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Background on the Yoga Therapy Decision

January 25, 2016

Over the last five years there has been a significant growth in the use of the terms “yoga therapy” and “yoga therapist.” As many of you know, Yoga Alliance engages in state level advocacy on behalf of its members. These advocacy efforts aim to reduce state regulation targeted at yoga teacher training programs. Yoga Alliance found that some of the push to regulate yoga came from the government’s interest in protecting the public who may get treatment from yoga therapists.

As a result, Yoga Alliance Registry made the decision to investigate this situation in depth. In July 2015, Yoga Alliance Registry commissioned a reputable health care attorney, Kristi Kung, to carry out an independent assessment of the legal issues in this field. Ms. Kung is Counsel with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP’s Healthcare practice, located in Washington, DC. Ms. Kung specializes in federal and state regulation of health care providers and suppliers. This includes licensing and credentialing matters. She also has extensive experience representing practitioners before their state licensing boards on standard of care and scope of practice. An in-demand speaker and published author of health care issues, Ms. Kung also serves as an adjunct professor of law at the American University – Washington College of Law.

On January 5, 2016, Law 360.com published an article by Ms. Kung on legal issues and risks with the emerging yoga therapy field. The article highlights the risk of state legal action for unauthorized practice of medicine against those claiming to practice yoga therapy. The article also describes potential regulatory risks for the yoga community as a whole. In addition, Ms. Kung has written an extended article on this topic. This article is to be submitted for publication in a national legal journal later this year.

Ms. Kung shared her research and findings with the Yoga Alliance Registry Board of Directors in late 2015. Yoga Alliance Registry’s mission includes setting minimum standards for yoga teacher training programs. The Registry’s mission also includes providing the public a source of accurate information on the training received by yoga teachers. This information allows the public to make informed choices about their yoga instructors.

After reading the report, the Board identified a significant risk of public confusion about the meaning of Registry credentials because of registrants who call themselves yoga therapists. The Registry's standards do not include training in yoga therapy. The Board therefore adopted a new policy on yoga therapy terms, to reduce any public confusion. While the Board’s motivation for adopting the Policy was to protect the public, the Policy will also benefit the yoga community. The new policy may help reduce the legal risks described in Ms. Kung’s article. The Board released the new Policy on January 25, 2016.

Please review the resources on this page for more background information.


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