Yoga Trainers the Latest to Face Licensing Regulations

NEW YORK -- The movement to license personal trainers is expanding to yoga instructors, and it recently heated up in New York.

Last spring, many yoga teacher trainers in that state 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 state notice, yoga trainers organized into groups, including Yoga for New York, 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. This pending legislation noted that the existing law already exempts "schools which provide instruction in the following subjects only: religion, dancing, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, dramatic art, languages, reading comprehension, mathematics, recreation and athletics," according to Jo Brill, chair of the Yoga for New York legal committee.

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 Senate Bill 5701-A and Assembly Bill 8678A and keep yoga free from “unnecessary government regulations and licensing.”

After those bills were introduced, the Education Department announced it would suspend licensing requirements for yoga instructors, according to Schneiderman, who worked with Assembly member Linda Rosenthal on behalf of New York’s yoga community. S.5701 passed the Senate Higher Education Committee and is now awaiting a vote in the full Senate.

“The message from the community has been loud and clear: Get your government hands off my yoga mat. Next time, the state will think twice before threatening a practice that brings so much tranquility to New Yorkers,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The Education Department did the right thing by suspending these onerous, arbitrary regulations that threatened the livelihood of yoga studios throughout the state.”

On her Web site, Brill also notes that several other states are considering legislation to license yoga teachers, including Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia.

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