are:
    1) It made us have a clear and well defined refund policy which is good.
    2) It made us be more clear and consistent in our program presentation and exceptions for individuals.
    3) the requiring of a bond so that a school can’t jut take a student’ money and leave, but reputable studios in business for a while were not doing this anyway and no yoga studio ever has in our state.

    Of course , all this protection ‘is for our own good.’ In truth, governments and yoga organizations will smell the money and push for even more restrictions and limitations ‘for our own good’ — as long as they get to define what’s acceptable and get fees from it to continue perpetuating themselves. Soon we will need an organizing body to monitor the organizing body. :-) But those who really want to will always be able to find yoga behind the bureaucracy.

  16. Patty Kearney said,

    June 2, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    There are accreditation bodies to accredit certifying organizations. The link is on the home page.
    Working in higher education, I am used to having to meet certain standards and having academic freedom at the same time, so I can envision yoga teachers passing exams and yet still having complete freedom to emphasize the physical or the philosophical—freedom to teach with their own insights and with stylistic differences. It would only make sure that the foundations existed, not force teaching into a mold. A certification exam is not a law.
    From my research so far, I have found that there are a number of teacher training program directors who feel very favorably about state licensing. And as you can see from the posts on this site, many do not. The main finding I have so far on states’ motivation is this: enforcing laws on licensing private schools is a correction of an oversight. These are not new laws. Texas, I recently found, has considered yoga teacher training programs to require licensing– they tell me– since 1972.Some other states have done so since 2004– so the current financial crisis is not part of it in those cases. Looking at a newly enforcing state: How much money will the state of Virginia make from this year’s fees? Assume that 10 of the state’s 26 RYS’s apply for licensing and the other sixteen schools, unfortunately, close, because they cannot afford this state’s $2,500 application fee. The state would get $25,000. (The bond is not revenue for the state like the licensing fee.) That is such a tiny drop in the enormous bucket of state finances, it will have minimal impact on anything. It might pay part of one person’s salary.
    Perhaps the regulatory bodies in states that deal with private vocational education, if they have no one knowledgeable about yoga, need to consult with yoga teachers.
    A member of Arizona’s private post secondary education board told me they use Yoga Alliance standards and appreciate having that guideline. They started enforcing licensing when they discovered that yoga teacher training schools existed, not when they needed money.

    • Jeff said,

      June 3, 2009 at 4:19 am

      I am not quite sure how the concept of yoga teachers passing exams or licensing trainings is going to help make yoga ‘better’? And I respectfully ask how much direct experience do you have becoming licensed and running your own yoga teacher training program under a state board?

      I too taught academically in the community college and university level for several years and can tell you that a mold is created by having certain requirements to pass an exam. And though teacher certification is not law it eventually effects the marketplace so people eventually only want to go to programs with certification or accreditation within the dominant organization. This gives a lot of power to governing bodies or test-makers to determine the course of yoga and who teaches or doesn’t teach. After all. who wants to go through a teacher training program where they can’t have the approval of a governing body accepted as an authority by state boards, gyms and secondary education sites that really have no other experience of yoga and what makes a good yoga teacher, and therefor pick the major governing voluntary organization that is out there?

      Programs and teachers that adopt these voluntary (soon to be mandatory if the state licenses yoga teachers) standards will flourish financially. Programs and teachers that teach with alternative topics or methods or teachers will not have the seal of approval and run the risk of financial struggle or insolvency. Again it is not that regulation is necessarily bad, but it seems to set up a paradigm where voluntary regulations become mandatory by default and a few chosen people are determining the course of training programs and teacher qualifications throughout the country.

      I was told by the state that that the state was enforcing these standards here because they were worried about schools taking tuition and running out. Now they seem to say no, that it was always an oversight not to include yoga teacher trainings as part of private post-secondary education licensing. But this is really not the case.

      A yoga teacher training with 15 students 3 XS a year is a lot different from private post-secondary educational facilities that have hundreds or thousands of students, financial aid offices and career placement departments. The ‘oversight’ was actually a more correct application of the law since a yoga teacher is rarely a vocation – a full time job – for the people that go through our program. It is done as a path of joy and out of love and healing. And many students take the program with no intention of teaching at all, but for their own personal transformation. To treat these programs ans ‘vocational post-secondary educational facilities’ is inaccurate. The state does have good intentions, though they have no idea about this vocation and are not interested in quality of education. What other organizing body is the state going to use other than yoga alliance? Do you really think the state examined the yoga alliance standards with someone who knew about yoga and deemed it appropriate?

      And every drop in the bucket counts, especially now. Yoga teacher trainings are lumped into a whole category of smaller training programs with the state and to exclude studios would be to exclude a lot more than just yoga teacher trainings.

      Standards and tests do not make good teachers or good yoga teachers. Right now with standards in place from yoga alliance there are schools that offer yoga teacher training certification in a mere two weeks (no prior experience necessary!) and programs that have teachers with less than two years experience leading TT programs. Just because some teacher or school has accreditation does not mean much as to the quality of instruction, prevention of injuries or depth of experience. This seems to me more a topic to be explored by the seeker of yoga knowledge or the one in search of teacher training and the teacher they connect with. But in our gotta have it now society, who wants to go to classes regularly and study with one teacher they really like to gain actual real-life practice and experience before they even think about teaching? Yet I do not believe that we should regulate even this aspect of teaching or training.

      Whether a teacher has certification or belongs to some alliance is of no bearing on the truth and value of that teacher in that student’s life. And I feel it is life and the practice that are the true organizing body, not artificially created boards, tests and standards.

      Finally, it does makes sense that there are organizing bodies for organizing bodies. No matter how good initial intentions are, it seems like a hall of mirrors with bureaucracy when it comes to things like this, with the manufactured necessity of creating greater organizations to watch over the lesser organizations, each one dependent upon their own standards and fee collection to stay afloat. Again, all started with the best of intentions, but abhinivesha can be strong strong, even for the proudest of ideals or organizations. :-)
      Peace.

  17. Patty Kearney said,

    June 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I don’t consider myself an advocate for licensing or against it, but a reporter on the state of things. I began researching it not because I want one thing or another to happen, but because it exists. Friends had to close their schools in Virginia and Michigan because of the financial demands of licensing, but that is the extent of my personal involvement with the issue. I have taught anatomy in a teacher training program, and have operated a studio, but have not been the operator of teacher training program. I have interviewed and corresponded with the owners of teacher training programs in states that require licensing, and interviewed and corresponded with state board members involved in licensing.
    I agree with you that Yoga Alliance standards have not resulted in consistently high quality programs. Certification testing—something entirely different from (and perhaps even an alternative to) licensing—is discussed on the other half of this site: Proposal for a National Exam for Yoga Teachers. See that page of this site for more discussion on this topic—I will not take more space here repeating it since most of what I could say in response is already there. There are pro and con opinions in that discussion as well.
    The argument you make that most yoga teachers do not make their living as such, and that many people do not even teach after taking a training program, has been made to the state of New York’s board of private post secondary schools, and rejected. According to the BPPS, if a person could potentially make a living or earn any portion of their living at any time from a skill learned in a school, that school falls under the law, regardless of what the person actually does with the training.
    Texas allows exemptions based on documented non-profit, charitable or religious status.

  18. June 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    The same thing has happened to our industry in Arizona. Permanent Makeup. I, as private instructor, can no longer train in my profession. Nor can I afford to go through the process that the state requires for licensure. Someone was right when thay stated that these laws were created for large educational facilities with thousands of students. These same institutions have trainers that have been doing permanenent makeup for less than two years. California’s governor recently eliminated the post secondary board because of costs. But also because it was a watchdog for consumers and he’s a Republican. Buyer beware is his motto. This happened in July 2007.
    I am currently gathering information to accomplish the same here in AZ as we are also in financial crisis. Our public schools systems, Child Protective Services etc.. here are taking huge budget cuts. Adults should be able to make intelligent decisions on their own.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      July 23, 2009 at 9:57 pm

      This is the latest from the state of California, in response to my inquiry. They are considering going back to regulation. I am not sure how it will turn out, but apparently not everyone was satisified with eliminating it.This is an e-mail I recieved when I checked for clarification of thier policies on private vocational education:
      “The Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act became inoperative on June 30, 2007 and was repealed on January 1, 2008. Currently there is no regulatory body with oversight of private postsecondary schools. Currently no approval is required.

      If you are a school and plan on offering a curriculum that may lead to licensure, certification or registration, please check with the agency or entity that licenses, certifies or registers the profession in order to confirm that your students may be eligible for licensure, certification or registration upon completion of the program you intend to offer.

      If you are a student please check with the licensing, certifying or registering agency or entity to be sure you will be able to become licensed, certified or registered prior to enrolling in school.

      Assembly Bill 1525, which created the voluntary agreement and Senate Bill 45, which amended and extended Assembly Bill 1525, both became inoperative on July 1, 2008. While we encourage schools to comply with the law as it existed on June 30, 2007, we are no longer accepting voluntary agreements.

      You may be interested in Assembly Bill 48, which, if it is passed by both houses of the California State Legislature and signed by the governor, would bring back regulation of private postsecondary schools. You may view that bill at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov, click on bill information, type AB 48 into the space provided, click on AB 48 and select the text format you prefer (html or pdf) .”

      Please note that this legislation is about all vocational schools, it does not relate to directly yoga. It could in the future, perhaps.

  19. Patty Kearney said,

    July 13, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    People in Yoga who have a libertarian point of view on regulation may wish to look at Leslie Kaminoff’s new web site and new organization, which he announced on July 4th: IYEA, Independent Yoga Educators of America. I personally don’t share his views, but he is a yoga teacher and educator whose work in that field I greatly respect; and some of my readers may share his views or simply want to know what they are.His site is http://www.iyea.us/

  20. Patty Kearney said,

    July 13, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/nyregion/11yoga.html?hp

    This article updates the outcome in New York! Yoga teacher trainers organized successfully to change the way things were going.

    • Vibhooti said,

      July 15, 2009 at 9:34 pm

      I am delighted to read about “yoga teachers pushing back” in New York. wonderful outcome!
      Did the Yoga Alliance help, in any way, in the teacher organization to change the way things were going in New YorK? Just curious.

      Warm regards, Vibhooti

  21. Josh said,

    July 15, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Some of this information on Arizona is inaccurate according to the AZ website. It takes 10 days just for the board to review a letter of intent. This is just to determine if an application is necessary to begin with. The license and application process then takes between 180-240 days and requires extensive fees, an inspection, a hearing, etc… Furthermore one is only allowed to continue training students one has already started training. He does not get to solicit or train anyone new until one has the license.
    http://azppse.state.az.us/UserFiles/PDF/GeneralLicensureInformation.pdf

    • Patty Kearney said,

      July 15, 2009 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you for the clarification. I will include this in revisions of the article before its final publication.

  22. Patty Kearney said,

    July 16, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    This question from Katie, was posted on the Welcome page, but I have moved it here:
    “Hi, I’ve been looking for more info on Texas regulations and I’m wondering where you got the quote from Virginia Bosnan of Texas . I can’t find much out there. Thanks!”
    Katie, it is hard to find this information because you have to contact the Texas Workforce Commission– its name does not sound like a board that licenses post secondary private schools. I contacted her directly through the TWC. Hope this is helpful.

  23. Maredith Estrada-Schroeder said,

    July 19, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Hello, I wanted to clarify that I am not the owner of Inner Vision Yoga. I am the Administrator of the YTT at Inner Vision Yoga but I did not put together the intensive packet in order to comply to State licencing regulations. I do not want to take credit from the staff at Inner Vision Yoga who put in countless time and effort. My point is, if we did not have these people (which most yoga studios that are operating do not) it would have been very difficult to get licencing as quickly as we did. We did have to increase our tuition upon implementation of licencing to cover the cost of more administration and class time. I agree with most of the comments- State licencing is the watchdog for protecting consumer rights but that seems to be it.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      July 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks. I will update the article to include your corrections.

  24. Patty Kearney said,

    August 5, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Want to talk about having had to close your teacher training program? Yoga Journal Online reporter Molly Maureen Ginty has this request:
    “If you could let people know that we’re hoping to talk to teacher trainers who’ve been forced to close their programs…and to talk to them by Tuesday, August 11…that would be a terrific help!

    Thanks!”

    Molly M. Ginty
    Reporter
    Yoga Journal
    http://www.yogajournal.com
    212-531-1679 phone
    mollymaureen@juno.com

  25. Patty Kearney said,

    August 11, 2009 at 11:51 pm

    I’ll update the chart once I get a few more updates on other states. New Hampshire and Alaska are the latest additions to the chart. I will try some of the states where I have had no successful contact a little later in the fall; perhaps the people I need to talk to have been on vacation.

  26. Patty Kearney said,

    December 1, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    A small group of yoga teachers (2 or 3) have filed suit in Alexandria, VA against the state of Virginia, claiming that the vocational school licensing law requirement applied to yoga teacher training programs is a violation of their free speech. Since the compliance date is coming due, and several schools have already completed the licensing process and others are well underway, it will be interesting to see how this turns out. Is taking money to train someone for an occupation at which they can also make money (even if it is not much money and a part time occupation for most) protected free speech in a sense that no certification or license of any kind should be required? My free speech in the college classroom is protected, but I still need to have a degree in my field and the college still needs to be accredited. There is no conflict. Accreditation of the school does not limit free speech. If it is found to be a conflict however for yoga, that would set a precedent for other schools and teachers in professional preparation programs to challenge school licensing. Some states, like Vermont and South Dakota–have made that decision– no license for anyone operating a private vocational school is required. An exemption for yoga in Virginia, with an established licensing requirement for occupational schools, strikes me as unlikely, but we’ll see what happens.

  27. Patty Kearney said,

    December 31, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Some of you may be reading this site because of my article in Yoga Therapy in Practice, Dec. 2009. I am here making a correction I can’t make in its print form. The editors at Yoga Therapy in Practice overall did an excellent job in bringing my article in its final form, and I am grateful for their help and suggestions,especially in developing the chart; but I am bothered by the final paragraph, now that I see it in print; the closing statement reflects neither my writing style nor my opinions.
    1. I would not say “negative benefits”. That’s an oxymoron. The word should be “outcome” or “impacts”, which could be either positive or negative. Picky, I know, but I am someone who grades papers.
    2. I do not assume that I can predict some sort of slippery slope into dissatisfaction for those who are currently happy with licensing. I have no reason, based on my research, to make such a prediction—especially based on “factors not yet known”! This is not logical—what has not been analyzed because it is not yet known can’t be used in an attempt to predict a turn of events. It also implies an anti-licensing viewpoint, which may be the editorial view at YTIP, but which is not mine. Here is the final statement as I would have written it: I am truly open-minded on this issue, seeing some strong favorable outcomes in terms of program quality and consumer protection in states where licensing has been handled well, as well as some distinctly difficult ones in states where it has been handled poorly or cost too much.

  28. Scott said,

    January 17, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Just a quick note. I have seen it written in several places that Texas allows exemptions for nonprofit organizations. This is only partially true. Only nonprofit organizations run by a genuine religious organization that is exempt from property taxes on that basis qualify for an exemption from the TEC law and rules.

  29. Kimberly said,

    April 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Lots of things have happened since your last post. Virginia and New York have had a victory and Texas has formed the Texas Yoga Association. I am currently on the board for International Wellness Professionals Association
    http://iwellpros.org/AbouttheAssociation.aspx, we are working on “The Call of the wellness Professional” and hope to offer you a choice above and beyond YA. The Texas Yoga Association is touring to help eduacate Yoga studios and teachers of the options available to them to fight regulation by the state. Ill keep you posted as things develop. Join my blog trueconfessionsofayogateacher.com or follow my fan page at yogamentals on facebook.

  30. Patty Kearney said,

    April 13, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I looked at the iWellPro site. I can see how this would be helpful for promoting a business and making professional contacts, but it was not clear to me how it might offer an alternative to Yoga Alliance in terms of a credentialing process—- certification, testing, training– since a professional member needs to already have these credentials to join. Is that a work in progress?


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