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Advocacy

As the largest international nonprofit organization representing yoga teachers and schools, Yoga Alliance® has a responsibility to protect and support the yoga community so it can freely practice and teach yoga. We oppose unnecessary regulation that stifles the diversity of yoga, serves no benefit to the public, or unfairly targets the yoga community.

We constantly monitor issues that are important to the yoga community and will post the latest updates and alerts here. 

If your yoga practice or business is being unfairly targeted or threatened by government regulators, or if you would like to get involved in our advocacy work, please contact us at yaadvocacy@yogaalliance.org or call us at 888-921-9642. If you're reporting issues with government regulation, please be sure to include a full description of your situation and, if possible, a copy of any correspondence you've received from the agency with the date of its receipt.

Want to know what the "state of yoga" is like in your community? Find your state below to learn the latest about what's going on and what you can do to help protect the integrity and diversity of yoga.



Yoga Alliance - United States advocacy efforts map

 


Alaska

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

 

Overview:

Yoga Alliance got involved in Alaska after yoga teacher training programs (YTTs) contacted us regarding interactions with the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE). We learned that the ACPE was requiring Alaska YTTs to comply with state regulations meant for vocational or professional programs and was charging schools to pay annual fees in order to operate in the state. In order to fix this problem, Rep. Lynn Gattis introduced HB 305 in the Alaska State House of Representatives on February 12, 2016. House Bill 305 exempts YTTs from unnecessary regulation by ACPE. We are grateful for the support of Rep. Gattis throughout the entire legislative process!

In addition to the House legislation, Sen. Lesil McGuire introduced a related bill, SB 190, on February 22, 2016. The Alaska House of Representatives passed HB 305 by a vote of 38-0 on March 30, 2016, and on April 17, the Alaska Senate passed the same bill unanimously by a vote of 20-0! The bill moved on to Governor Walker, who signed the bill in a small ceremony on June 17, 2016 which one of our local members, Jodee Dixon, E-RYT 200, attended. The law goes into effect on September 16, 2016.

We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. McGuire, Rep. Gattis and the legislators that helped us along the way, as well as the local yogis who participated throughout this process.

Past Updates:


Arizona

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

 

Overview:

Yoga Alliance was contacted by members of Arizona’s yoga community last year regarding concerns around regulations of YTTs by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education (SBPPE). These regulations – meant to apply to “private vocational programs” – involve compliance with extensive requirements and payment of expensive fees for YTT programs. Like you, Yoga Alliance was concerned that these regulations were not only unnecessary, but also harmful to the yoga community and small businesses in this state. 

In early March 2016, HB 2613, a bill including our provision to protect yoga and YTTs, was passed by the Arizona House of Representatives. After being confirmed by the full State Senate on May 6, it was signed into law by Governor Doug Ducey on May 19, 2016! The law includes an important provision to exempt YTTs from mandatory regulation by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education (SBPPE). This new law becomes effective on July 1, 2016.

We’re proud to have been a part of this historic win for the yoga community in Arizona, and we’d like to thank all of the legislators, yogis and advocates that helped us get here.

Get Involved:

Share your gratitude. Make sure to contact your legislators and thank them for standing up to protect yoga in Arizona! We couldn’t have done it without them.

Pay it forward. Other states are also considering imposing onerous regulations and burdensome fees on yoga schools and studios for their teacher trainings. Pay it forward and make a contribution to our advocacy efforts to help protect the integrity and diversity of yoga. All contributions are appreciated.

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Past Updates:


Arkansas

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

 

Overview:

Arkansas’ State Board of Private Career Education approves all schools offering programs of study leading to or enhancing an occupational objective (see ARK. CODE ANN. § 6-51-605.)  However, the Arkansas Code clarifies that programs of instruction in yoga or in yoga-teacher training are not considered “schools” requiring approval by the Board.

Legal Citation:

ARK. CODE ANN. § 6-51-602(11)(E): School does not mean a program of instruction in yoga or in yoga-teacher training.

ARK. CODE ANN. § 6-51-624: This subchapter does not apply to a school or training program that offers only avocational or recreational instruction or teacher instruction for the following subjects:

  1. dance;
  2. music;
  3. yoga;
  4. horseback riding; or
  5. sewing, knitting, or other needlecrafts.

[Emphasis added.]

Get Involved:

Pay It Forward. Support Yoga Alliance's advocacy efforts to make sure that yoga is not only protected in Arkansas, but around the world. Text PROTECTYOGA to 41444 to pledge your support.

Past Updates:


California

Status: Targeting Yoga Studios for Employee Misclassification

Overview:

California’s Economic Development Department (EDD) is targeting yoga studios to determine if their yoga teachers are properly classified as independent contractors or employees. The EDD enforces industries abusing tax laws, auditing and forcing businesses to re-classify independent contractors as employees. A number of yoga studios have received hefty fines from the EDD regarding employee misclassification. California is one of 15 states in agreement to report information about misclassification with the IRS; if a studio is audited by the EDD, it is at risk to be audited by the IRS as well. If a studio loses their audit, which may not review more than the past three years, it is determined to have misclassified its workers and faces fees and back taxes. Each violation may hold a fine between $5,000 and $15,000, in addition to back taxes. 

Get Involved:

Learn How to Protect Yourself and Your Studio. We offer recordings of our past workshops in our video library, Some of the topics covered focus on yoga law, such as:

  • The Horns of the Dilemma: Independent Contractors or Employees?
  • Employees or Independent Contractors?
  • Yoga Law: What You Must Know

Past Updates:


Colorado

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

The Colorado Division of Private Occupational Schools (DPOS) is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and oversees private postsecondary occupational schools. In December, the DPOS began contacting YTTs, informing them they may be subject to regulation and requesting answers to questions about business operations and copies of promotional materials. Yoga Alliance firmly opposed these efforts to impose unnecessary requirements on YTTs and believed the DPOS’s justification for regulating YTTs was misguided and inconsistent with the Division’s mission. Thanks to the efforts of dedicated yogis and our champion legislators in Colorado’s General Assembly, our bill – SB186 – to protect the rights of YTTs passed with overwhelming support. Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law in April 2015!

Get Involved:

Pay It Forward. Support Yoga Alliance's advocacy efforts to make sure that yoga is not only protected in Colorado, but across the country. Text PROTECTYOGA to 41444 to pledge your support.

Past Updates:


Idaho

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

Yoga Alliance was contacted by some Idaho yoga teacher training programs (YTTs) in 2016 about their interactions with the State Board of Education. The Board had contacted multiple yoga teacher training programs telling them to comply with regulations meant for vocational, technical, or professional training.

In February 2017, House Bill 108 was introduced in the Idaho legislature. The bill was created to exempt Idaho YTTs from these unnecessary regulations. It was passed by both the Idaho House of Representatives and Senate!

Governor Butch Otter signed House Bill 108 into law on March 24, 2017, and it became effective immediately. We would like to thank all of the Idaho lawmakers who helped make this law a reality and the Idaho yoga community for their support.

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Get Involved:

Please show your appreciation and thank Governor Butch Otter for signing the bill as well as your local state House member and/or Senator for their support.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Read the FAQ regarding YTTs in Idaho.

Past Updates:


Illinois

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

 

Overview:

Yoga Alliance was contacted by members of the Illinois yoga community who are concerned about the Illinois Board of Higher Education’s (IBHE) actions to regulate Yoga Teacher Training Programs (YTTs) as private “vocational” schools. Yoga Alliance has continued to advocate on behalf of YTTs in Illinois to ensure that these laws are not misapplied to YTTs.

In February 2016, bills were introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate to protect YTTs. This legislation, supported by Yoga Alliance, clarifies that the Illinois law governing vocational schools does not apply to yoga teacher training programs (YTTs). On April 6, SB 2743 passed Illinois’ state Senate unanimously by a vote of 53-0, and on May 25, the Illinois House passed it by a vote of 117-0! On July 31, Governor Rauner signed SB 2743 into law! It will go into effect January 2017. Thank you to the bill's sponsors, Rep. Dan Burke and Sen. Don Harmon

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Past Updates:


Massachusetts

Overview:

Yoga Alliance recently became aware that the Massachusetts legislature is considering a bill, S.2621, which seeks to license “bodyworks therapists” and regulate the practice of “bodyworks” and the operation of “bodyworks schools.” This bill has the laudable goals of ensuring that bodyworks businesses are safe for workers and patrons, but, as described below, could have an unintended impact on the yoga community.

Under the bill, “bodywork” is defined as “the practice of a person who uses touch, words or directed movement to deepen awareness of patterns of movement in the body . . . .” This definition is very broad and could be interpreted by regulators to include yoga instruction and/or practice. It may also affect other yoga-related modalities.

It is our goal to encourage the legislature to amend S.2621 to clarify that it is not intended to apply to yoga programs and providers, as well other yoga-related modalities.

Get Involved:

If you share our concerns regarding S.2621, we ask you to help us in raising awareness and pushing for change. To do so, email the members of the House Ways and Means Committee who are currently considering the bill as soon as possible. We’re including a sample message, but feel free to express your specific concerns in your own words.

Past Updates:


Michigan

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

 

Overview:

We were contacted by members of the Michigan yoga community regarding regulation by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). These regulations require yoga teacher training programs (YTTs) to pay expensive fees and meet numerous regulatory hurdles applicable to private post secondary schools. Like you, Yoga Alliance was concerned that LARA's requirements are not only unnecessary, but also harmful to the yoga community and small businesses in this state.

In early 2016, State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker introduced bill SB 818 in the Michigan State Senate. This bill would exempt yoga instruction and/or yoga teacher training from LARA's regulation. Senator Tonya Schuitmaker’s bill was passed with a 35-0 vote by the Michigan Senate on April 13. Then on May 17, the Michigan House passed it by a vote of 92-17. This bill was presented to the Governor on May 24, and the Governor signed it into law on June 6. It came into effect immediately. We would like to thank Senator Schuitmaker, Representative Franz and Senator Rocca for their support of the Michigan yoga community.

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Past Updates:


Missouri

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

Missouri’s yoga community alerted Yoga Alliance to actions by the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE) to regulate YTTs as “vocational schools” under its Postsecondary School Certification Program. Regulation under this program would mean that YTTs must comply with extensive requirements and pay expensive fees. In order to address this issue, Representative Elijah Haahr pre-filed a bill, HB 1681, on December 10, 2015 in the Missouri House of Representatives. The intent of the bill is to prevent state regulators from imposing burdensome and unnecessary regulations on YTTs. Senator Dixon followed suit on January 20, 2016 and introduced a companion bill in the Senate as well. The House version of our legislation, HB 1681, passed through the Emerging Issues Committee and the Committee on General Laws – both by unanimous vote. On February 11, 2016, the Missouri House of Representatives passed HB 1681 146-7. On May 5, the Missouri Senate passed HB 1681 with a unanimous vote of 30-0! We are thankful to all of the policymakers who supported this legislation for being champions of the Missouri yoga community! Governor Jay Nixon signed HB 1681 into law on June 13th and it will be effective on August 28, 2016.

Other important information: YTTs Exempt from Sales Taxes
In 2016, legislation (SB 1025) was introduced to exempt instructional classes – including YTT programs – from sales taxes in the state. This legislation was introduced in February 2016 and quickly moved through the state Legislature. In June 2016, the governor vetoed the measure. In September 2016, however, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto to enact this popular legislation. The new law took effect on October 14, 2016. SB 1025 restores instructional classes gives at yoga studios, dance studios, gymnastics facilities and other fitness facilities to the same tax-free designation as all other educational classes – the classification they held before the Missouri Department of Revenue reinterpreted the state’s sales tax law in 2008. Now, anyone providing instructional lessons are not required to collect sale taxes on those classes. While sales taxes are still required for tangible items, such as equipment or gear, the actual classes are tax free.

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Past Updates:


New York

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

New York’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision is authorized to license all private schools charging tuition in the state according to N.Y. EDUC. Law § 5001(1). Several types of training programs, however, including yoga teacher training, are specifically exempt from this state licensure requirement.

Legal Citation:

N.Y. EDUC. Law § 5001(2)(f): Schools. The following schools are exempted from the licensing requirements of this section: … [] schools which provide instruction with the following subjects only: religion, dancing, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, dramatic art, languages, reading comprehension, mathematics, yoga, martial arts, Pilates and athletics, including the training of students to teach such subjects, provided, however, that schools conducted for the purpose of training personal trainers shall be excluded from this exemption and shall be required to obtain licensure... [Emphasis added.]


Oklahoma

Overview:

Recently, Yoga Alliance® heard from Oklahoma yoga teacher training schools (YTTs) about their interactions with the state’s Board of Private Vocational Schools. The Board has required some YTTs to obtain licenses meant for vocational or professional schools and pay fees to operate in the state. We have been monitoring the situation, and we want to hear from you!

Please share your experiences and thoughts by taking our brief survey. Your feedback is important to us. We look forward to working with you to support a thriving yoga community in Oklahoma.


Pennsylvania

Overview:

On April 25, Bill HR 201 was adopted by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives designating May 2017 as "Yoga Awareness Month."

The goal of "Yoga Awareness Month" is to provide education on the health benefits of yoga to inspire healthy lifestyles for all residents in Pennsylvania. "Yoga Awareness Month" encourages residents to practice healthy outdoor activities and try yoga, which aids in relaxation and stress reduction. This Commonwealth is committed to improving health and wellness, including raising public awareness of the benefits of yoga.


South Carolina

Status: YTTs Not Subject to Regulation

Overview:

The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education licenses nonpublic educational institutions in the state according to S.C. CODE ANN. § 59-58-40. Several types of institutions are excluded from this licensing requirement, including those “offering noncredit bearing courses exclusively for avocational purposes.” The Commission has deemed yoga teacher training programs to fall within this exclusion.

Legal Citation:

S.C. CODE ANN. § 59-58-30(5): The definition of “nonpublic educational institution” does not include the following... Institutions offering noncredit bearing courses exclusively for avocational purposes, as determined by the Commissioner.

Guidance from the Commission states that it “does not license programs that train teachers or participants where the programs are primarily personal development, recreational, and non-vocational such as dance, music, art, or yoga.” (See annotations to “Nonpublic Postsecondary Institution License Act,” at 5 n.7.)


Texas

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

According to TEX. EDUC CODE ANN. § 132.001, the Texas Workforce Commission is authorized to license “career school[s] or college[s].” However, several training programs, including yoga teacher training programs, are specifically exempted from the authority of the Commission.

Legal Citation:

TEX. EDUC CODE ANN. §132.005: This chapter does not apply to a school or training program that offers only avocational or recreational instruction or teacher instruction for the following subjects:

  1. dance;
  2. music;
  3. martial arts;
  4. yoga;
  5. physical fitness;
  6. horseback riding;
  7. riflery or other weapon use;
  8. sewing, knitting, or other needlecrafts; or
  9. sports.

[Emphasis added.]


Virginia

Status: Law Enacted to Protect YTTs

Overview:

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is authorized to set regulations for “postsecondary schools" (VA. CODE ANN. § 23-276.3). Postsecondary schools include entities offering programs for academic, vocational, and continuing professional education purposes. The Virginia state statute, however, clarifies the scope of entities that may be considered “vocational” programs, effectively exempting yoga teacher training schools from regulation.

Legal Citation:

VA. CODE ANN. § 23-276.1: “Vocational” refers to a noncollege degree school that offers only nondegree credit courses, and shall not include instructional programs that are intended solely for recreation, enjoyment, personal interest, or as a hobby, or courses or programs of instruction that prepare individuals to teach such pursuits. [Emphasis added.]


Washington

Overview:

In 2016, Washington yoga teacher training schools (YTTs) contacted us about their interactions with the state’s Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board. The Board has required some YTTs to obtain licenses that are meant for vocational and career schools and pay annual fees.

In early January 2017, two bills were introduced in the Washington House and Senate to exempt YTTs from mandatory licensure requirements. The purpose of this legislation is to clarify that YTTs are not like the private career schools that the state is supposed to be regulating, and that yoga programs have different needs than those addressed by the Workforce Board.

On January 26, 2017, the bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Higher Education Committee. It is now moving on to the Senate Rules Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.

We will be hosting a future yoga lobby day and group practice at the Washington State Capitol. If you are interested in participating, please contact us at yaadvocacy@yogaalliance.org.

We’re pleased to support this legislation, which that builds on previous efforts to support yoga communities around the country. Stay tuned as we continue to update the Washington yoga community about this bill’s progress.

Get Involved:

Urge Rep. Hansen to schedule a hearing on this on HB 1385! To keep our momentum going, we need you to make your voice heard to the House.

Sign Our Petition. Urge the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board to support us in exempting YTTs from unnecessary regulation.

Thank the Senate Higher Education Committee. Call or email the members of the Senate Higher Education Committee to thank them for their support!

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Read the FAQ regarding YTTs in Washington.

Past Updates:

 


Washington, D.C.

Status: Taxing Yoga Studios

Overview:

As of October 1, 2014, yoga studios in the District of Columbia are subject to the so-called “yoga tax,” which imposes a 5.75 percent tax on yoga classes. The Washington, D.C. City Council used broad language so any “fitness club, fitness center, or gym the purpose of which is physical exercise” is included in the legislation. While some practitioners use yoga for fitness, the majority use it to combat stress and anxiety, to improve mental health or for spiritual reasons. At Yoga Alliance, we believe taxing yoga classes in the same category as fitness classes demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and history of yoga. And in the long run, taxing yoga, health and wellness services hurts citizens and the city.

Get Involved:

Contact your councilorUrge Mayor Muriel Bowser and your city council members to remove the wellness tax from future budgets.

Learn More:

 

 

 


International Regulatory Issues


Our advocacy work has been expanding internationally! Learn more about what's happening in yoga communities of these countries.

Canada

British Columbia

Overview:

Major changes are coming to the private career training system in British Columbia. These changes are expected to affect YTTs that are currently regulated by the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (“PCTIA”), a regulatory entity that has set standards for private career training institutions in British Columbia since 2004.

Yoga Alliance is working hard to gain further insights as to how the Ministry of Advanced Education will apply the PTA to YTTs. Right now, we know that as of September 1st, all institutions currently registered by PCTIA – including a number of YTTs – will automatically become “certified” under the PTA. These certifications will expire seven months after the institutions’ fiscal year ends and institutions will apply for recertification before that time under the new rules. We will continue gathering information on this process and provide updates as they become available.

Get Involved:

Please learn more about our work in British Columbia from reading the alert below and fill out this survey in order to gather feedback about your experiences. Please let us hear from you so that we can work together to protect the rights of YTT providers and support a thriving yoga community in British Columbia.

Past Updates:


New Zealand

Status: Surveying the Yoga Community

Overview:

Yoga Alliance® recently learned that some people in the New Zealand yoga community are concerned regarding the qualifications of yoga teachers and support the regulation of yoga studios and teachers. We oppose the regulation of yoga teacher training programs (YTTs) and regulations targeting yoga practitioners and businesses. This position holds true around the world.

Get Involved

Take our short survey to let us know your thoughts and what you know (or have heard) about potential government regulations.

Past Updates


Slovenia

Status: Attempting to Regulate YTTs

Overview:

Members of Slovenia’s yoga community contacted Yoga Alliance to voice concerns that regulations on yoga studios and teacher training programs will harm the practice of yoga in their country. In addition to opposing unnecessarily burdensome government regulation of yoga, we disagree that yoga is a type of sport and therefore can be regulated by Slovenia’s Ministry of Education, Science and Sport. Yoga Alliance sent a letter to the minister on May 20, 2015 offering observations about the issue and outlining our stance.

Get Involved:

If you are a teacher or a studio or school owner in Slovenia, let us know how these proposed regulations will affect your yoga community by contacting us at info@yogaalliance.org.

Past Updates:



Patent and Copyright Issues

Multiple attempts have been made to copyright or patent certain methods of yoga instruction, filming or sequencing. We oppose attempts to claim intellectual property over yoga because it would stifle competition and impede the yoga community from practicing or teaching yoga without fear of legal repercussions. 

Bikram Choudhury

Last Updated: August 5, 2016

Bikram Choudhury, the creator of Bikram Yoga, filed a complaint in July 2011 against Evolation Yoga claiming copyright infringement of Bikram Yoga's 26-asana sequence. Evolation Yoga owners Mark Drost and Zefea Samson became certified Bikram Yoga instructors in 2002 and 2005, respectively, and were later banned from any and all involvement in Bikram Yoga for reasons unknown. In 2009, the couple opened Evolation Yoga, which offers a variety of classes, including a 26-asana sequence similar to Choudhury's.  

One year after Choudhury's complaint against Evolation Yoga, in July 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a statement of policy that no "compilation of exercises or the selection and arrangement of yoga poses" is copyrightable. On December 14, 2012, a district court ruling determined the Bikram Yoga sequence was not copyrightable, and Choudhury appealed this ruling. Yoga Alliance submitted an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals on January 22, 2014 explaining why the copyright should not be granted. Such a copyright would undoubtedly stifle competition as well as the freedom to practice and teach yoga. 

On May 8, 2015, the final oral arguments were heard in the case Bikram’s Yoga College of India v. Evolation Yoga LLC. According to case insiders, both sides received tough questions from the judges. Evolation Yoga’s lawyer, Eric Maier, focused his argument on the idea that while Choudhury’s book can be copyrighted, the routine itself cannot—similar to how the copyright of a cookbook does not copyright the actual cooking of a recipe.

On October 8, 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed the previous ruling by a federal district court that Bikram Choudhury’s sequence of 26 yoga poses is not entitled to copyright protection. The Court affirmed that, although Bikram Choudhury held copyright protection in his published book on his Sequence, he could not thereby invoke copyright to stop others from using the sequences described in his book. Yoga Alliance, through its counsel Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, supported appellee Evolation Yoga, provided copyright expertise and filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in support of the principle that a sequence of yoga poses is not protectable by copyright.

Two months after the Court of Appeals issued its decision, Bikram filed a petition for rehearing seeking to have the appeal reheard by a larger panel of judges in the same court. On January 25, 2016, Bikram’s request for rehearing was denied. Bikram’s only remaining option is to seek review by the U.S. Supreme Court, which we believe he plans on doing. According to the Supreme Court’s website, he has sought and obtained an extension until June 30, 2016 to file a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to accept the case.

On May 10, 2016, Bikram's new counsel filed a motion for an extension of the Ninth Circuit Court's prior stay of the mandate that formally ends the Court of Appeals' jurisdiction over the case. This is a corollary to Bikram’s new counsel obtaining an extension to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court.

An appellate decision is not final until the mandate issues. Bikram's counsel is asking for that process to be delayed because the planned cert. petition.

The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure expressly allow for this: “[A] stay [of a mandate] must not exceed 90 days, unless the period is extended for good cause or unless the party who obtained the stay files a petition for the writ and so notifies the circuit clerk in writing within the period of the stay. In that case, the stay continues until the Supreme Court's final disposition.”

As of August 2, 2016, the deadline for Bikram to file his petition for certiorari passed with no filing. Because the appeal to the Supreme Court did not go through, the Ninth Circuit’s decision is final.

We want to commend Evolation Yoga and the broader yoga community for their support and hard work during this trial. It’s an honor to be part of a community that cares deeply about keeping the practice and teaching of yoga freely accessible to all.

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Prohibiting Yoga Practice

Yoga Alliance fully supports the practice of yoga and its diversity. We believe that yoga is a personal practice that can be completely secular, spiritual or somewhere in between, and that there is a yoga practice for everyone. Whenever the right to practice yoga is threatened, Yoga Alliance will work to help protect that freedom.

Yoga in Schools: The Encinitas Case

Last Updated: April 6, 2015

In 2011, the Encinitas School District in California implemented an optional yoga program as an alternative to a traditional physical education course. Two parents sued the school district to stop the program in the case Sedlock v. Baird, contending that yoga is religious. In July 2013, the case’s presiding judge sided with the school district and ruled the program was not religious, which was appealed. Parents formed the organization YES! Yoga for Encinitas Students and, alongside Yoga Alliance, joined the case to actively support the District’s program.

In October 2014, Yoga Alliance submitted an amicus curiae brief to the presiding judge and compiled expert testimonies from Yoga Alliance board of directors chair Brandon Hartsell and Doshi professor of Indic and comparative theology Christopher Chapple, PhD to outline how yoga is not inherently religious and that it can be practiced in an entirely secular manner. 

On March 11, 2015, the case was argued before a three-judge panel in California's 4th District Court of Appeal. During the hearing, most of the judges' questions were directed to the plaintiffs' attorney. The judges seemed skeptical of plaintiffs' argument that the school district's yoga program endorsed Hindu religious beliefs. The court of appeals is expected to issue a ruling by June 9, 2015.

On April 3, 2015, the court of appeal determined the school district's yoga program to be "devoid of any religious, mystical or spiritual trappings," affirming the trial court ruling. Judges ruled unanimously in favor of the district in this decision, and identified Hartsell's testimony as just one piece of "abundant evidence that contemporary yoga is commonly practiced in the United States for reasons that are entirely distinct from religious ideology." The plaintiffs did not seek further review by the California Supreme Court of the Court of Appeal’s ruling by the May 13, 2015 deadline, making the victory final. Read the full appellate opinion.

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