That's a stretch: states seek to regulate yogis

Wed Sep 2, 2009 12:30pm EDT
 
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By Edith Honan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. yogis are being asked to regulate more than their breathing -- and they are fighting back.

About 50 yogis gathered in New York recently to discuss hiring a lobbyist and raise funds to fight a state proposal to require certification of yoga teacher training programs -- a move they say would unfairly cost them money.

"It has brought us under one roof," said Fara Marz, who held the gathering at his Om Factory yoga studio in New York. "And this shows that yogis can be vicious, political, together."

Yoga enthusiasts who say autonomy is fundamental to what they do are pitted against state governments eager for a slice of what the Yoga Journal says has become a $6 billion industry with yoga practiced by 16 million Americans.

The fight has underscored the difficulty of regulating yoga studios that have become ubiquitous on Main Streets and in gyms across the country without appearing heavy-handed or infringing on religious freedom.

New York's yoga instructors first attracted the state's attention last spring, when the education department announced training schools could face up to $50,000 fines if they did not submit to state regulation that governs vocational training. After protests from yoga proponents, the education department withdrew its plans.

Perhaps yogis can breathe easily in New York. The state legislature is considering a bill that would exempt them from vocational school certification.

"The message from the community has been loud and clear: get your government hands off my yoga mat," State Senator Eric Schneiderman said in a statement. "Next time, the state will think twice before threatening a practice that brings so much tranquility to New Yorkers."   Continued...

 
<p>Yoga instructor Emily Conradson does a handstand in the expanded studio space at "Om Factory" yoga studio in New York, in this picture taken August 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jamie Fine</p>