This has taken many people in the yoga community by surprise. Just this morning, I participated in Yoga Alliance’s Registered Yoga Schools meeting, and one particular point that came up has really stuck in my mind. They said that programs that include curriculum that they construe to be yoga therapy could not be counted towards their RYT (registered yoga teacher) registration, meaning that those hours or that training can't be counted as part of an RYT program. They did say a training could include those topics (with a disclaimer) but the hours wouldn't apply toward Yoga Alliance registration.
My understanding of this comment is that programs such as Accessible Yoga Teacher Training, which I’ve been leading for many years, could not be included in an RYT300 or RYT500 training and count toward registration. These programs may be therapeutic, yet they offer another essential service: They train yoga teachers to share the teachings with people with disabilities who don't have access through traditional channels.
Yoga Alliance says that it doesn’t offer registration for yoga therapy programs that diagnose or treat any medical conditions, and it's clear that some programs are doing that. But there are also programs like mine, that are focused on sharing yoga with people with disabilities, chronic illness, seniors, and anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in a traditional yoga class. I don't believe these programs are focusing on diagnosis or treatment, rather they focus on adapting yoga and making it accessible to every one.
This subtle difference between these types of programs is very important to the disability community, and Accessible Yoga is focused on this very point. Disability is not the same as disease. People with disabilities can feel whole and complete and practice adaptive yoga without the need for yoga therapy - or any therapy. In other words, adaptive yoga is not the same as yoga therapy, yet this policy seems to group them together.
With this policy, YA may be discriminating against people with disabilities and reducing access to the yoga teachings. I realize that they are not directly restricting access, but by saying that these special programs cannot be included in their registration system they are discouraging the majority of yoga teachers from taking these types of trainings.
One additional thought: On the conference call this morning, Yoga Alliance said that their new policy was designed to protect the general public. This left me dumbfounded. If Yoga Alliance was really concerned for the general public, then they would look at what they could do to reduce the injuries that are occurring in yoga classes.
After years of working in the yoga world, I have almost never heard of any injuries occurring in adaptive, therapeutic, or restorative yoga classes. Yet, I’ve heard countless stories of people getting injured in more physically active yoga classes. I love all yoga, but considering ways to reduce potential harm to yoga students would be a great place for Yoga Alliance to start – rather than discouraging yoga teachers from getting training in sharing yoga with all.