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.
Citing laws that govern vocational schools, like those for hairdressers 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.
That this is pretty much a naked money grab rather than needed to protect the public is pretty clear:
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....
Regulators said licensing the schools would allow states to enforce basic standards and protect customers who usually spend $2,000 to $5,000 on training courses, not to mention provide revenue for cash-starved governments. “If you’re going to start a school and take people’s money, you should play by a set of rules,” said Patrick Sweeney, a Wisconsin licensing official, who believes that in 2004 he was the first to discover the online registry and use it to begin regulating yoga teaching.
Many smaller studios are being shut down by the licensing fees, but in some states Yoga masters are fighting back:
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.
Let's go back for a moment to that idiotic comment by Patrick Sweeney of Wisconsin: “If you’re going to start a school and take people’s money, you should play by a set of rules."
First off, moron: they did set up rules. That's how you found them in the first place, because they set up industry standards.
Second, pea-brain: there hasn't been the slightest piece of evidence put forth that unlicensed Yoga schools do any harm to anybody.
So forget the idea that you're somehow acting in the public interest. The truth is that Yoga has become a $6 Billion business over the past few years, and cash-strapped State governments are trying to cash in.
This is immoral, opportunistic tax harvesting at its worst.
But they'll get away with it.