As an unregulated industry Yoga has had its fair share of controversy over the years. It was first introduced to the West in the early 1900’s after the lifting of an immigration ban to the US which allowed for a variety of ‘Yoga’ masters to visit the USA where they spent time teaching the history and philosophy of yoga. This drew many people to the idea of this new way of life that would make you healthier, happier and more content.
It wasn’t until 1947 when the first Yoga studio appeared in West Hollywood, opened by a German actress called Indra Devi. Indra had been introduced to Yoga as a diplomat’s wife in Mumbai. People flocked to the studio as they were drawn to the many health benefits yoga had to offer. From here as they say the rest is history. Fast forward to 2021 and the global Yoga industry is worth a staggering $88billion and by 2025 it’s expected to increase to $215 billion. The US Yoga market is worth around $12billion and the UK market around $908million***.
With such desirable monetary opportunity, it’s opened the door to low standards, unethical behaviour, discrimination and a lack of understanding and respect for Yoga’s roots and its original intention.
You may have heard of Yoga Alliance and come across Yoga Alliance.org (YA USA). Originally formed in 1997 it was understood that a national standard was needed for Yoga teacher trainings. 1999 saw the birth 0f Yoga Alliance.org as a new non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting yoga, it developed a voluntary registry to recognise yoga schools and yoga teachers whose training met their existing standards. By 2007 YA USA went international.
The need for training standards started to spread over to the UK and in 2006 Yoga Alliance UK was officially founded by Brian Cooper and Bruce Mackay. This came after Brian was in close contact with YA USA Board member Stephen Russell. Stephen was keen for a parallel organisation to be set up however, sadly after he left the Board of YA USA communication between the two organisations stopped. However, this didn’t stop Brian and Bruce and they continued their mission to raise standards for Yoga teacher trainings and stand up against the fitness industry hijacking yoga.
In 2015 YA UK, updated their badges and moved away from RYT (still shown on YA USA) and by 2016 they had renamed themselves to Yoga Alliance Professionals to highlight their international presence for professional yoga teachers. Fast forward to today and YA UK has set up the Yoga Alliance Trainer Pro category which is where you’ll find some of the world’s leading yoga teacher trainings.
It hasn’t come without controversy with many teachers choosing to stay away because they felt it was another money-making scheme to be part of however if organisations like Yoga Alliance didn’t exist who do we lead from and how do standards get met? There have been too many schools promising to make great yoga teachers when in reality they were taking advantage of people who had a real desire of wanting to share the true essence of yoga in its entirety.
Why is it so important? In 2020 when the pandemic first reared its ugly head, I received an email from YA Professionals informing me of how to take my classes online safely. The objective? To ensure all registered teachers were insured to do so and were aware of the pros and cons of moving online. Not only was the advice informative and beneficial it also saved countless hours of research and uncertainty as to how the move from in-person classes to online would and could work. They set guidelines and created policy documents that all registered teachers had access to. Not only did this ensure the safety of students it also protected us as teachers.
Understanding who YA Professionals are and appreciating why standards need to be set and maintained makes finding a Yoga teacher training much easier. It gives the prospective student confidence they’re investing in a credible course that will provide the right tools and insurance they need to teach yoga safely and effectively.
And on the flip side as a teacher registered with YA you get first-hand information regarding industry changes, current affairs, advanced trainings and a platform where your students can learn more about you and leave reviews which adds credibility to your reputation.
Ultimately it’s about bringing together a community of liked minded people who have a vested interest in ensuring Yoga is protected and respected from its heritage and roots to its place in modern day society. Ensuring schools and classes are inclusive and aligned with yoga’s core ethics.
As time has moved on although still separate organisations, both YA UK and the YA USA are starting to align with standards, which is a great step forward.
For any un-regulated industry its essential high standards are set and maintained in order for that industry to survive and in Yoga’s case to ensure the roots of our beloved practise are protected and respected to the highest degree.
***Source https://www.wellnesscreatives.com/yoga-industry-trends/ (IBIS Worlds)