Hit & Run > Yogis Against the State - Reason Magazine:
"The New York Times reports on an unlikely new front in the war on meddlesome and unnecessary occupational licensing laws:More from here:It seemed like a good idea at the time. Ten years ago, with yoga transforming itself into a ubiquitous pop culture phenomenon from a niche pursuit, yoga teachers banded together to create a voluntary online registry of schools meeting new minimum standards for training instructors in the discipline.
But that list-which now includes nearly 1,000 yoga schools nationwide, many of them tiny-is being put to a use for which it was never intended. It is the key document in a nationwide crackdown on yoga schools that pits free-spirited yogis against lumbering state governments, which, unlike those they are trying to regulate, are not always known for their flexibility.Citing laws that govern vocational schools, like those for hairdressers, chiropractors and truck drivers, regulators have begun to require licenses for yoga schools that train instructors, with all the fees, inspections and paperwork that entails. While confrontations have played out differently in different states, threats of shutdowns and fines have, in some cases, been met with accusations of power grabs and religious infringement-disputes that seem far removed from the meditative world yoga calls to mind."
"...In April, New York State sent letters to about 80 schools warning them to suspend teacher training programs immediately or risk fines of up to $50,000. But yogis around the state joined in opposition, and the state has, for now, backed down.No. Shit. Genius.
In other states, regulators were not moved. In March, Michigan gave schools a week to be certified by the state or cease operations. Virginia’s cumbersome licensing rules include a $2,500 fee — a big hit for modest studios that are often little more than one-room storefronts.
Lisa Rapp, who owns My Yoga Spirit in Norfolk, Va., said she was closing her seven-year-old business this summer. “This caused us to shut down the studio altogether,” Ms. Rapp said. “It’s too bad, because this community really needs yoga.”
The conflict started in January when a Virginia official directed regulators from more than a dozen states to an online national registry of schools that teach yoga and, in the words of a Kansas official, earn a “handsome income.” Until then, only a few states had been aware of the registry and had acted to regulate yoga instruction, though courses in other disciplines like massage therapy have long been subject to oversight.
The registry was created by the Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit group started in 1999 to establish teaching standards in an effort to have the industry regulate itself. In a recent newsletter, the alliance warned its members that nationwide licensing might be inevitable, “forcing this ancient tradition to conform to Western business practices.”
...Brette Popper, a co-founder of Yoga City NYC, a Web site that has chronicled licensing developments, said the yoga community — described on the site as “a group that doesn’t even always agree about how to pronounce ‘Om’ ” — was uniting around a common enemy.
The teachers formed a coalition and enlisted a state senator, Eric T. Schneiderman of Manhattan, to take up their cause, hoping that New York would buck the national trend. “It’s really kind of historic in the yoga community,” Ms. Popper said.
That unity was on display last month in a small studio in Midtown Manhattan, where nearly 100 devotees from around the state sat barefoot and cross-legged on the wood floor. The group, whose members ranged from lithe young teachers in spandex to older ones in religious garb, opened with a traditional chant and ended two hours later struggling with parliamentary procedure as it established a formal organization. One attendee cast the conflict as “bureaucracy versus freedom.”
Alison West, who was selected to lead the new coalition, the Yoga Association of New York State, prayed for “some joyful conclusion we’ve never conceived.”
Within days, Joseph P. Frey, an associate commissioner with the State Education Department, said in an interview that the department would suspend the licensing effort, allow the classes to continue and instead lobby for legislation adding yoga to a list of activities that are exempt from regulation.
“I understand how folks could get upset,” he said."