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Yoga Alliance Formally Opposes Proposed Arkansas Yoga School Regulation

October 20, 2014

In early October, Yoga Alliance® President Richard Karpel visited Arkansas to formally oppose the new regulation from the Arkansas State Board of Private Career Education that would require state licenses for yoga schools that train teachers. The Arkansas SBPCE is a state agency designed to provide safeguards for trainees who enroll in private post-secondary career schools. According to SBPCE officials, school owners in the state may have to comply with the board's rules by the end of this year if it went into effect.

Yoga Alliance’s position is that the SBPCE does not have the legal authority to regulate yoga teacher training programs because the state legislature authorized the board to regulate training that “leads to or enhances a career.” Yoga Alliance argues that the great majority of trainees who attend yoga teacher training programs do so merely to deepen their practice and for other avocational reasons. To support that argument, Yoga Alliance notes that more than 95 percent of the 199 yoga teachers in Arkansas who decided to register with Yoga Alliance do not teach yoga full-time, earning their primary income in other ways.

With the new regulation, yoga schools would be regulated along with private career education schools pertaining to truck driving, real estate, income tax, modeling, bail bonds, body art and the other educational programs currently licensed by the SBPCE. The licensing process for yoga schools would require them to provide curriculums and staff credentials for review, undergo site visits, insure and license instructors and pay annual licensing fees.

The board is considering specific rules pertaining to yoga teacher training programs that would require those who teach at yoga schools to have at least seven years of experience teaching yoga. In the case of 200-hour programs, that exceeds Yoga Alliance Standards for Lead Trainers by five years. According to school owners, at least half of the 12 yoga teacher training schools in Arkansas would be forced to close if the board enacts that requirement.

Richard first sent a letter to SBPCE director Brenda Germann outlining Yoga Alliance’s position on September 24, and met with her in person on October 8. While in Arkansas, he also met with 20-25 yoga teachers and yoga school owners both in Little Rock at the Main Library and at the Fayetteville Public Library.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette followed up with a front-page newspaper article published October 13. It quoted Richard's case that "'the burden is on the people who are for regulation to show a compelling state interest. And I don't think there's a compelling state interest.'"

Richard told the local members they can still prevent the regulation from taking effect. Richard encouraged them to ask their state legislators to help them convince the board that it does not have the authority to regulate yoga schools.

Long-time yoga practitioners in the United States established the Standards Yoga Alliance uses today to determine who should be credentialed to lead a yoga teacher training program. However, SBPCE officials learned about yoga schools only this past summer and already expect yoga school owners to begin taking steps to complete the licensing progress, even though they have not written the rules that would apply to yoga schools. The licensing fees charged by the SBPCE range as high as several thousand dollars per year.

In July, Germann notified each of the state's yoga teacher training schools to inform them they would need to obtain a license. KUAF correspondent Jacqueline Froelich, however, reported on KUAF radio's "Ozarks at Large" that "the draft Arkansas yoga teacher training program licensing regulation will go through a public hearing process with a final version going before the state legislature for review early next year."

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