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Yoga And Licensing: Parallels To Pilates?


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#1 Carole Amend

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Posted 17 March 2010 - 02:35 PM

Hi all : )

Back in July, I posted an entry NYTimes Article: Regulation and Yoga Teacher Training about the following article: Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Pushes Back. Yoga teachers came together to form Yoga for New York:

Yoga for NY was founded in June 2009 by a group of yoga teacher trainers, yoga teachers and yogis determined to minimize government intervention in yoga teacher training. Hundreds of yoga lovers across the state have become involved in one way or another.


The following is a quote from an article that appeared just a few days ago in the New York Times, Yoga License Rebellion May Soon Claim Victory:

In the next 10 days, almost a year after the dispute began, Gov. David A. Paterson is expected to approve a bill that would exempt training programs for yoga teachers from state regulation under laws intended to provide oversight of vocational schools. "People doubted we could do it," said Alison West, a yoga instructor and the executive director of Yoga for New York, a nonprofit group established to fight the regulation effort. "Everyone is very excited."

The article also mentioned that similar governmental efforts were "successful" in the states of Michigan and Virginia. You can read about how a Michigan Yoga Teacher Charged with Criminal Misdemeanor and what happened when yoga instructors filed suit against "VA regulators, saying the state's plan to regulate the teaching of new yoga instructors infringes on their free speech rights." This from a December 1, 2009 article in the DailyIllini.com, Va. Instructors: Yoga regulations unconstitutional:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The state of Virginia wants to make sure that if you learn to be a yoga instructor, the people who teach you the Half Moon, the Sleeping Vishnu and the Upward Facing Dog poses know what they're doing. But three yoga instructors filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Virginia regulators, claiming that the state's plan to license yoga teacher-training programs is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech."It's just daft. It's just a ridiculous idea," said Suzanne Leitner-Wise, one of the plaintiffs and a yoga instructor who has provided training to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. "It's the students who determine whether you're a competent teacher," not the state.


Find out more about the outcome of the VA lawsuit on the following blogs at The United States of Yoga Blog:

February 23, 2010 Senate Bill Passed! VA Yoga Freed from State Regulation
March 10, 2010 Governor Robert F. McDonnell signed the bill Tuesday 9 March!:

The bill — HB703, spon­sored by Del. David L. Bulova (D-Fairfax) now pro­tects yoga teacher train­ing pro­grams from being reg­u­lated as higher edu­ca­tion by the Vir­ginia State Coun­cil for Higher Edu­ca­tion (SCHEV). Bulova's bill was merged with a sim­i­lar mea­sure, SB598, spon­sored by Sen. Mark R. Her­ring (D-Loudoun).


Read more here about the Institute for Justice lawsuit (filed December 1, 2009) and its Virginia Yoga Challenge and/or watch the video below:

[url="]

Please share your impressions, comments, reflections, and questions on the legislative work of the yoga community and its parallels to the teaching of pilates.

Yours As Always,
Carole : )

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#2 LAville

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 11:09 AM

thank you Carole, for keeping us in the loop and updated on this information.

#3 luann

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 09:27 AM

Carole, I don't know how you rest at night with all the research and awareness of what's going on that you throw yourself into! That being said, I can truly see the parallels to Pilates with this legislation. But, Texas tried it with personal trainers, that they needed to be licensed by the state, and you know, I think that got overturned, since I haven't heard anything more about it. I think that training centers are like any other business in a state and need to follow the same guidelines as a regular business, but not have to comply with any other regulation. It becomes a case of "buyer beware". You can get your real estate license from some fly by night agency and then later realize you didn't get all the education you needed to actually sell and buy real estate. It would be the same with any type of technical or trade school. You can train to work on heavy air conditioning units, and still not have the education to pass an HVAC exam, or mechanic school and not be able to ASSE certified. The public will choose what training facilities are adequate for the needs of the students and government needs to stay out of it.

#4 Carole Amend

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 04:13 PM

Hey, thanks for the responses, Lee and LuAnn!

Don't tell my Dad, but I think I missed my calling as a civil-rights lawyer. :huh: These issues are really interesting to me; what knowledge I do have (and I don't actually claim a lot) has been accumulated over years, so it doesn't feel like that much work to me. However, I must say it does help and it warms my heart to know that fellow teachers are knowledgeable and taking an interest.

Regarding NY, this just in:
Governor Paterson of NY signed the bill into law today freeing New York yoga teacher trainers from burdensome licensing expenses!!
Important to note is that the State's attempt to license yoga teacher training would have affected students and teachers as well. The bill, incidentally, was never geared towards setting standards for quality of teaching--just requirements for teacher training school operations. : )

Also, interesting is that President Obama signed the new health insurance reform into law today.

6/20/11 ETA: From The Gouverneur Times

Governor Paterson also signed A.8678-A/S.5701-A, which is a bill that would exempt yoga and martial arts instructors from State licensing requirements. In 2009, the SED's Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision ordered yoga instructors who train others to become a yoga teacher to obtain a license. Such requirements would have imposed unnecessary expenses on local governments, as well as over-restrictive mandates on yoga studios. As a result, in August 2009, SED announced the suspension of the licensure requirements for these yoga instructors, pending action by the Legislature. This bill will codify in statute SED's decision not to regulate yoga instruction or other schools operating for the purpose of leisure, hobby, or personal enrichment.

"This legislation is important in that it will not place added expenses on our local governments, in addition to not enacting stricter requirements on New York's yoga studios during these difficult times," Governor Paterson said.

For more information, see also the Yoga For NY FAQ page.

Edited by Carole Amend, 20 June 2011 - 03:38 PM.
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#5 PilatesHB

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Posted 25 March 2010 - 06:09 AM

As usual your passion for Pilates is very heartwarming. You find interesting topics to talk about and you always do your homework.

I really don't know what to think on this. I know that in every profession (even medicine) there are practicioners who are good and those who are less good. Doctors have to have many years of schooling before becomming MDs yet that doesn't always guarantee they are well prepared. On the other hand, having a weekend workshop that goes over the repetoire at 1000 miles an hour can't be enough training to work people.

I've said this many times so please forgive me for repeating myself, but I find that some people just test well. Others struggle with testing and may have plenty of training and education but simply cannot pass an exam. This is where I have to wonder about PMA.

Another analogy here: I studied French in college. I went to live in France for one year and was in one of the best French language schools in France. Stanford was also there having their own school and living quarters. Anyway, a lot of the students had excellent grades and were in a top notch school...but they couldn't speak French that well. They knew the grammer and they could ace any exam...but they were lost when in a deep conversation with a real French person. Something was missing. I wonder if it's the same with Pilates. You get a teacher who has passion, heart, feeling, a deep understanding of movement yet isn't all that good with taking tests?

Just a though.
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#6 Carole Amend

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Posted 26 March 2010 - 08:23 AM

Hi PilatesHB...Thanks for your comments. : )

I'm glad that you and LuAnn brought up the issue of competency exams. What's so terrific is that your focus is on teaching the work well, and, this should be the main interest of passionate teachers. My efforts are ultimately geared at creating a community spirit, that is, teachers/practitioners and enthusiasts supporting and validating one another as a way to raise the standard of teaching...which is why I bring up this issue about each state mandating its own type of business license laws. Some of the confusion comes because the words "license" and "regulation" are used in relation to both business practices and competency standards.*

In the case of the yoga community, impending laws threatened the small businesses of studio owners; the issue here was business license expenses for those teaching teachers as opposed to the standard business licensing to teach students/clients (as LuAnn already mentioned). It was argued as a freedom of speech issue, and also as encumbering yoga teachers during these tough times. In both NY and VA, a case was made to redefine the term "vocational." Yoga teachers won their cases in both states.

Here's yet another video from the VA yoga teachers that's very helpful in explaining the possible impact of mandating business licensure fees on small studios, and subsequently, on the livelihoods of teachers and on the public:

[url="]

*NOTE: You can go to the Pilates Pro Community Post, Yoga's Regulation Battle; the comments reveal the confusion that still exists on the issue of "regulation." Also, the proposed NJ licensure bill (mentioned in the comments) was not the same type of "licensure" issue as the one above, however, here again, the yoga and martial arts communities are the ones who deserve credit for calling the senator's office.

Edited by Tom Floyd, 08 December 2010 - 12:45 PM.
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#7 Carole Amend

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Posted 26 March 2010 - 09:02 PM

On this subject of assessing a teacher's abilities, here are a few questions:
Can you ever imagine that there would be a psychometric exam for yoga teachers?

There is a national exam for massage therapists that has been adopted by 35 or so states, and there is also one for Structural Integration (Rolfing). These states have mandated licensure for competency assurance.

Do you think that pilates is closer to yoga or massage/bodywork?




As usual your passion for Pilates is very heartwarming. You find interesting topics to talk about and you always do your homework.

I really don't know what to think on this. I know that in every profession (even medicine) there are practicioners who are good and those who are less good. Doctors have to have many years of schooling before becomming MDs yet that doesn't always guarantee they are well prepared. On the other hand, having a weekend workshop that goes over the repetoire at 1000 miles an hour can't be enough training to work people.

I've said this many times so please forgive me for repeating myself, but I find that some people just test well. Others struggle with testing and may have plenty of training and education but simply cannot pass an exam. This is where I have to wonder about PMA.

Another analogy here: I studied French in college. I went to live in France for one year and was in one of the best French language schools in France. Stanford was also there having their own school and living quarters. Anyway, a lot of the students had excellent grades and were in a top notch school...but they couldn't speak French that well. They knew the grammer and they could ace any exam...but they were lost when in a deep conversation with a real French person. Something was missing. I wonder if it's the same with Pilates. You get a teacher who has passion, heart, feeling, a deep understanding of movement yet isn't all that good with taking tests?

Just a though.


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#8 Carole Amend

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Posted 28 March 2010 - 09:06 PM

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

A few more links to info on the legislation in NY and VA:

NY: S5701A Exempts from licensure instructors in yoga and martial arts

1 Section 1. Paragraph f of subdivision 2 of section 5001 of the educa-
2 tion law, as amended by chapter 439 of the laws of 1980, is amended to
3 read as follows:
4 f. schools which provide instruction in the following subjects only:
5 religion, dancing, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, dramatic
6 art, languages, reading comprehension, mathematics, recreation, YOGA,
7 MARTIAL ARTS and athletics, INCLUDING THE TRAINING OF STUDENTS TO TEACH
8 SUCH SUBJECTS;
9 S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.


VA: H 703

"Vocational" refers to a noncollege degree school that offers only nondegree credit courses, and shall not include instructional programs that are intended solely for recreation, enjoyment, personal interest, or as a hobby, or courses or programs of instruction that prepare individuals to teach such pursuits.


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#9 Carole Amend

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Posted 04 April 2010 - 12:05 PM

*NOTE: You can go to the Pilates Pro Community Post, Yoga's Regulation Battle; the comments reveal the confusion that still exists on the issue of "regulation." Also, the proposed NJ licensure bill (mentioned in the comments) was not the same type of "licensure" issue as the one above, however, here again, the yoga and martial arts communities are the ones who deserve credit for calling the senator's office.


Here's an excerpt from a comment of mine under the Pilates Pro link in the quote above, which I hope will help to explain a bit more:

I agree with the following statement from the article:
" 'If you're going to start a school and take people's money, you should play by a set of rules,' .…"
Is every pilates teacher training program doing their homework and checking out their state business laws and complying? I ask, why would anyone consider it "unpopular" to follow state laws? I would be concerned if a school knowingly operates "under the radar"; I would wonder if such a mentality would also see no harm in cutting corners on competency standards.

The fact that so many involved in the diverse yoga community in NY, which includes the public, came together to solve an issue is heartening. They "played by the rules," in that they followed proper legislative channels and the revised bill became law. In VA, a few teachers filed a suit to change the law and won. I am happy and encouraged to hear that the concerns of citizens and small business owners were heard and supported.

Those who are interested in following the state-level laws, which differ from state to state, can do so by adhering to business license laws already in place (which in some states do allow for exemption when certain criteria are met) or by petitioning for a new exemption, as in the case of the NY yoga community above.

It would be illogical for anyone to assume that those asking for an exemption are, therefore, uninterested or uncommitted to raising the education/competency standard level for yoga and/or pilates teachers.


At this time in the pilates world, I'd like to see us discuss the "split" in the community as between those (primarily) academically vs. sensorily inclined, rather than between "classical" and "contemporary."

My observation? If you stand for the sensory realm, you've got a friend in the government. : )

Edited by AASI, 04 April 2010 - 12:07 PM.

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#10 Carole Amend

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Posted 10 June 2010 - 11:31 PM

Often technical discussions dovetail into the "flat back" issue, which dovetail into legislative issues. Here are discussions demonstrating this, which have come up in the last week:

Recently, on the PCDB, a discussion was started by Sleeping Turtle about the exercise Roll Down, and the discussion dovetailed into the "flat back" issue:

At the risk of trolling the thread I started and opening a whole can of flat backed worms, as someone who is used to reading texts from different time periods it has always amazed me that people are excessively literalistic in how they read the original language. Pilates was using informal, observational language to talk about how a healthy back appears: it should not have big "curves" (ie. kyphosis, hyperlordosis). In this sense it should be "flat": making a case that he wanted to remove all healthy, natural curves from the comments in his books has always seemed like a huge stretch.

When I have talked to traditionally trained people who also are physiotherapists (ie the people who have to reconcile the physical, oral tradition that they were passed from trad first generation teachers (Romana) with the language and understanding of modern physiotherapy) they are always bemused at the idea that the traditional school wants to "flatten out all spinal curves". One friend said to me "if that was what we were trying to do it would be very dangerous, but we´re not".

(forsees major diversion on the topic)


This comment was made yesterday on Pilates Pro under the Community post Back flexion and lower back pain, showing that the "flat back" issue dovetails into legislative issues:

....
On a side note, a yoga teacher in NYC recently injured a student by attempting to do 'bodywork' in her abdomen on her psoas muscles despite the student telling them that it was painful. The result: Later that evening her husband rushed her to the ER after she reported having intense abdominal pain and swelling. What happened? Her external iliac vein within the pelvic cavity was TORN and she was hemorrhaging! So much (for) the regulation of the industry that NY State yoga teachers just averted. It must be nice to be unregulated and free to do as one pleases.

June 10, 2010 | Mark


The above quote was taken down on Pilates Pro. I am glad I saw it before it was. Perhaps Mark did not see my comment in response to his on the Pilates Pro Yoga's Regulation Battle Community Post..??
I already quoted myself here back in April, however, I'll quote myself again:

"Confusion remains rampant when discussing this issue because the terms "licensure" and "regulation" are used in relation to both business practice requirements and competency standards."*
....
It would be illogical for anyone to assume that those asking for an exemption are, therefore, uninterested or uncommitted to raising the education/competency standard level for yoga and/or pilates teachers.

April 2, 2010 | Carole Amend

*From the 3-26-10 Update under the 7-13-09 post NY Times Article: Regulation and Yoga Teacher Trainings on the AASI Contributions Blog.

The flat back issue may not seem like the "big deal" that others make of it. However, just because you haven't come across it in your professional practice doesn't mean it doesn't exist, and this statement is true no matter which "side" is your vantage point.

I hope this helps to bring to light the importance of continuing to discuss technical issues and also the importance of understanding legislative ones. In the meantime, I am keeping the faith because I know that pilates does way more good than harm.

Edited by Carole Amend, 11 June 2010 - 06:41 AM.
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#11 PilatesHB

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Posted 11 June 2010 - 05:41 AM

Hi Carole:

I'm a little confused about this thread. I did read Mark's comments on Pilates-Pro about lower back pain but I'm not sure just how legistlation will help. I'm not being argumentative at all...I just need clarification.

I fully understand how each and every instructor needs to have proper training. I was injured in a yoga class back in 2000 so I more than anyone agree that instructors must understand anatomy and movement.

However, no one can ever really regulate an industry that invovles humans. Doctors with all their training make mistakes all the time. Sometimes the best trained yoga and Pilates instructors end up hurting people (the class in which I was injured was taught by one of the area's best known and loved instruuctor).

How does one manage this? Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point and if so...please set me straight.

I'm all for regulation but I also realize that gov't is not an expert in everything so sometimes that regulation doesn't work.

Glad to see you posting...your topics are always interesting and thought provoking.
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#12 Carole Amend

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Posted 12 June 2010 - 09:46 PM

Hi PilatesHB,
To rephrase as I hear it, your question is in regards to how one might manage regulating competency, correct? And that you think it would be difficult for the government to do this, and you are therefore confused by what Mark (an anonymous poster on Pilates Pro) wrote. Also, you are confused in general by this thread and have asked me to clarify the point I'm trying to make.

First, some, like Mark, are still confused about this topic, thinking that yoga teachers, having won their cases in NY and VA, are "averting" competency regulation in order to "do as one pleases" (with the implication being to people's bodies). Mark obviously still doesn't understand that the cases were not about competency standards; the cases had to do with business standards, and so Mark was confusing the issues. This parallels what's happening in the pilates community.

I think that a lot of people are confused by this issue and, believe me, it's not always easy to explain either (but, I'll do my best : ). I began this post to inform readers that the government is, at the moment, only interested in business license regulation, not competency regulation. And, in fact, the examples show that in NY and VA, the government has even exempted yoga teacher trainers from any business license regulation, at this time! Now, whether or not one agrees with the decision to grant the business exemptions in NY and VA, is another story. I was simply reporting the news, and I find it both interesting and heartening that a group of concerned citizens and teachers came together to plead their case…and they won.

It was the small yoga teacher training programs that fought against being put out of business by the mandated paperwork and fees. This might also be a burden for small pilates trainings. As I mentioned in post #29 from the On the Future of Pilates, Part 2 thread: "Teacher trainers and individual teachers have options with regards to professional affiliations and alignments. The bottom line, however, is that no one is above state law." Business regulation differs from state to state, and many pilates teacher training programs have no idea that they may, in fact, be in violation of state law.

I'd like to hear opinions on this, about whether or not people agree with the exemption decision and what it might mean to the pilates profession. What do the teacher trainings that have followed state law think of this? Should pilates be considered to be in the same category as yoga and be exempt?

Your question on how can we manage competency issues is a good one. Hopefully, it's now clear that I was reporting that some state governments don't seem to be in a hurry to regulate movement practices, even on a business level, and I agree with you that the government is not the expert on competency regulation. But, is the fact that the government is not attending to this reason enough to leave the technical discord in our community as is, without further discussion or articulation? Is it ok for teachers to market their services with technical, lineage, and "certification" jargon, which the public doesn't understand, which causes disagreement and competition between teachers? I wonder to what extent technical discussions are considered a priority between competing schools.

In this thread, I tried to show how technical and legislative issues dovetail and get people confused, thwarting technical discussion between teachers. Imo, at the very least, understanding the difference between competency and business standards is necessary to informed, intelligent discussion.

The cases in NY and VA were not so black and white, actually; the yoga teachers say that they are not against competency regulation, but they think that it ought to be left to the community to decide for itself (see second video that I posted here). Sound familiar? The Yoga Alliance supposedly works to support teachers by helping set standards, but, when push came to shove, the Yoga Alliance did not help the teacher trainers with their business license issues. Another parallel? What do you think?

I hope that helped to clarify. I'd love to hear if it did...and I'll be happy to field more questions, if not.

To all... I realize that this is a lot of information. Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear more comments and feedback.
Carole : )



Hi Carole:

I'm a little confused about this thread. I did read Mark's comments on Pilates-Pro about lower back pain but I'm not sure just how legistlation will help. I'm not being argumentative at all...I just need clarification.

I fully understand how each and every instructor needs to have proper training. I was injured in a yoga class back in 2000 so I more than anyone agree that instructors must understand anatomy and movement.

However, no one can ever really regulate an industry that invovles humans. Doctors with all their training make mistakes all the time. Sometimes the best trained yoga and Pilates instructors end up hurting people (the class in which I was injured was taught by one of the area's best known and loved instruuctor).

How does one manage this? Maybe I'm misunderstanding your point and if so...please set me straight.

I'm all for regulation but I also realize that gov't is not an expert in everything so sometimes that regulation doesn't work.

Glad to see you posting...your topics are always interesting and thought provoking.


Edited by Carole Amend, 18 June 2011 - 12:43 PM.

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