What follows is an open letter (email) to Yoga Alliance (YA) in regard to their recent change in policy to allow all-online yoga teacher teacher “trainings” permanently. Yoga Alliance is a “registering body” that “oversees” yoga in the world. They do not “certify,” only register teachers and schools that have met certain minimum standards.  I and my yoga teacher training are registered with them for the benefit of my students only, though only rarely does it matter to someone wanting to be trained through my school.  In some regions of the country and some places, being registered with them is a requirement for being hired to teach yoga.

The original intent behind what became YA was to have yoga people governing themselves and setting standards for themselves to keep government from doing it, which would be far worse, of course.  It’s a noble attempt in the direction, and must be difficult to manage, and as it exists in this world, it has its advantages and, in my view, many disadvantages.  The disadvantages probably don’t (quite) outweigh the advantages, given the original intent and function of the organization, which it still serves, as a few years ago when some State–and to a lesser extent Federal–governments  were making a grab at yoga teacher trainings for some of their profits.

The all-online format for teacher trainings was originally completely disallowed–rightfully–by YA and the entire world-wide yoga community but was allowed temporarily during the Covid lockdown time. Though I was against it at that time and expressed that to them, this letter is about the change to make it permanent.

This blog is not my usual “feel-good” or “get inspired” or “deeply profound” writing.  It is instead what I felt was a necessary “calling bullshit bullshit” to an organization that I feel obligated to be a part of even though I am against it in so many ways and continually question its actual helpfulness in the yoga world. This letter may only be of interest to Yoga Alliance members, those considering YA, those wondering why I don’t and won’t offer an all-online option for my training (Go Deep Yoga Teacher Training and Deeper Yoga Studies), and possibly and hopefully to other yoga teacher trainers.

Here’s the letter:

Once again YA made sure a survey gives the results you had wanted in advance. By only sending the survey that ostensibly led to the policy change to the Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Schools that were actually using the 2020-21Online Teaching Exemption (OTE), you guaranteed the results.  Why would you only ask the programs that were directly profiting from the exemption (a fact you only mention in the fine print of your email announcement!)?  How about including the thousands of other yoga schools, trainers, teachers, and practitioners in the world, or me?!

Then you went the unnecessary extra step of not even giving an option in your questions for all-online trainings not being OK moving forward! (see: https://issuu.com/yogaalliance/docs/yoga_alliance_teacher_exemption_survey?fr=xKAE9_zU1NQ Note in those survey results the obvious absence of any question about the value of live, in-person vs. online and the exclusive focus only on which mode of online they thought best! Also note the very small number of actual respondents, most notably ONLY 54 trainers/lead trainers, the people actually doing the training of the students!)

Essentially you asked this question: “Hey, people who are using and making money from this exemption that pre-Covid we had all agreed was completely not OK. How about we just keep it going in the future? Do you think that’s 1. A great idea or 2. A good idea? OK, most of you agree that it’s a great idea, and the ones that don’t think it’s still a good idea! The people have spoken!”

You just let 581 people, 273 of whom were students—who are learners and not experienced yoga teachers!—override the previous will and advice of over 12,000! You have shown who you actually represent. (see: https://yastandards.com/online-learning/?ref=blog.yogaalliance.org Note there–besides all of it!–the stringent requirements originally suggested–pre-Covid–for online trainings that your current standards have completely nullified!)

WTF? Why even play this game? It’s unsightly and cheap. Just make your executive decision and move forward. Be honest.

Then you felt the need to dress it up for yourselves by saying it’ll help bring yoga to under-served populations, which most liberal yoga-people including myself are all for. In this case though, it’s basically you saying, “We’ll just give them the lowest quality training. It’ll be adequate for them.” I see that as a shining example of the “liberal” but nonetheless racist and classist attitude. Think about it: It’s not legal to give all-online training in hair cutting, so why would we expect to be able to do it with Yoga? Economically poor as well as brown-skinned populations could make a career of doing people’s hair, but the States say it’s not OK to do it online only; they have to be in-person.

The Standards Review Project survey that included many thousands of responses from the ENTIRE yoga community clearly told us that all-online training (even a lot of online training) wasn’t OK, AND that 90% of training hours needed to be Contact hours, meaning “in-person Contact hours!” Remember that?  90% in-person, with actual bodies in the same room, sharing physical space, air and life energy.  Now Zooming together for a paltry 15% of the time is sufficient, purposely ignoring the thousands of inputs that the previous standards had been built on and completely withholding any possibility for the larger yoga world to inform your decision even though it already had.

Even more disturbingly, if that is possible, your 15% minimum of what you call “synchronous” training (online at the same time, “all together”) also actually WAY UNDERCUTS what your own OTE survey responses indicated, which was that 61%-76% should be live online (synchronous)! Where did you lose the extra 50%+? Who decided to ignore those suggestions and cut out an extra half (100+ hours!) of the suggested synchronous training time? (see again: https://issuu.com/yogaalliance/docs/yoga_alliance_teacher_exemption_survey?fr=xKAE9_zU1NQ, noting the percentages given, compared to YA’s decision for 15% minimum for live online.)

Though the “original” Standards Review Project, too, was, of course, also completely designed to give you the answers that you wanted at its inception, that survey at least took over a year to finish. It is now completely in the trash heap, along with the now-currently-meaningless “updated standards” and any semblance of YA integrity. It still looks to me like YA exists for YA, and you can get more members with this current permanent change, plain and simple. It doesn’t actually serve Yoga; if it could, you would have asked all of us–the entire yoga community–not just the profiteers.

Full disclosure, as an owner and lead trainer of an RYS since 2004, I could personally benefit from this change, but in 2020 I let my teacher training lapse during the all-online time since I was clear that it would have cheated my students and the Yoga-world would have been the worse for it. I made note of my disapproval of the Covid-induced, profit-driven shift of YA allowing all-online trainings back then.

With this current, permanent change, only owners and teachers of such trainings, and Yoga Alliance will profit. You all will call that “being benefited.” Yoga and the students in the all- or majority-online trainings (and their future students) won’t benefit from it, though they may believe that they do. YA just made a major stride toward irrelevance while continuing to cheapen yoga in the world. In doing so, however, at least you elevated what I and many others are offering (my teacher training offering is here again: https://lovingkindnessyogaschool.com/ytt/)

So sad. Severe disappointment from this long-time yogi, yoga teacher, and RYS teacher trainer. If I hadn’t expected this announcement since 2020 (yes!), I would have been more disappointed, but it’s still a sad day in Yoga history which I will certainly include in my teaching of that.

In the future, if you just change your name to Yoga Business Alliance, as I’ve said for years–or even better, Yoga Asana Business Alliance–that would be more honest advertising, and this email would not be in your inbox. No artificial “survey” is needed to make that decision.

In conclusion, I don’t share Dani Hayes’ (Head of Community Engagement at Yoga Alliance) optimistic view that “Our shared goal of creating accessible, equitable yoga for everyone sets the stage for real change in the yoga community and in the world.” If we’re serious about providing that, we should be giving it away for free if need be to previously under-served populations who want it and will use it, as I have done on occasion. The “real change” is that you just OK’d the “dumbed-down” yoga that Covid “necessitated.”

Did you ever wonder why didn’t schools just keep going online after the Covid?  It was because it simply wasn’t best for the students or for the learning.  Period. It was actually downright bad. You ignore any observation of the well-documented loss in learning in the schools across the Country that resulted from the Covid-necessitated online schooling, and instead codified it in your policy.

I also disagree with her(?) statement that “At Yoga Alliance, we believe that if more people practice yoga, the better the world will be….” From what I’ve seen as a teacher and teacher trainer, those who come to classes having only done (even lots of) online yoga only rarely have any idea what they are doing on the mat, though yes, their practices online were better than nothing.  Will that make the world better if more people did it?  Maybe but maybe not.  I’d guess not.

Thank you for your time in reading this far, with no expectation on my side of any response or change on your’s. Really, don’t waste any time on a response unless my comments bring a change. If the response could be written by AI, it’s unnecessary and definitely not wanted. Just delete this email, and keep going as you see fit.  You didn’t want my opinion before, and you are free to ignore it now, too.

In peace.

Ti Harmony