At Yoga Alliance, our role is to support and serve the yoga community, including yoga teachers, schools, studios, practitioners, and the public — members and non-members alike. Every day, we do this through education, advocacy, benefits, credentialing (standards), and through the Yoga Alliance Foundation, which is now dedicated to bringing yoga to underserved populations. As part of our organizational dharma — both in our founding and today — we have taken on a responsibility to set, maintain and evolve yoga teaching standards which are now widely adopted and recognized throughout the world. Recently, we have received feedback from many reputable people inside and outside our organization sharing their belief that the standards need review. We have heard you, and we agree. In a rapidly changing world, it’s good to take a moment now and then for self-inquiry. This is our moment.
While change of any sort can be daunting, we believe this inquiry into standards is long overdue and in the best interest of everyone. After all, can you imagine any trusted field that sets guidelines without periodically considering their effectiveness? Would you consider what traditionally happens to industries and practices that fail to evaluate and adapt to evolving cultural, societal or moral shifts that modify the human landscape over time? And how do you feel about organizations that fail to regularly check in with their members, customers, and partners to see whether they are serving well and with the highest quality and integrity? As a service organization, it is our responsibility to review our present course and ensure that the path forward properly directs us toward supporting a healthy, safe, and vibrant yoga community.
Other practical considerations also play a critical role in the need for a standards review. Advancements in understandings of biomechanics, neuroscience, yoga history, and social theory have challenged some past beliefs about yoga and yoga teaching. Reviewing and identifying opportunities for greater understanding and wisdom will bring the Yoga Alliance standards into alignment with the contemporary needs of society while continuing to promote the growth of yoga worldwide.
On your behalf, Yoga Alliance is committed to evaluating its standards in a way that honors stability while also creating space for innovation. That is why we are working collectively with our members, non-members, experts from inside and outside the field of yoga — and you — in an open, inclusive and transparent process that demonstrates a new level of community involvement in our field. Working together, as partners, for the greater good of society, and finding areas of commonality for the health and well-being of our shared community, is the right thing to do, and is also at the very core of yoga.
As part of the Standards Review Project, expert advisors and others will also help evaluate and make recommendations for a clear position on the appropriate scope of practice for yoga teachers in modern society, and suggest best practices related to ethics as expressed in a code of conduct. Yoga is a healing balm for millions worldwide, and yet it is not exempt from stories of unethical practices and misconduct. Therefore, in addition to basic competency standards, an enforceable Code of Conduct and Scope of Practice is needed to clarify appropriate boundaries for teachers and also earn the ongoing trust and confidence of students so that the teachings can do the most good.
To date, Yoga Alliance has never established clearly defined accountability structures to help the community manage breaches of ethical conduct. With the help of experienced thought leaders on the subject, we are committed to getting this right. It is important to note, however, that Yoga Alliance has no intention of serving as a replacement for law enforcement or the judicial system. Nor are we the “yoga police.” Instead, Yoga Alliance is in a unique position to offer important guidelines and resources based on a wealth of knowledge and history from yoga’s diverse practitioners. We intend to represent teachers and schools with the highest level of integrity and help the industry grow into a more sophisticated and appropriate era that respects and recognizes advancements in society.
To be clear, Yoga Alliance will continue to embrace and encourage the freedom of yoga teachers to teach in their own style, lineage, tradition or organizational philosophy. It is also our duty to help facilitate teachers’ education to elevate safety, inclusivity, diversity, accessibility, sensitivity and ethical standards.
Ultimately, a core yogic reason for reviewing standards is to simply take a moment to reflect on where we are, and where we hope to go together. There is much to learn from our collective experiments in yoga. Therefore, we will honor the full range of yoga approaches, practices, philosophies, schools, and histories that resulted in the impressive interest and growth in yoga in recent decades, and establish standards that serve the modern teacher and student. That is why your voice matters. With your guidance, we will do this together to chart an evolved, realistic, and inspirational path forward.
We are grateful for the service you offer humanity through the teaching of yoga.
Thank you for your skill, compassion and wisdom.