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Letter to Administrator Newman

October 9, 2020

Jeffrey S. Newman
Administrator, Office of Career School Licensing
Division of Educator Support and Higher Education
New Hampshire Department of Education
1010 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301

Dear Administrator Newman:

I am writing on behalf of Yoga Alliance, the largest membership association representing yoga teachers and schools in the United States and around the world. Recently, it has come to our attention that the Office of Career School Licensing (the “Office”) has notified operators of yoga teacher training programs (“YTTs”) in the state that it will begin regulating these programs as private postsecondary career schools. On behalf of Yoga Alliance and our New Hampshire members, I am writing to express our concerns with the Office’s recent actions, which have come during the coronavirus pandemic that have hit small yoga businesses especially hard, and share information on the nature and purpose of YTTs. We hope that a greater understanding of these programs and the consequences of unnecessary regulation on the yoga community will inform future action.

As you may know, across the country, yoga studios and practitioners host advanced yoga classes that the yoga community refers to as “yoga teacher training programs.” However, unlike in other sectors, participation in a yoga teacher training program is not a legal requirement to teach yoga classes, and yoga instruction is not a licensed profession in New Hampshire or in any other jurisdiction. YTT participants attend programs for a multitude of reasons, with a large percentage attending to deepen their personal practice or practice yoga in a group setting, without immediate intention to become a yoga teacher. Moreover, the vast majority of individuals who participate in YTT programs and proceed to lead yoga classes are not full-time instructors: they earn most of their living from other occupations, not from teaching classes. For these reasons, the regulation of YTTs as private postsecondary career schools is (1) unnecessary and a misapplication of New Hampshire law, and (2) harmful to New Hampshire’s yoga businesses and community. By refraining from licensing YTTs as private postsecondary schools, New Hampshire would join numerous other states that have either explicitly (via legislation) or implicitly determined that such licensure is not appropriate.

Although we understand that New Hampshire’s private postsecondary schools statute is broad, the law is clearly not intended to apply to every program in the state. Indeed, the law contains numerous exceptions for various types of schools and programs. See N.H. Rev. Stat. § 188- G:1(i).

The Office’s own actions appear to provide further evidence of the law’s intention. Based on the public list of regulated schools, the Office primarily regulates schools that serve as a prerequisite to a particular occupation. Importantly, to the best of our knowledge, the Office has not sought to regulate programs with a similar purpose to YTTs, such as advanced martial arts or dance classes. Moreover, the regulations governing private postsecondary career schools, which includes grading requirements among others, are wholly inapplicable to YTTs, which primarily focus on the practice of yoga. At a basic level, there is a significant mismatch between New Hampshire’s private postsecondary career school requirements and the structure, nature, and purpose of YTTs.

The yoga community is also unaware of any consumer complaints about New Hampshire YTTs that would necessitate the Office’s intervention for consumer protection purposes. As New Hampshire businesses, all other state, federal, and local business, consumer protection, and premises safety regulations already apply to New Hampshire YTTs. We also should note that yoga schools that are members of Yoga Alliance, whose mission and work is dedicated to safe, quality, accessible yoga, already abide by guidelines to best serve the public. Additional regulation is unnecessary and threatens to do more harm than good.

Most YTTs, in New Hampshire and across the country, are small businesses. Based on feedback from our members, we have learned that the time and expense to comply with regulations (like those set forth for New Hampshire private postsecondary career schools) are burdensome and have a detrimental effect on independent studios. Overregulation of yoga businesses dissuades yoga providers from offering or expanding programs and establishes a barrier to entry for small, independent yoga entrepreneurs. In fact, two of the providers that have contacted Yoga Alliance about New Hampshire’s private postsecondary school regulations are considering closing their schools.

Last, but certainly not least, Yoga Alliance is particularly concerned that the Office appears to be contacting YTT providers – for the first time ever – during the throes of the coronavirus pandemic. The yoga community has been disproportionately devastated by this public health emergency. Early in the pandemic, most yoga studios and schools were forced to shut their doors to comply with “stay at home” orders and social distancing regulations. Further, even before the CDC initially issued its guidance, Yoga Alliance preemptively and strongly recommended that in-person yoga cease to ensure public safety. We took this step to prioritize the health and wellbeing of all communities. In many places, yoga businesses remain closed, and for those that have opened, adherence to baseline health and safety measures severely limits operations. The consequences of adding unnecessary and harmful regulatory burdens and expenses to these businesses at a time when they are already struggling will be severe.

For these reasons, we respectfully request that the Office refrain from requiring licensure of YTTs as private postsecondary career schools. We appreciate your consideration of our position on this important issue, and we welcome to opportunity to arrange a teleconference with you and your colleagues as your earliest convenience to further discuss our concerns.

Sincerely,
Shannon Roche
President and CEO, Yoga Alliance and the Yoga Alliance Foundation

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