Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Editorial

The Size of Government and the Rights of the Individual

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.

Namaste,
Jenny Buergermeister, Roger Rippy and Kristin Scheel
Board of Directors, Texas Yoga Association

It's Time to Unite!

One Yogini's thoughts about the regulation of yoga teacher training programs in the state of Texas

by Nydia Tijerina Darby, MS, PT

I remember the first time that I became aware of the proposed regulation of yoga teacher training programs in the state of New York. It was early in 2008 and I was having a conversation with friends and my yoga teacher at weeklong yoga training in Puerto Rico. I had just opened a yoga studio in San Antonio and was in the process of trying to survive the first year working hard just to keep the studio doors open. All of my energies were wrapped up in promoting the studio and building a solid yoga class schedule to offer our students. At that time, I didn’t have the energy or the ability to even consider training teachers, but I was concerned. A variety of questions came to my mind. “What if I do want to offer teacher training at my studio sometime in the future?” I also wondered how this proposed legislation would impact the ability of my studio to continue to provide quality yoga instruction in the long term. The initial conversation with friends made me aware that it was just a matter of time before the same thing happened in Texas.

In the last two years since that conversation, I had been monitoring the situation in conversations with my peers in the yoga business about the possibility of pending regulation. No one knew a thing about proposed regulation of yoga teacher training programs in Texas. It was not until I received an email from Jennifer Buergermeister, regarding the formation of the Texas Yoga Association that I learned that Texas yoga was now under scrutiny. The initial contact grabbed my attention and I began to consider whether this was something that I needed to stand firm against, or allow to just happen. I decided that I would do what was in my power to support and assist a firm and respectful opposition to state regulation of yoga teacher training programs. The first thing that I did was join the Texas Yoga Association. I read with great interest the Texas Yoga Association mission statement and knew very quickly that this organization held the same goals that I did for the growing yoga community in San Antonio….they were just looking more broadly at unifying yoga within the state of Texas. I feel that this is a very good idea. As I understand it, a broad definition of the term yoga is to yoke or unite. It makes sense to me that yoga studios, practitioners and students should stand united especially when it comes to supporting a cause that has the potential to change our ability to have access to yoga. I feel strongly that we should unite to protect the practice that we love.

I feel especially sensitive to this proposed regulation because there seems to be a special focus on the regulation of yoga teacher training programs while there is no such focus on programs that certify any other type of fitness instructor. In the past 25 years, I have held a number of fitness certifications. As I have experienced it, I find that the process of obtaining a fitness certification has many similarities with the trainings that occur for yoga teachers. Maybe it is just a matter of time before the state begins to scrutinize fitness instruction. It is hard to say. I will say that I find it interesting that physical fitness and Karate are exempt from regulation but yoga is not. The exemption is listed in section 132.002 (a) (3) of Chapter 132 of the Texas Education Code that lists Dance, Rifle Ranges, Music, Sewing, Judo and Karate, Knitting, Physical Fitness, Sports or Athletics, Riding Academies and Swimming as courses have been determined by the Administrator of the Texas Workforce Commission to be purely avocational or recreational and are exempt from regulation.* Is it possible that semantics are the biggest part of the problem? Yoga schools seem to be the only programs that use the term “teacher” in the language related to their trainings. The term “instructor or trainer” is used in the fitness industry. It is my understanding that Martial Arts programs use a system of belts to determine proficiency in their skill. Can it be that simple? Should we change our current system? I know that we need to do something.

To play devil’s advocate, I will say that state regulation is not always a negative thing. As a licensed physical therapist, I have experienced the importance of working under the regulation of the Texas State Board of Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Examiners which functions to maintain standards for all practicing physical therapists in the state. This board oversees and supports the safe, ethical and effective practice of its licensees. I understand and comply with the many requirements of maintaining my state licensure and the fees involved as, ultimately the consumer is protected and the practice of physical therapy is also protected from individuals who might want to proclaim that they are offering physical therapy without the proper training or graduation from accredited physical therapy programs.

So where does that leave us? I believe that we have to unite together to determine the future of yoga in this state, nation and abroad. We need to form a collective consciousness and respectfully work towards the goal of eliminating regulation of yoga schools by the state of Texas. While it can be a very positive thing to have regulation of the standards that exist in yoga training programs, we don’t need the state to do this. As it exists at this time, it seems that yoga instruction is more similar to fitness instruction than it is to the medical system that delivers physical therapy from licensed individuals. I understand that this subject is controversial and there are yoga programs in our state that have already registered to be in compliance with the Texas Workforce Commission. This occurrence has the potential to make the process of eliminating regulation more difficult. We need to stand united, and if we decide that regulation is necessary, we should do so in the form of collective boards which are made up of yogis and yoginis with mission statements that reflect the sanctity of the ancient system of training that has occurred over the last 6,000 years. I believe that the Texas Yoga Association has begun this process. Consider joining by going online to texyoga.org. Join us in this yogic journey. I think that you will find that it is definitely worth the effort.

Blessings & Love,
Nydia

*The regulatory statutes exist under Title 3, Texas Education Code, Chapter 132 and Title 40, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 807.

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