Yoga under fire

Yoga teaching is a popular but understudied form of social enterprise that blends earned income with spiritual and physical health.  While the social entrepreneurship movement may not be paying due attention to the phenomenon, government officials in New York have developed a deep appreciation for yoga's value as a social business--so much so, in fact, that they've sent cease-and-desist letters to yoga teacher training programs that have not obtained a license:

The letter, addressed only to yoga studios with teacher training programs, is from the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) at the State Education Department. It states that under Section 5001(1) of the Education Law, yoga studios are required to register with the state as vocational schools, similar to bartending or pet grooming schools.

"It was a real shock because it's basically a cease and desist letter," said Alison West, owner of Yoga Union in Manhattan. "It's extraordinarily intrusive."

. . .

Mark Davis, President of the Yoga Alliance, a national non-profit that regulates and sets standards for training programs, said that it was only a matter of time before states began requiring yoga teacher training programs to be licensed.

"It's a six-billion dollar industry now," Davis said. "It's no longer fringe, it's mainstream. The yoga community has to act like other businesses out there."

That's a lesson worth noting not just by yoga teacher training programs but by all hybrid social ventures.

Next up: some reflections on President Obama's new Office of Social Innovation!