Teacher Training Debate: Arguments For + Against State Legislation

A number of states are arguing that teacher training programs should fall under longstanding laws that guide vocational or post-secondary education.

As the number of registered yoga teachers in the United States grows—increasing by about 10,000 per year since 2013, and hitting 3,719 registered yoga schools as of March 2015, according to Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit association representing yoga teachers, schools, and studios—so goes the debate about who regulates teacher credentialing. Now, a number of states are arguing that these programs should fall under longstanding laws that guide vocational or post-secondary education—laws that may require fees, licensure, curriculum compliance, marketing regulations, and regular review by state regulatory agencies who may know little to nothing about yoga. At present, enforcement of these laws varies by state, with some, including Arizona and Wisconsin, actively regulating yoga teacher trainings, and others, such as New York and Colorado, winning exemption from regulation in the state legislature. Those in favor of state regulation argue that it protects the investment of students. Those opposed say that teacher training is an avocation, and not postsecondary education. Andrew Tanner, chief spokesman for Yoga Alliance, says, “Social credentialing holds the best promise of accountability,” by adding more transparency and allowing the public to make informed choices. When graduates and students rate their programs on the Yoga Alliance Registry, it provides third-party verification.

Arguments for and against state legislation of yoga teacher trainings, from both sides of the debate.

Why Some Say No

  • “Yoga teacher training programs do not meet the definition of postsecondary education or vocational schools because there are no academic prerequisites: It’s an avocation [hobby] rather than a vocation,” says Roger Rippy, a Houston-based yoga instructor as well as the director and treasurer of Yoga Alliance.
  •  Costs in the thousands and time involved in the application process may force some schools to shut down. This may equal less access and fewer options for interested students.
  •  State employees responsible for determining curriculum may not be informed about the diversity and complexities of yoga practice and theory. Government regulation, predicts Yoga Alliance, would exclude certain types of yoga practice and hinder creativity, innovation, and the number of options for yoga practice and instruction. “Yoga Alliance believes yogis themselves are the best people to regulate,” says Rippy. “The Alliance sets minimum standards and hours that registered schools agree to follow, and those protect students.”
  • The proposed and existing regulations aren’t the result of complaints, but if someone did have a grievance, there are state consumer protection laws in place.

Why Some Say Yes

  • Regulation is the lawful thing to do in states that define yoga teacher training schools as vocational or post-secondary educational institutions. There is no accurate estimate of how many states define teacher trainings as post-secondary, according to the National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools.
  • Students attending licensed yoga teacher training schools are financially protected, says Keith Blanchard, deputy director of the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. Schools may be required to have a surety bond, to guarantee the refund of a student’s money if the school closes.
  • Statutes allow potential students to make educated decisions when choosing a teacher training program by requiring comprehensive communications (such as a detailed syllabus and catalog) about what the program will teach. States also insist on minimum standards, such as a required number of curriculum hours or certain teacher credentials.
  • Complaints can be brought to the state board for review, saving the time and cost that might be involved in a lawsuit.

See also Special to YJ: Yoga Alliance’s Position on Government-Regulated Yoga