Saturday, July 4, 2009

"A Declaration of Independence for Yoga Educators"

© July 4, 2009 Leslie Kaminoff and IYEA

Until a month ago, I was prepared to write a perspective piece for the International Journal of Yoga Therapy centering on the IAYT-sponsored Council of Schools that I attended this March in Los Angeles. Those well-organized and productive meetings produced a richly textured dialogue surrounding issues such as certification standards, accreditation and definitions of yoga therapy. Unfortunately, I can no longer write about those issues because it has become clear that dialogue can no longer exist for us as a community - it has been obliterated by the regulatory agencies of several states' departments of education...

Read the entire article on the IYEA website


  1. Dear Leslie,

    Happy Independence Day to you too! Our Independence is VERY important and should be protected!
    Congratulations on such a wonderful, well written article and a fantastic site!
    I feel what you wrote is on the mark, true and hope that someone pays attention. What a fight we have when trying to deal with people who are ONLY concerned with the bottom line.. $$$$$ and control...

    With great respect for what you have decided to do...Lisa

  2. Hi Leslie,

    Great Idea and Excellent commentary on the whole licensing and regulation issue. It is fitting that you launched on July 4th, of course.

    You might remember a small but very popular book called *Focusing* by Gene Gendlin many years ago. We sat in his living room once discussing licensing issues. He told me that, having grown up in Nazi Germany, he knew all about *lists.* He strongly advised against anyone creating lists of people that might have to be handed over to The State for ANY reason. Those lists have a habit of eventually getting into the hands of the wrong people.

    Now-a-days, we put those lists on websites for anyone to see.

    Gene said no nation can risk that their leaders will always remain benevolent. Centralization of power and money always, eventually, attract the more corrupt elements of society.

    Of course, there are those who might believe they are doing a service to humanity by making yoga more *legitimate* via state regulation. Talking to such individuals always reveals that they focus on the idealized hope, and since there ARE no answers to keeping an over-sized state under control, they just avoid that whole side of the issue. (The only answer is to never let it get big in the first place. In the long run, DE-centralization is always the best choice. That's why our government is working so hard to limit the internet somehow. It provides too much power into the hands of The People.)

    Then, when you start to list all the areas of life in which state regulations and standards have totally REDUCED or destroyed quality and safety, the subject gets changed quickly. Or you get labeled a radical or something.

    Good Luck and I will keep connected here.

    David Scott Lynn

  3. To licence is to conform and to conform is to marginalize and to marginalize is to prevent growth...

  4. I am simply a yoga practitioner who loves to share various yoga practices that I have uncovered and discovered along my path. I am appreciative and supportive of what you state. As I aspire to experience freedom, I will not sit on the fence but rather will join with concerted right effort... Perhaps there are no students or teachers but rather yogi's and yogini's.

  5. My daughter refered me here to get my opinion. My opinion: "right on!" What the state can grant, the state can refuse also. The same fascist strategy is currently at work to control what herbs you can use without an AMA approved prescription ( it's not just maryjane any longer!), how much of any vitmain you can purchase without the same prescription and the proposed "food safety" bill would regulate any food that is sold, shared or distributed. That means if you have friends over to share the organic bounty from God , Nature and the back yard garden, you better have all your papers in order, you uniform commercial code (UCC) documentation, inspectors reports, licenses.........etcetcetc and so on and so forth. Can taxation creep be far behind this immodest jackfooted foot in the door?

    We Libertarians have long suspected that fascism would come to America disguised as "for your own good." We saw the start with "for the good of the children..."

    Thanks for your stand.

  6. OK, I am going to present the other side of the coin to you. I just finished a "Yoga Teacher Training" with a very well known in the industry teacher. I had taken his classes before-they are very spiritually based and I thought I would take the training. I thought at the very least I could benefit my own practice. The training was not what I expected at all. There was no guideline, no real format, no boundaries and when I asked for information on the direction the class was going in the "Yoga Star" took it very personally. He told me he had never had a student like me, I guess that meant someone who actually questioned him?? This training was put on at a "corporate" yoga studio but was registered under his particular school. I really had no recourse to get my questions answered. I paid over $2000. for this training and in the process go a lot of grief-as opposed to enlightenment! This was in fact a "Yoga Alliance" teacher as well. I may now have to go to the Yoga Alliance for help as the Yoga Star may now withhold any credentials I am entitled to because I honestly answered a question on what my experience of the training was. This is so far from "Yoga" and what it stands for. This was all EGO! I am a state licensed Massage Therapist in California. I have never had trouble with state licensed schools. Yes, some are better then others but at least you have a channel to work thru when you are going to someone to educate you. If anything, it will make these "Teacher Teachers" not be so hippy dippy and let people know what to expect. There are plenty of Yoga Teachers who do not do Teacher Trainings. I think someone who wants to take that on should have to abide by a different set of rules then a Yoga Teacher. Hopefully then the quality of Yoga Teachers will rise then too. I myself would never even think to attempt to teach a class after the training I received. It is all good tho, live and learn.

    Peace and Blessings.

  7. Leslie, you know I love and respect you and your work, but you couldn't be more mistaken here. Yoga injuries happen with startling frequency (for a while, I made my living fixing them), never mind the psychological immaturity yoga teachers and practitioners sometimes (too often) eveince such as that indicated above. These bad classes and experiences tarnish all yoga. While your libertarian (really! I had no idea you were so right wing) ideas are superficially appealing, they lead directly to yoga's progressive marginalization. While you would put off temporarily the hassle of having to differentiate between fitness and spiritual yoga, between yoga therapy and okey-dokey Tibetan ear lobe yoga doing whatever strange thing it does in the name of yoga, you also put off research, bringing yoga into hospitals and schools, and allowing good yoga to take its rightful place.

    Temprary gain, long-term loss - IMHO, don't go there. Your flag of freedom waving on the ramparts is mistaken: The public consumer DOES have an interest in this - they need safe, not dodgy, yoga teachers and therapists, and have a right to require a certain training level as they do doctors, teachers, physios, massage therapists, nurses, etc.

    Regulation is undoubtedly a hassle. All the worst people are attracted to such boards, and the rules start out convoluted and frustrating. But over time, it becomes what is it meant to be: public competency assurance. I know you are competent; I also know not all of your compadres are. I want to know, when I refer my clients to yoga (as I often do) that I can refer them to licensed, competent, reliable, responsible and accountable teachers. At the moment, all I can say is, "Well, you can try a yoga class when you get back to Ohio, but look out, I have no idea what they are teaching, so it's all caveat emptor."

    IOW, step outside of yoga and look in - the perspective is different. I have no doubt that regulation is a fraught trip - been there with both massage and structural integration. I am telling you true: not regulating is longer-term disease.

  8. Leslie,
    Thank you for your time and effort to protect the freedom of those of us who would like to remain out of the reach a beaurocracy that could never understand, let alone properly regulate the aspects of true yoga. I can see the point of view that some dissenting commenters have put forth and they cite examples they feel prove the point that regulation would have protected them. Not only do they fail to make their case, their comments show they lack an understanding of what real yoga is.

    The word yoga has been bastardized in the West and as such, most of the discussion is about a watered down sub-set of what is involved in a real yoga training. Real yoga has always been a spiritual practice. It goes back thousands of years and has been preserved in many authentic lineages. What arrogance could possibly allow a government agency to think it has the ability to tell me anything about my Holy Teachers.

    In reply to Preraph who states he did not get enlightened by his teacher training: You may indeed not have had a great training, I have no way to know since I was not there and don't have any details about the events. The Yoga Alliance does not certify spiritual teachers and so the fact the teacher had a Yoga Alliance certification is irrelevant. Either you didn't take a training in real yoga, you need to have more respect for your teachers, or both. If you indeed took a real yoga training then how can you as the student know more than the teacher about what should be taught? Are you really suggesting that the students and not the teachers should be the ones to decide if they receive "any credentials I am entitled to"? You state regulation by a government agency, "If anything, it will make these "Teacher Teachers" not be so hippy dippy..." Last I checked, ad-hominem arguments were not valid. Who do you suggest should set the standard for "too hippy dippy"? Based on your posting I would guess that you are not qualified to state: "This is so far from "Yoga" and what it stands for". I suggest you be careful, that kind of attitude will make it very hard for you to find a teacher again in the future and may be what led you to the experience you described. No government regulation will protect you from your karma. And if you think these comments are out of place then you really don't understand what yoga is.

  9. In reply to Tom Myers: Leslie isn't wrong, you are. Lets be clear, you are not talking about real yoga. Have you really treated people for injuries caused by leading an ethical life? Injuries from meditating? Read the Yoga Sutra if you want to know what real yoga is. You are talking about only one of eight components of real yoga. In the entire Yoga Sutra the physical postures are only mentioned once. Just because they call it yoga doesn't mean that it is. You are suggesting the government has a right to regulate my spiritual teachers. My teachers are in the lineage of the Dalai Lama. Hands off! If you think that doing an asana practice, what you call yoga, is the cause of injury then you probably believe the universe and everything in it just happened by accident. If it is all random, (and you are welcome to believe whatever you want, this is the United States,) then lets stay with that logic for a bit longer. In your random world why do we need regulation. It would not have any effect. I can hear your rebuttal now, people are getting injured because of bad teachers and bad teachers exist because there is no regulation. It is not random, it is logical and scientific. That would mean that regulation would prevent every injury because good yoga teachers don't have injured students. If regulation is the cause for good teachers then there can be no unregulated good teachers and every regulated teacher would be a good teacher. And every good teacher would never have an injured student. Otherwise it is not the cause. That is the definition of causality. I shouldn't have to explain why that is an invalid argument. Your next question might be "What is the cause of the injuries then?" Take a real yoga class and find out, Read the book "How Yoga Works," or Ask the Dalai Lama, or is that too much like what you call, "okey-dokey Tibetan ear lobe yoga"? Again, ad-hominem hasn't been added to the list of valid arguments. And by the way, your comment "whatever strange thing it does in the name of yoga" seems to imply that the Tibetans don't know as much about yoga as you do. You might want to rethink the karma of trash talking the Dalai Lama. That is a lineage that goes back a lot longer than you have been around. And yes, it is real yoga. Not the watered down, gentrified, one eighth version that you think you know all about.

    You also claimed that: "Regulation... over time, it becomes what is it meant to be: public competency assurance." Are you serious? I have been in the medical field for over 25 years and have seen plenty of incompetent nurses and doctors with all the necessary regulatory papers. Regulations don't serve to make everyone meet a standard, they force people to learn to find creative ways to fill out the paperwork. It's uninformed and uneducated opinions like yours that I want protection from.
    Somehow I doubt that waving a flag of personal freedom leads directly to the marginalization of yoga. It's comments like yours that serve that function. I also don't see how a lack of regulation prevents research. By the way, the yogis did all the research centuries ago. That's why they have a practice that is still around - it works. Although you probably need to have Pointdexter tell you what works. By the way, science has been constantly changing it's opinion (stated as fact) and the real yoga has remained the same all these years because it works.

  10. Dear Leslie,
    I agree with you 100%! Not only about the situation with yoga specifically, but also, with regard to licensing in general. I began doing yoga when I was 13 years old and now, 33 years later, have recently opened my own yoga studio. Part of my reason for doing so was that I needed a second job and licensing laws in my state (Florida) prevent me from being able to really do anything else! E.g., I can't use my Psychology M.A. and Ministerial Counseling license from California because FL does not recognize CA licenses and in fact, it is illegal for ministers to be counselors in FL. I also cannot practice Interior Design because this requires licensing by the FL Board of Architecture, a process which takes 8 years! I am a medical transcriptionist and wanted to branch out into Records Review, but learned that this requires you to be a nurse (which makes no sense), meanwhile our transcription jobs are going overseas, mainly to India. Then I recently learned about people with little or no prior experience in yoga becoming Certified teachers after taking 10 weekend classes (200 hours) and it suddenly dawned on me, "Hey, I should be teaching yoga; after all, I've been doing it my whole life!" and I have taught before, off and on. I could not afford the 200-hour program so I got certified online from a place in India just to have something on paper. But should we even be "certifying" a spiritual practice?? anyway, keep up the good work.

  11. Hello Leslie;

    As a long term teacher of yoga who has been examining this issue for years, I believe that if there are no guidelines as to what makes a yoga teacher credible, that does not do honor to the profession of Yoga Teacher nor does it honor students. Today an aerobics teacher at a gym can take that gym's 3 hour course on teaching yoga and hang out their shingle as "Yoga Teacher." There is an increasing subsuming of yoga into the fitness industry which again does our profession a disservice and frighteningly minimizes the depth of yoga.

    Wouldn't yoga students be better served if they could be assured that their Yoga Teacher had some profiency and knowledge of what they are claiming to teach?

    I notice that you teach at Loyola Marymount University in their yoga therapy certificate program. This University is regulated by the state of California, as are all higher educational and vocational institutions. This program presumably has admission requirements, course work requirements, and I imagine, students receive grades. Is this not some sort of credentialing...some sort of comment on their ability as teachers? If we could increasingly move the study of yoga to vocational schools and universities, is not yoga worthy of such academic and pracitcal pursuits and would that not ensure a more deeply educated yoga teacher? And in participating as an instructor in the program are you not, even in the slightest bit, acknowledging the importance of standards and even regulation in education?

    State regulation as is currently being discussed may not be the answer, but neither is a refusal to see that some sort of monitoring of the skill and knowledge claimed by a person in a profession is important and indeed necessary.


  12. namaste

    If you want to know what regulation brings, you only need to look at the state of Ayurvedic education and practice in India. It is dismal.

    I have personally met hundreds of government- trained and licensed "Ayurvedic Physicians" who are unfamiliar with the most basic concepts of Ayurveda.

    Ayurveda has been reduced to a pitiable collection of quaint home remedies for minor complaints, when it is truly the Wisdom of Life.

    The same fate awaits Yoga if we allow it to be regulated by the state. Regulation, by definition, can only promote the 'minimum common denominator' --and will sooner rather than later actively oppose excellence.

    Regulation and excellence cannot co-exist, and those who pretend to only desire to protect the public uually have a more personal agenda.

    Leslie is no more of a 'right wing libertarian' than this dharmocratic monarchist. He is just right!

    Tashi Nyima

  13. Hello everyone - Does anybody know if IYEA is still active/ accepting members? I donated and tried to join the Discussion board, but every time I try to sign in I get a message that says, "Your membership is still pending" and it's been months. Please advise. Thanks!

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