Friday, July 10, 2009 - Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Pushes Back

Published: July 10, 2009

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Ten years ago, with yoga transforming into a ubiquitous pop culture phenomenon from a niche pursuit, yoga teachers banded together to create a voluntary online registry of schools meeting new standards for training instructors.

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 crackdown that pits free-spirited yogis against lumbering state governments, which, unlike those they are trying to regulate, are not always known for their flexibility....

Well, it didn't seem like a good idea to everyone at the time. I informed the reporter of this when I was interviewed for the article, and gave him extensive background on the issues. I ended up being quoted as follows:

“We made it very, very easy for them to do what they’re doing right now,” said Leslie Kaminoff, founder of the Breathing Project, a nonprofit yoga center in New York City, who had opposed the formation of the Yoga Alliance. “The industry of yoga is a big, juicy target.”

Reading through the 130 comments is very interesting (mine is comment #100). The most pervasive stupidity that's in evidence is the absolutely false association of regulation with quality and safety. The government has done a very good job of selling its brand because it is clear that to the general populace, "unregulated" equals "unsafe." Also, it's clear most people have no idea of the distinction between certification and licensing - the terms are used interchangeably in many of comments.

The inevitable stories about being hurt by stupid teachers also get aired out, and are used to justify whatever the state wants to do to "protect the public." Thankfully, a few commenters show the absurdity of that notion by pointing out how in the HIGHLY regulated financial industry, government controls did nothing to stop the widespread abuses and scams that have devastated entire sectors of the economy.

It was, in fact, those controls that made the abuses possible in the first place (they could never have happened in a truly free economy), and have only led to an outright government takeover of our banking, insurance and real estate markets. Typical regulatory logic: "a lot of controls didn't work, so now total control is called for. After all, you can count on us to keep corruption out of anything we choose to oversee..right?"

What comments do you have? Let's hear them.


  1. Hi Leslie,

    I commented on another post you had up. I read this article and was directed to your website. I had heard of you as a "Yoga Teacher Training" I took used your book.

    I don't totally agree with your line of thinking. The reason why is I just finished said "Yoga Teacher Training" and in a word, I thought it was a terrible training. And, this training was being done by a famous "Yoga Star" teacher who has plenty of ego to spare. The kind of teacher who people want to quote on their resume since this teacher has worked hard to get his name out there in what you called the "Yoga Industry". I had taken this teachers classes before and based on what I experienced in his classes I decided to take his training. His classes are very spiritual in nature. His training and his classes could not be more different. I found the training scattered and unfocused. Basic Yoga I thought would be taught in training was not. And, when I tried to talk to him about it he became defensive and labeled me a "difficult" student. This training was put on at a "Corporate" Yoga studio where you would expect to have someone to go to if you were having challenges. But, in this situation that was not the case as the "Yoga Star" was dating the studio manager! And, this was a Yoga Alliance approved coarse! I paid over $2000. for this training and I am considering small claims court because the "Yoga Star" may withhold the final credential because I spoke out. How ridiculous and how NOT YOGA that all was. Talk about not walking your talk. I do believe people who set themselves up as Teachers who Train New Teachers should have a guideline to follow. I am a Licensed Massage Therapist and I have always had to go to State approved schools for education. Places like Esalen here in California adhere to all the State Licensing standards and it takes nothing away from the ambiance and spirituality of what they are presenting there. Like you yourself said, Yoga has become and industry-a big one at that. We do not live in India, we live in the USA. I have been in many Yoga classes here in Los Angeles and seen the widespread depth and breath of the types of teachers out there. Some are ghastly. The stand there leading something that looks like "Simon Sez" Yoga. And, they also tell people things like "If you don't know how to do the pose look around at your classmates". These are big classes in well known studios. People are now paying on average $20. a session.

    This seems like a very political fight for you and I want to remind you that what you push against only gets stronger. I think maybe a compromise could be arrived at. I think great, legitimate Yoga Teacher Trainings would not be concerned about having the state come in and maybe make a certain amount of anatomy a requirement et. But if this is a partisan, political issue with the attitude of all Government is bad-well that seems very Republican or Libertarian to me. It seems like Yoga has taken on this "Holier then thou" attitude. That could not be less "holy or wholly". I think a lot of people who are making a nice living at Yoga are afraid the life for which they have become accustomed will be affected. So, I imagine a lot of the "Yoga Stars" will be out there on the front lines screaming foul. These are the ones who will charge and individual $400. for a private Meditation coarse. Isn't it the way in India that no on should be charging for meditation instruction? I think lines are getting crossed. I think people should really look inside and see if they are really worried about the "Me or the "We".

  2. It has been great to see the spread of good information about practicing yoga over the last several years, but it has become hard to weed through it all and to focus on the best sites.I look forward to updates as new blogs come out.

    Yoga Online