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Licensing Battle for Yoga Schools Not Over in New York

NEW YORK — Although a move in New York to license vocational schools, which include yoga teacher training schools, is being met with new legislative bills that would prevent the law from applying to yoga schools, groups such as Yoga for New York are still conducting grassroots fundraising efforts to lobby against licensing requirements.

“We will not be fully protected until the bills in the Assembly and the Senate have been brought to the floor for a vote and are signed into law by Gov. Paterson,” says Alison West, chair of Yoga For New York.

Last spring, many yoga teacher training schools received a letter from the New York State Education Department that said they must suspend their training programs or be subject to fines of up to $50,000 if they did not submit to state regulations that oversee vocational training.

In response to the notice, yoga trainers organized into groups to meet and lobby against the requirements. Yoga for New York voiced concerns that yoga teacher trainers and aspiring yoga teachers would be unable to survive an elaborate, costly and time-consuming licensing process.

In early June, Sen. Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan introduced a bill (S.5701) to exempt yoga teacher training programs from licensing requirements.

In late August, Yoga for New York issued an action alert for their members to lobby state legislators and circulate petitions in their studios to encourage the New York State Legislature to pass that bill and Assembly Bill 8678A, which the group says would keep yoga free from “unnecessary government regulations and licensing.”

After those bills were introduced, the Education Department suspended licensing requirements for yoga instructors, according to Schneiderman. Bill S.5701 passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.

“The Education Department did the right thing by suspending these onerous, arbitrary regulations that threatened the livelihood of yoga studios throughout the state,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Several states already require licensing of yoga training schools. Other states, including Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, are considering legislation to license yoga schools.

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