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?