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The practice of self-study, or svadyaya, is always compelling at the turn of a new year. However, as an organization, Yoga Alliance has often found it difficult to reflect on the past because our history has been so poorly recorded. Who started the organization? How were the standards developed? When and why were key decisions made?
American yogis spent years debating whether there should be national standards for training yoga teachers that would apply across all yoga disciplines in the United States. Yet it wasn't until a Yoga Journal Conference in May 1997 that yogis from across the country finally turned talk into action and started developing non-binding guidelines for teachers and schools.
Some members of the Unity in Yoga board of directors attended that same conference and saw the presentation. After a January 1999 meeting between the two groups, Unity in Yoga offered to roll its 10-year-old charity, organized as a 501(c)(3), completely over to the Ad Hoc Yoga Alliance.
Throughout Yoga Alliance's history, more than 85,000 teachers have registered at some point, coming and going over time. Today, the Yoga Alliance registry claims more than 45,000 active teachers and 3,000 active schools, and continues to grow.
In 2005, Yoga Alliance declared just over $602,000 in gross receipts at the end of the year. That number more than doubled by 2006 and has grown every year since then, with $3.34 million in total revenue in 2013.
For example, the "Yoga in America" study released by Yoga Journal on Feb. 26, 2008 showed that 15.8 million U.S. adults practiced yoga, down from 16.5 million in 2004. However, a follow-up study released on December 5, 2012 showed 20.4 million American adults (8.7 percent of all U.S. adults) practiced yoga in 2012, an increase of 4.6 million. Practitioners also nearly doubled their spending on yoga classes and products over four years, from $5.7 billion to $10.3 billion annually.
So while the Yoga Alliance registry grew, so did questions from yogis about the organization's direction and proper role.
Swami Nirmalanda Saraswati (formerly Rama Berch), founder, 1998-2005
Sandra VanOosten 2005-2007
Stephen Russell 2007
Shakta Kaur 2007-2008
Terri Kennedy 2008
David Lorms 2008-2009
Mark Davis 2008-2009
John Matthews 2010-2011
Richard Karpel 2012-present