States Say Yoga Teacher Training Schools Need a License

Greedy Government Action or Good for the Profession?
Yoga studios around the country are starting to get letters from their State Departments of Education saying that yoga teacher trainings are “vocational” trainings and therefore each school must pay a licensing fee. So far this has happened in Michigan, New York, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. I’m sure this will spread to more states very soon, and I predict that soon individual teachers will need to have a license as well.

Yoga Alliance (YA), the yoga community’s self-governing body, is a non-profit organization and therefore cannot lobby on the yoga teacher’s behalf. They acknowledges that small yoga schools and studios may not be able to comply with the fees and lengthy process and therefore have to close their teacher training programs and “for this we are sad.”

Here are some pros and cons that I see so far:

  • Yoga licensing is a step towards being covered by insurance. Hmmm…maybe that’s a con.
  • Yoga will have more credibility and teachers will be held to higher standards
  • Students may be able to apply for federal aid.
  • Shouldn’t yoga studios and schools be treated like every other business / school?


  • The states are now taking a cut of the yoga revenue stream which means that ultimately yoga class and training prices will probably go up.
  • Some of your favorite studios may go under, as many studios rely on teacher training programs for income and might not be able to make it without. Studios in Michigan have already closed as they cannot afford to pay the fee.
  • Some of your teachers may no longer be able to teach or may need to take further training to qualify for the possible required teacher license. Yoga teachers typically DO NOT make a lot of money and trainings are expensive.
  • The implementation of these new (and sometimes old) laws has been poor:
  1. NY will levy a $50,000 fine to any school that does not comply, and schools must wait 8 months for their license, during which time they cannot run their programs.
  2. In Michigan, school owners had just 7 days to comply or face 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
  3. Studios in VA may have their license revoked if they do not comply immediately.

In all my research I have not seen a single reason for WHY these laws are suddenly being put in place. Anyone?

Other resources on this topic:

  • A yoga teacher from Virginia, Patty Kearney, has started a  blog to discuss the impact of these licensing requirements
  • Yoga educator Leslie Kaminoff weighs in, with a very interesting response from David Scott Lynn:
  • Press coverage in NY
  • Yoga Journal blog posting:
  • Information from Jo Brill about what’s happening in NY
  • To give you an idea of what schools will have to go through to comply, here are the guidelines for Virginia

More opinions:

What are your thoughts on this issue?


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10 Responses to “States Say Yoga Teacher Training Schools Need a License”

  1. Tanya Zimmerli Says:

    Another con is that the people who are interested in running a “professional school” are not necessarily the same people who have the most experience and skill in training new teachers. I think this will drive some of our best teachers out of teacher training and in the long run it will be the students who suffer.

    Is it really the same to teach an auto mechanic to fix cars as it is to teach yoga teachers to teach students? There seems to be no place in these states for the differences between an “art” and a trade.

  2. Olga Rasmussen Says:

    I am following this with great interest. Something similar is happening with Reiki and states seeking greater regulation and requiring a massage license to do this kind of work.

    This is an unfortunate development and turn of events for yoga practitioners and especially for those running successful teacher training programs – even though trainings are not all created equal.

    I think this is a perfect opportunity for the masses of yoga practitioners to become involved – fight this – and like Obama did during his campaign – embody the mantra – “Yes we can!” And I would add – and “No, we’re not going to take it!”

  3. Kirsty Says:

    Hi really like your Blog, what are you thoughts on hatha yoga? I also found this really good guide on yoga that I think I might get, do you know any one that has got it and if it is any good? Here is the link

  4. David Scott Lynn Says:

    Hi Julia,

    Thanks for saying my comment on e-Sutra was interesting. I appreciate it very much. And I hope you meant *interesting* in a positive way! And thanks for keeping this issue going.

    RE: your question of why, all of a sudden, a bunch of states are getting all adamant about yoga trainings being compliant with their laws. …

    I imagine this will sound too conspiratorial to some or many people, but here is my take on the whole thing. … And the only reason I comment is because a VERY significant part of my life had been devoted to examining such issues. I’ve spent, literally, thousands of hours over the last 25 years studying political economy, history, the philosophy of the American Revolution, and so on, to learn what has been going on in the home of the occasionally brave and the land of the free, when it’s convenient. Especially since in 1984 when four of my clients who were attorneys, and who loved my work, said it was only a matter of time before I was arrested for the work I was doing to help people get better with only hands-on work and yoga. That was in Chicago, and I only lived 6 blocks from AMA headquarters. I was pretty naive about how things really work.

    I have, literally, sat with attorneys for many hours who specialized in defending licensed medical doctors who were being prosecuted by The State for things like using nutrition or chelation in their practices. Or dentists taking the mercury out of patients mouths. They gave me quite an education.

    Anyway, in 1984, the DPR (Department of Professional Regulation) in Illinois (I had friends who worked there and kept me informed of what was going on) was being pressured by the Special Interests to pass a law that would make nutritional consulting illegal, unless performed by a Registered Dietician (RD). This would have put ALL alternative nutritionists in Illinois out of business. And of course, we would have had to subject ourselves to the absolute tragedy of having RDs in charge of dietary and nutritional health in Illinois. That would have been the equivalent of telling everyone that the way to relax their muscles was, rather than to do yoga or meditate, to take muscle relaxing drugs. Which is of course the basic paradigm of health care in most of the United States today.

    Although I was not a nutritionist (I was a yoga & bodywork therapist), I felt I needed to get involved. Long Story Short is that when my friend Steve (who had been a nutritional consultant for one of the leading macrobiotic doctors in America) and I were lobbying in Springfield, Illinois against the RD act, we learned many things about how politics REALLY works, right from the horses mouths.

    (One of my Clients was the majority whip leader of the Senate at the time, and had been in the legislature for like 20 years or so, so he gave me access to his offices in the state capital and certain resources. But he told me, point blank, that he could not help me directly because the Special Interests he regularly worked with would be directly against us. So he had to not make any waves with them or lose funding and other support. But he did covertly help us because he was getting so many benefits from my therapy.)

    So, Steve and I were wandering around the state house one night and we had a chance encounter with a man who had worked there for many years, and who knew a lot of things. He told us that IF the word went out from certain people that this RD backed statute WOULD pass, we would not have a chance of stopping it. But until that word went out, we might have a chance at stopping it. We did, thankfully, win. We had also told, by THE leader of the Democrats, that our issue was more likely to be taken up by the Republicans, because Democrats were pro-Big Government. So, since licensing is a pro-big government thing, they would not be helping us. THAT was the biggest revelation to me! … I’m glad he at least told us the truth. I had always thought the Democrats were for the Little Guy, and alternative nutritionists were certainly the Little Guy in this game. But here, the leader of the Democrats told me I had it wrong. So I was all of a sudden Steve and I were making friends with Republicans (and their assistants, which was where you get the REAL help), which had NOT been in my game plan!

    This got me thinking. … And studying. … A LOT!

    So, right or wrong, here is what my years of research has led me to believe:

    When a particular business that competes with a Special Interest (SP) gets big enough, and has the potential to take money or influence away from the SP, then it becomes time to either suppress the new business or BUY them out and control them.

    The medical system tried, VERY aggressively, for several decades to put alternative medical and chiropractic physicians out of business, sometimes with near violence. In the long run, they failed, although MANY doctors who tired to deliver nutritional medicine were ruined in the process. There is even a federal court case that went on for ELEVEN YEARS in which chiropractors FINALLY won, and the Judge said, point blank, that the AMA and related organizations and individuals were guilty of a conspiracy to destroy the profession of chiropractic. Now, the SPs were all of a sudden getting too many losses in their many legal actions against the alternative medical community. (Which were seldom even mentioned in the Main Stream News Media, let alone reported on in a balanced way.)

    So the NEW strategy of the SPs has been to control and restrain the competition by buying them out. It’s not REALLY new because the SPs adopted this strategy in many more important industries in the 1910s through 1940s, with the help of people like Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Rather than compete in truly free-markets, the SPs quietly and in the background used the power of The States and the Federal government to get control of various industries.

    Read the **Medical Mafia** by Guylaine Lanctot, M.D. for her very good, in-depth explanation. She practiced medicine in France, Canada and the U.S., and understands how the system really works.

    So today, we hear that the free-market has failed us in health care. So The State has to take over the system. Except, there has NOT been a truly free-market in health care for many decades. Ever since the Flexner Report in 1910 (financed by the SPs of drug-based and high-tech medicine), health care has been heavily regulated by The States all along, and the reason we have WAY too high prices and a BIG shortage of at least 200,000 doctors, and that medicine is all about drugs and surgery rather than diet, nutrition and exercise (including yoga), is BECAUSE of The States (and the Feds) having been in bed with the medical SPs for all these decades. The SPs — drugs and hi-tech companies, insurance companies and hospitals — have been protected from competitive, free-market forces all along. They might complain a lot, but it is mostly a show to make the public believe the SPs are against more regulation. … Unless they are TRULY free-enterprise based, they are NOT really against regulation. But most of them have long been in bed with the politicians.

    So when people tell you The State has to get control to contain costs and improve the system, you ARE being conned. The States have been (behind the scenes) indirectly protecting this ANTI-free-enterprise system all along. And they have protected the drug companies all along. And now they want to run it all DIRECTLY. Well, what they are saying is that they are going to let the State-appointed experts run it. Who re the experts? Why, the people who run the drug companies, of course.

    IF we had a TRUE free-market, the drug companies would not be anywhere near the size they are, if they existed as independent entities at all, and they would have been held directly accountable for all the lives they have damaged or destroyed along the way. As it is, many laws protect them from liability for negative reactions from their drugs.

    Same for the current Banking Meltdown. They are trying to tell us that it was DE-regulation that caused the current problems. That is COMPLETELY bogus. The banking system is so heavily regulated you would be buried for years if you tried to read and understand just ten percent of the regulations. Our system was designed, all the way back in 1913, to protect the interests of the ANTI-free-enterprise bankers FROM free-market forces, and ensure their monopoly privileges, which can only last very long if protected by The State. And the banking system has been built upon several absolute frauds from day one. A fraud is a fraud, no matter how much you supposedly DE-regulate it. And they could NEVER have gotten away with all this in a true free-enterprise system. But with too few exceptions, too many Americans were asleep at the wheel when this government-backed fraud all went down way back when.

    But most Americans today could not actually explain what the American Free-Enterprise system was all about, nor how it applies in any of these modern situations. So they believe all the propaganda on TeeVee and Olds-papers (nothing really new) that the only thing that can save us is intervention by the Feds, be it health care or the economic system or auto industry.

    Which is like saying the only way you can relax your muscles is by taking muscle relaxing drugs.

    So THAT is what’s happening … I think. …

    The very profitable Yoga field has to be incorporated into The System so that it does not pose too much of a threat to the system. Any stories that it is really about protecting the Public or ensuring standards is a Fairy Tale for those who still believe the The State is primarily here to help us. … RIGHT!

    • Doug Says:

      thanks Julia. great article.

      two things…
      first, it is interesting that Yoga Alliance doesn’t do lobbying. there is space then for an organization to emerge to start representing yoga teachers and studios.

      second, very interesting comments David! my wife was a nutritionist in VA and we saw first hand an attempt by the state gov’t to pass a ver similar bill. so my question here is this: ‘who are the special interest groups who are behind these bills? who stands to benefit from regulating teacher traning? I don’t see a direct link to pharmaceutical companies, so I was wondering what others were thinking.

      thanks for creating a place for this kind of dialogue Julia!

  5. David Scott Lynn Says:

    Hey Doug, thanks for your comment on my comment. Much appreciated.

    RE: ‘who are the special interest groups’? who would want to regulate yoga?

    I don’t know if you follow it, and it does take some searching around, but the financiers behind our medical system have for decades, even back into the early 1800s, been wary of ANY services or products that take people away from the orthodox, so-called modern medical paradigm — drugs, surgery, hi-tech stuff. (And please note, I am not here referring to most doctors. They are at least as big a victim of the medical system as we are. They paid big money, and have a lot of stress, and yet were never taught the REAL health care system that most people REALLY need, as in nutrition, fitness, yoga, meditation, and etc. They can’t use what they were never taught about. And if they step too far out of line, they are taking big legal and professional risks.)

    So, if you sell a drug for depression or stress or whatever, and something comes along eliminating the need for that drug, that will cause a loss to your bottom line — Less Lucre (Lex Luther? :-)) ). (Lucre is a better word than profit because TO PROFIT means to move ahead, whether it involves money or not. So profit is not a dirty word in my book.)

    And can we think of something that might take money out of medical pockets? OH YEAH! How about YOGA!? … But since it is the least patentable — and least lucre-able — of most remedies, it can be a BIG threat to the profits of The System. ANYTHING that is too competitive with them, even indirectly, is a threat to them. And they are not dopes. They KNOW yoga works for a LOT of things. And many years ago, one of the leaders of the biggest drug companies declared he wanted to have drugs for EVERYONE in America! This is one reason there are so many “new” diseases out there that they are all too happy to develop new drugs for — as long as they are patentable and lucre-able.

    So, in the mid-20th Century, they used mostly legal action, and sometimes worse, to try and put competitors out of business — even doctors using simple nutrition in their practices. (I’ve actually read MANY of the court cases, and this is NOT an exaggeration.) But, as The People got smarter and more informed about alternative health care, and demand exploded, it became harder to convict and suppress. So, if they cannot get rid of it, they will attempt to control it so they can at least have some say about it, put limits on who gets in, and maybe even get some lucre. But it is far more important for them to protect drug profits, and keep in line anyone who gets in their way.

    So just like health food stores are not allowed to have statements or books about the health benefits of a product too close to the actual product on the shelf, do think maybe they will put restrictions on what you can say about the beneifts of yoga?

    And they will always say this is about protecting The Public, whom are apparently are too dumb to figure this stuff out for themselves. (Just Joking!) But state licensing has continually proven to be one of THE worst ways to protect the public, mostly because it does not, while raising the prices dramatically and depriving them of many possibilities. This in turn makes everything LESS available to more people. National Standards, if enforced by The State, are at least as bad, because what you end up with is enforced and institutionalized mediocrity. Our current medical system is total proof of this.

    And now, increasing numbers of people want to give the Federal government even MORE control over the system and the finances. So just like our current banking meltdown shows, the least competent and most corrupt people will be in charge of our health care system. What a disaster that will be. Of course, everyone will be able to access Grade C health care, for free, if they don’t mind waiting weeks, months or years for their treatment, or until the system goes bankrupt, which ever comes first. But the REAL solutions to these problems would put a huge number of people out of their cushy, government protected and/or financed jobs — banking and medical regulation being just two of them.

    If you read The Medical Mafia I mentioned above, you’ll get a better picture of all this. And there are LOTS of books on this topic. Finally, for those who do not believe there are people who would suppress good and healthy things for the sake of profit, and that the government would cooperate with or even support that, you MUST read World Without Cancer, by G. Edward Griffin, especially part 2 of the book. It’s available at

    And oh yeah, for those who say they prefer to Not Do politics? … Well, I say, if you don’t do politics, politics will soon do you. … Sorry for being negative, but its kind of like Not Doing yoga, things tend to fall apart.

  6. Jay Shanti Om Says:

    Good article – thanks for posting it –

    What concerns me is that with the money Grab – yoga will continue to turn more and more into a business instead of a spiritual practice. That is my main concern with all the extra licensing.

    I see the point of qualifications but how can you license “samadhi” or other spiritual states.

  7. doubledogyoga Says:

    You know Jay, i’m actually OK with the money grab. But just be clear that it’s a money grab, you know? And it needs to be reasonable. In VA they are requiring each studio to pay $2500 a year PLUS $150 to attend a meeting on how to fill out the extensive paperwork PLUS they then look at your earnings and take a percentage of it PLUS the studios are audited *whenever* and charged $1000 per violation if ANYTHING is out of order.

    Anyone who has stepped foot into a yoga studio knows how crazy this is. Studios are generally small businesses that don’t make a lot of money. Studios are not community colleges! Many teacher training programs are run just once a year, charge about $2500, and have maybe 10 students in them! These requirements are entirely unrealistic and will force most programs to shut down. Not good for the studios, not good for the public, and the state doesn’t even get their !@$% money. So it’s a lose-lose-lose.

  8. carrie Says:

    I am extremely concerned about this issue…

    Who exactly is behind this bill? What I can’t get a straight answer on is who pushed this forward in the first place…? where exactly did this begin?

    And where is the alliance in this – don’t we pay them to protect us? otherwise why are we bothering?

  9. doubledogyoga Says:

    Hi Carrie,

    Each state is doing their own thing. And they are very aware of what the other states are doing. In VA, they are citing some ancient statute and saying it applies to yoga TT because yoga TT is a post-secondary (it’s not) vocational (that’s up for debate) education.

    I think the pandemic began in Michigan – not sure though. Some states are hitting hard – sending out cease and desist letters and charging very high fees in NY. Others are more mellow about it – like MO.

    YA has decided to do NOTHING. Virginia is saying they will adopt YA standards, so YA thinks (I guess) that we should be happy! After all hasn’t YA set the standards for us for years? In a way, yes that’s better than the STATES setting the standards (OMG can you imagine?) So YA will now be front and center will all TT programs forced to be YA registered schools (good for YA yes?), and the studios pay the fees. Nice.

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