Regulation of Yoga in New York State

 

This page was put together by Jo Brill to be of service to yoga teachers and yoga teacher trainers in New York State. It was last updated August 20, 2009.

 

For up to date information, please see www.yogaforny.org.

 

Jo can be reached at jo at yogaforawareness.org. Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

 

 

On this page:

background

recent developments

resources - where to get help and news

contacts

the law and legislative context

Material added since August 1 has been highlighted. Last updated August 20, 2009. For up to date information, please see www.yogaforny.org.

 

 

BACKGROUND - CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE STATE

 

Many yoga teacher trainers in New York State received a letter from the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (pdf) in late April 2009. BPSS is part of the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Some trainers did not received the bill. It is possible that the letter was sent only to trainers registered with Yoga Alliance.

 

The letter said that their teacher training program may need to be licensed. Several issues with the letter were identified.

  • Some people object to any licensing at all. However, NYSED considers it part of their mission to regulate all vocational training in the state.

  • There are some exceptions to the law, and some teacher trainers have written to NYSED indicating that they believe yoga teacher training is exempted. NYSED disagrees, as this memo (pdf) makes clear.

  • The letter said that teacher trainers must suspend all their programs immediately and until they complete the license approval process. Those that train teachers without a license are subject to fines up to $50,000.

  • The licensing process in New York presupposes fixed premises that meet certain standards (despite the fact that not all teacher training programs have a physical site) and regular filing of audited financial statements.

On June 19, another letter from NYSED's BPSS (pdf) was sent to a teacher trainer who had written to BPSS about a month earlier. The letter read, in part:

Our position us that Yoga teacher training schools should be licensed. However, since there is pending legislation regarding an exemption, we are deferring any prosecutions at this time. The bottom line is that until an exemption is passed, licensing would cover teacher training.

 

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

 

On May 14, at Yoga Journal's conference in New York City, attorney Len Easter spoke about the letter, and advised those who've received it to write back to say you have received the letter and are looking into how it relates to your center and its programs.

 

Alison West of Yoga Union organized a May 15 meeting with Ed Kramer and Monica Borden of BPPS. An account of the meeting can be found here. A more recent write-up of the meeting, "as approved by Carole Yates" of BPSS, is available here.

 

Legislation to exempt yoga teacher training:

 

On June 2, Senator Eric Scheiderman, D-Manhattan, introduced a bill (S.5701 of 2009) to exempt yoga teacher training programs from licensing requirements. This legislation takes note of the fact that the existing law already exempts "schools which provide instruction in the following subjects only: religion, dancing, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, dramatic art, languages, reading comprehension, mathematics, recreation and athletics."

 

Senator Schneiderman's was reported out of the Higher Education committee on June 3 (press release from Schneiderman's office) and committed to the Finance Committee. It advanced to "third reading" (that is, was ready to be voted on by the full Senate) on July 15. On July 31, Senator Scheiderman amended the bill to explicitly include yoga and martial arts as exempted subjects, and clarifies that those teaching teachers of exempted subjects are also exempt. The new bill is S.5701-A of 2009.

 

On June 3, Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal submitted legislation in the Assembly (A.8678) that was "same-as" S.5701.  On August 17, Assemblywoman Rosenthal amended her bill to be same as S.5701-A.

 

Legislation for a comprehensive overhaul in BPSS licensing process:

 

On June 8, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, introduced a bill supported by NYSED. (Assemblymember Glick chairs the relevant committee, Higher Education.) This bill.

A.8773 of 2009, is a sweeping overhaul of the law that governs BPSS activities. Among other things, the bill calls for dramatic increases in fees for schools seeking a license, raising the initial application fee to $5,000 and tripling annual fees (page 7 of the bill). It also clarifies that (even for exempted subjects) teacher training programs in those subjects are not exempt from licensing (pp. 2-3 of the bill).

 

Senator Schneiderman introduced a "same-as" bill (S.6043) on June 22. More information below.

 

 

RESOURCES

 

The Yoga Association of New York (also known as Yoga for New York) came together on June 2 - a group of yoga teacher trainers, yoga teachers and yogis determined to minimize government intervention in yoga teacher training. By Yoga for NY's second meeting on July 8, the members had hammered out a mission statement:

  • Ensure the continued ability to make yoga available to the public without government intervention.

  • Uphold and promote the principles and practices of yoga, in all its forms, in New York State and beyond.

  • Lobby state officials on current and future legislation and regulation as it relates to yoga in New York State.

  • Share the message of yoga (union) to promote health, vitality, peace, and freedom.

Yoga for New York's website is www.yogaforny.org. The group also has pages on Facebook and Twitter. To join Yoga for New York or to volunteer, please contact Rhonda at rhondahillnolan at msn.com.

 

The New York Yoga Teachers google group is another networking opportunity. To join, please send a note to jo at yogaforawareness.org.

 

If you are looking for business counseling, the Small Business Administration may be helpful. One of their missions is to provide entrepreneurial assistance.

 

Media coverage:

Blogs:

 

Yoga City NYC has undertaken to provide comprehensive coverage of the licensing issue. Among their many posts: an August 11 update about Yoga for New York / Yoga Association of New York, a report on the June 2 meeting at Om Factory, an article about the possible impact of licensing requirements on small studios, a story about the May 15 meeting with state regulators, a story about the May 14 YJ conference, and Yoga City's original story on the letter, and the longer follow-up, together with a response from Yoga Alliance.

 

Also blogging on the issue:

Twitterers, follow yogaforny. Check out (and use) the #NYSYogaReg tag.

 

 

CONTACTS

Yoga Association of New York - also known as Yoga for New York

  • Facebook, Twitter.

  • General contact: yogaassociationny at gmail.com.

  • Alison West, Director: yogaunion at nyc.rr.com.

  • Rhonda Hill Nolan, Volunteer Coordinator: rhondahillnolan at msn.com.

  • Jo Brill, Liaison to Other States and administrator of the New York Yoga Teachers google group: jo at yogaforawareness.com.

NYSED

  • Carole W. Yates, Director (and author of the memo), Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision: 518-474-3969, cyates at mail.nysed.gov.

  • Edward G. Kramer, Supervising Investigator (and author of the April letter and the June letter), Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision: 212-643-4760, ekramer at mail.nysed.gov.

  • Monica Borden, Licensing Supervisor.

Government officials

Yoga Alliance

  • Mark Davis, President and CEO, rmdavis at yogaalliance.org

 

THE LAW AND LEGISLATIVE CONTEXT

 

Licensing of training programs

The letter refers to State Education Law, Article 101. That statute is available here (html) .

 

The NYS Education Department has proposed a new statute, a comprehensive overhaul of the BPSS licensing process. The legislation to implement NYSED's recommendations, A.8773 (pdf), was introduced on June 8 by Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who chairs the Higher Education Committee in the Senate.

 

As noted above, this legislation calls for dramatic increases in fees for schools seeking a license, raising the initial application fee to $5,000 and tripling annual fees (page 7 of the bill). It also clarifies that (even for exempted subjects) teacher training programs in those subjects are not exempt from licensing (pp. 2-3 of the bill).

 

NYSED's original draft is available here (html). Senator Schneiderman introduced a "same-as" bill (S.6043) on June 22. The bill has legislative history in the Senate: it was first introduced in 2008 by Senator Ken LaValle, then chair of the Higher Education committee.

 

Both the current law and the proposed law mention a requirement for re-approval of licenses: training programs must demonstrate that everyone who teaches there be licensed. (Search for "6. a. Teachers and directors" or see p. 17 of A.8773.)

 

Activity in other states: There is new licensing activity currently in Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia.

  • In Michigan, the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth has begun notifying the 25 teacher training programs in Michigan that are registered with Yoga Alliance that they must pay licensing fees or close their doors. Guidelines for schools here. According to blog post on yogajournal.com. "As of April 11 four schools had filed for licenses, four were in the process and another four have closed ... The remaining 17 have not responded. Their owners could face 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine, according to the 1943 statute." Press on licensing in Michigan: "Staying flexible: rules on instructor training force Kalamazoo yoga businesses to bend quickly" (July 26, Kalamazoo Gazette), and "Michigan Yoga Teacher Charged with Criminal Misdemeanor," (August 1, Yopa Journal's Yoga Buzz blog).

  • Virginia recently moved to require that yoga teacher trainers become licensed. Guidelines for schools here. A yoga teacher from Virginia, Patty Kearney, has started a blog to discuss the impact of these licensing requirements - she shares feedback she got after writing to all the Yoga Alliance-registered schools in Michigan and Virginia. Also, Virginia yoga teachers have come together to start a facebook page and record a video. Press in Virginia: "Bent out of Shape: Commonwealth regulations tie yoga schools up in knots" (July 14, Richmond Times-Dispatch).

  • Yoga teacher training programs in Wisconsin and Arizona must apply for state approval. Wisconsin's requirement has been in place since 2004, perhaps earlier. Guidelines for Wisconsin schools here, exemptions here. Guidelines for Arizona schools here.

Activity in other disciplines:

  • Martial arts practitioners in New Jersey organize on Facebook.

  • Move to regulate personal trainers and fitness instructors in New Jersey is opposed by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) and IDEA Health & Fitness Association.

Licensing of yoga teachers and/or yoga therapists

No such legislation is currently active in Albany. Also, such licensing is beyond the scope of the current and proposed laws, which cover only yoga teacher training programs and yoga teacher trainers.

 

In previous years, New York legislators have introduced bills affecting practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine, including two variations of "health freedom" legislation.

 

1. Registration and regulation of natural and complementary practitioners. In the 2005-2006 session, this bill (pdf - A.4404 Gianaris/S.3334 Maziarz), as first drafted, provides for registration and consumer education, and would likely have covered yoga teachers as well as yoga therapists and ayurvedic practitioners. As amended, yoga, pilates and reiki were specifically excluded; ayurveda was included. The bill was first introduced in 2004 and has not been re-introduced since 2005-2006.

 

2. The complementary and alternative health freedom of access act. This bill (pdf - A.8733 Benedetto), was introduced in the 2007-2008 session to provide for education of consumers instead of licensing. That bill did not have a Senate sponsor. It did not move in committee, and was not re-introduced in the current session.

 

More about health freedom legislation in other states here (html). New Mexico's is the most recent.

 

Some of the impetus for health freedom legislation is driven by naturopaths. In the 2009-2010 session, there are some bills about licensing naturopaths specifically: a two-house bill (A.1370 Hoyt/S.1930 Lavalle, first introduced in 2004) and a one-house bill (A.3457 Perry). These have not moved in committee.

 

This page was put together by Jo Brill to be of service to yoga teachers and yoga teacher trainers in New York State. Jo is a teacher but not a trainer. She has worked as a legislative aide in the New York State Assembly and has organized several issue campaigns.

 

Jo can be reached at jo at yogaforawareness.org.