Monday, September 14, 2009

My Two Cent's Worth

First, Read, then Discuss: Yoga Journal's article, and then Dawg's link.

The topic of teacher training licensing caught my eye in last week's My Yoga Mentor, and now Yoga Dawg linked a quick (rather annoying) bit from Katie Couric, so I thought I'd weigh in. Apparently, there is some talk of requiring NY yoga studios to be licensed by the state to run teacher training programs (14 other states already include such a requirement). Some see this as unnecessary government interference--a way to make a bit of money off of popular programs. Others think this will dilute trainings to some generic set of information far removed from yoga's original message. Will it guarantee quality, or just cookie-cutter-ness? Will it squeeze little studios out of existence and benefit big corporate entities? Will it force studios to take their programs seriously and not treat trainings as just a lucrative revenue stream?

I don't mind the idea of regulation. I think all the above situations are possible, positive and negative, but I think regulation by a neutral third party is not a bad idea, especially if it will help "legitimize" yoga--in the same way that licensing of massage therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors helped bring the benefits of such healing practices to a broader audience. Perhaps it will let new students use their medical insurance to pay for their classes, as some companies pay gym fees and the cost of other alternative therapies. It seems to me that this sort of standardization will give yoga a new audience and help bring students to the practice that would otherwise have been scared off by images of turbans and chanting and spiritual peer pressure (undeserved or no).

The YJ article says that most states base their assessment on Yoga Alliance's standards, which are by no means wishy-washy or reduce the tradition to a series of exercises. Perhaps teachers can use this type of training as a starting point and would use later workshops and retreats as a way to augment their basic knowledge...and could market themselves and licensed, trained, and specializing in whatever.

I've been researching teacher training programs
myself and wondering if they were really worth the $2500 (perhaps students would be able to apply for gov't aid, if schools were licensed). My training was more of an apprenticeship and, while I know it was thorough and effective, a future employer would have no way to evaluate my background. I would like to have some sort of certification and I would rather have a designation that was meaningful to people outside the yoga world, rather than just a piece of paper with a cute seal.

A university Master's Degree confers a certain amount of authority because it is awarded by an institution that is accredited and recognized by a legislating body as insuring a level of expertise. Don't we want the same level of respect for our trainings from everyone, not just the yoga in-crowd?


Kitty said...

As a certified and registered yoga instructor, I am in favor of regulation. If we are going to tout the healing power of yoga, we should be sure yoga teachers have proper training to work with the many physiological and psychological conditions of students who show up in our classes. Some postures are seriously contraindicated in certain situations. Despite my 20 years of practice prior to my certification, there were many, many things I needed to learn about the human body before I could actually teach other people. I have a 200 hour certification and over 300 hours of teaching experience, and I still have a lot to learn. I don't know that I would want someone who merely took a weekend course in yoga guiding my elderly grandmother or my child through a class. Thanks for bringing this up!

Jen said...

I don't have a problem with regulation. I'm happy I enrolled in a certification program and don't have any qualms with the YA continuing education requirements. In my opinion, more learning is a good thing. Since I don't run a studio or teacher training program, I can't speak to the economic impact of this possibility.

Jen said...

So this is off topic, but I wonder if your readers have any thoughts on adjustments given that flu & cold season is approaching. One of the universities I teach at has documented cases of H1N1 flu and it makes me wonder if I should be "hands off" for the season, or longer.

Brenda Bryan, MA, RYT said...

Great post. I actually wrote my master's degree thesis on integrating yoga therapy into healthcare, which included a large section on credentialing. I did several key informanant interviews with leaders in yoga therapy as part of my qualitative research. One of the many issues with yoga credentialing (for yoga therapy, which is somewhat different than general yoga teaching) that came up was that we would be trying to apply the model of western credentialing to a system that is not of that orientation. So, how do we honor what yoga is - a diverse mind-body practice - within a western credentialing model that would likely increase legitimacy for the field?

Kitty said...

I think it's really important to distinguish between yoga instruction and "yoga therapy." All yoga teachers are not yoga "therapists," nor should they advertise as such unless they are properly credentialed with counseling or therapeutic degrees (physical therapists, doctors, etc.). it's really not the same thing.

Robyn said...

Great point about legitimizing yoga and opening it up to a wider audience. But I'm not sure that the quality of the teachers would even change all that much. The yoga alliance certification already allows for so much variation in teacher training programs. Though regulation should ensure that teachers have at least been introduced to safety issues in adjustments, and modifications for injuries. Perhaps it would also require further precautions such as CPR and first aid, which couldn't hurt either.

Brenda P. said...

I am a big fan of how Yoga Therapists are dealing with their profession. Their site ( and journals seem to rise about the fray of whose yoga is more authentic, sexy yoga pants and the like. I suspect this is the way to go if a teacher wants to be taken seriously and really work towards making yoga a part of the healing professions. Brenda, your research sounds fascinating!

Thanks all for weighing in...I see there is a panel on yoga standards at the YJ conference in Estes Park, next week. I bet it will be interesting!