On Monday September 23rd, Yoga for New York met at Yoga Union to discuss a range of topics, most notably Yoga Alliance’s new listing requirements for studios that offer Teacher Training. Participating in the discussion, to the relief and delight of many, was Richard Karpel, the president and CEO of Yoga Alliance (YA). (Please see Richard Karpel's responses at the bottom.)
Hired in 2012, Karpel opened by acknowledging that there had been plenty of dissatisfaction with Yoga Alliance’s performance over the years. There were three missing elements as he saw them: 1. No benefits and services offered to members 2. More rigor and credibility needed in its credentialing system 3. More transparency necessary vis a vis YA.
While most people thought that YA offered benefits and services, in fact, the organization did not have the legal charter to do so, explained Karpel. They must operate as two entities; a 501c6 and a 501c3, YA received approval for its 501C6 earlier this year and is now able to provide formal education, publish materials, offer member benefits such as discounts on products and services including liability and health insurance, work on building a community and lastly, have strong representation. Karpel added that “the yoga community needs an organization to speak for it with one voice, which YA will do.”***
On the credentialing side, YA is looking to add more rigor and credibility. Credentialing is the umbrella term used to describe the processes through which organizations are assessed. The process began as a registry, which is not the same, and currently the registry is not designed to withstand rigor. There is no oversight for the credentialing system. Karpel indicated that this is a “major problem” and the organization is currently fixing its database and building a website to address it. “How do we make sure that the schools are actually doing what they say? How do we make sure they are keeping their standards? The website will allow us to have or provide the locus for the solutions we are looking for.”
He continued by explaining that YA will be asking for a syllabus from the schools which will be posted on the site along with the learning objectives. “We don't always know what we are asking for and people don't know what we are looking for. It’s usually an adventure. That’s why the syllabus will be helpful so that we can have oversight.”
YA intends to have social credentialing now which includes reviews and asking students to refer to the syllabus to see if it matches up with what the school markets. There will be three guiding principles:
1- No Anonymity “We know the students who go through the program. The schools will know. You tend to get more civility when people know they are accountable.”
2 - Objectivity Based on fact. "Did the school meet the learning objectives? Would you recommend this TT or school?”
3 - Feedback “We are also allowing the schools to program their own questions so they can get feedback from students, clients, etc. If you don't have that awareness about what your customers or students are thinking it is difficult to know how you are doing.”
Karpel also addressed a major concern of the day – in requiring studios to post their syllabi it would be easy for competitors to simply copy and paste what has taken many studios and their Directors years to devise through decades of study.
Alison West noted that “some people have worked a very, very long time to create excellent Teacher Trainings and it will be quite easy for someone to take that and use it themselves. I feel very strongly that the amount of information you are asking for is the same as handing over the Teacher Training.”
“Initially we wanted schools to make that public. We won’t do that now.*** I’m not from the education world so sometimes I get it wrong, but my sense is that your intellectual property is the knowledge that allows you to teach that,” responded Karpel.
Another attendee asked for more information on the salient aspects of credentialing. “If you are a 200 hour program than we are asking you to lay out what number of hours is for which subject. 20 hours anatomy, 20 hours philosophy, etc,” said Karpel.
Alex Patriquin of YogaSampler wanted to know if YA is designing this to be a utility or service that also helped students discover and research TT.
“Yes, in addition to that, the site will be for every Teacher or TT to have their own Directory page. You will have a nice looking profile page to drive people to you. It’s simpler that the Yoga Community itself be as transparent as possible to its students,” said Karpel. He continued, "we will ultimately find a balance. When we are c3 [501c3] we serve the public, we are a charity organization and we don’t want to hide behind a vague scrim of words.”
In other news Monday, the new YFNY board was present: Alison West is Chair of the New Board for Yoga for New York. The other members include Lauri Nemetz of Westchester Yoga Teachers, Preston Pesek of Spacious Yoga, Bruce Wilcox, Managing Partner of Ishta Yoga and Alexis Fedor.
Update:After this article was published, YogaCity NYC recieved a note from Katie Desmond at Yoga Alliance asking us to clarify YA's tax status. We have done so. We also recieved an email from Richard Karpel in response to the article. His comments below:
Richard Karpel Responds:
"We do now have the legal charter to provide our members with benefits and services, and we are not changing from a 501c6 to a 501c3. The credentialing organization will remain a 501c3 public charity, as it has always been, and our new trade and professional association will operate as a 501c6. So we are essentially two separate legal entities with a joint staff, an arrangement that is pretty standard in the nonprofit world.
Our 501c6 status was approved by the IRS earlier this year, and we have been providing our members with education, member benefits, community and representation as a 501c6 for many months now."
Second Point: "Did I really say this? If I did, I misspoke!"
"We will still encourage schools to make their syllabus public, but based on feedback we received from Registered Yoga Schools we have decided to give them the option to present it only to the trainees who will be required to evaluate their program. The syllabus that we are requiring schools to register with us is a high-level summary outline of their teacher-training program, and we think that over time our RYSs will come to agree with us that it isn't intellectual property (like a lesson plan would be, for instance) and that they and the entire yoga community will benefit if prospective trainees have access to it in order to determine which RYS is best-suited to their individual path in yoga."