Why You Should Care about The Regulation of Yoga.
In reference to Shaminder Dulai's article about the attempts by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) to regulate yoga and yoga teacher training programs, we would like to address and clarify a few issues and explain why Texas residents and taxpayers should care about this issue on a fundamental level, regardless whether or not they care about yoga specifically. Ultimately, this is an issue about the government's role in our daily lives. It is about the size of government and the balancing of the public safety and the public good against the rights of the individual and freedom of speech and expression. These are fundamental issues that speak to the very underpinnings of our democracy. This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about efficient government and the power of the State versus individual rights and free enterprise.
We would like to start by clarifying that there is no law that requires the regulation of yoga teacher trainings or yoga instruction. Rather, the TWC is interpreting Chapter 132 of the Texas Education Code, which applies to postsecondary courses of instruction, to apply to yoga teacher trainings. It is important to note that postsecondary is not defined in this specific chapter of the Texas Education Code, but elsewhere in the Texas Education Code it is defined uniformly as "requiring a high school diploma or equivalent." Yoga teacher trainings do not require a high school degree. It has no barrier to entry other than an open heart and a commitment to the art. They usually charge a fee, but these are often waived or scaled down for a student with limited means.
However, since "postsecondary" is not defined in the Chapter 132, the TWC has stated to our representatives that this means they are free to interpret postsecondary however they see fit. This is dangerous territory. Quite incongruently, the TWC has decided that the following activities among others are exempt from regulation due to their avocational (i.e., not career-oriented) nature: dance, physical fitness and martial arts. Those are huge categories that one could easily argue yoga is similar to or the same as (but most teachers would argue that it is something more). I believe that yoga is an art form that does not lend itself to regulation by the State.
Most importantly though, the public good is not served by this attempt at regulation. There are consumer protection laws already in place in the form of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices act if one does not receive the training promised. There are liability laws in place if one is injured during a class. The TWC regulation would not guarantee anyone a safer, better yoga, but it would guarantee less yoga. This financial and administrative burden acts has a chilling effect on small businesses at a time when we are in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Small entrepreneurs are the foundations of our service-based economy. Why would the State of Texas be imposing additional barriers to free enterprise at a time like this?
Finally, the State of Texas is completely and utterly inequipped to regulate yoga. Yoga is over 8,000 years old and has many, many varieties and has survived being passed down teacher to student through the centuries without government oversight. Texas does not have the resources or time to commit to understanding yoga in order to regulate it. In order to have the resources to regulate yoga, they would have to expand the TWC or hire outside experts to supervise the review of their criteria. Those funds would come from you, as taxpayers. For that reason, yoga is self-regulating through student choice and through such entities as the Yoga Alliance (www.yogaalliance.org) which provides registration for registered yoga schools and teachers and has its own yoga teacher-created criteria for registration. We are working with the Yoga Alliance to make sure those criteria reflect the needs of the yoga community and the general public.
We have heard the phrase "that government is best which governs least." This quote from Henry David Thoreau's essay Civil Disobedience makes the point succinctly. Of course, we must always balance the greater good and weigh any regulation against the limits it places on individual freedoms found in the Constitution. Citizens have the right to expect their freedom to be unfettered by government interference where there is no public benefit derived by the regulation. This is not about yoga, this is about stopping the creeping expansion of government like so much kudzu into every aspect of our daily lives and keeping government small, efficient and service-oriented. Yoga is just the currently in the cross-hairs. Unfortunately, Government has become a career and once an agency has found a target, it clings on for dear life.
I urge you to support pushing back against the TWC and providing specific legislation that exempts yoga (and other avocational activities) from regulation by the State of Texas. You can help by asking your state representative to support the initiative to de-regulate yoga and by signing our electronic petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/texas-yoga/. It takes less than five minutes.
Jenny Buergermeister, Roger Rippy and Kristin Scheel
Board of Directors, Texas Yoga Association