There are currently no official qualifications required to become a yoga instructor in the UK and there is a debate about whether or not regulation is needed to protect the public from incompetent teachers. The sector skills council for active leisure, learning and wellbeing, SkillsActive, is consulting over the next twelve months about creating a national occupational standard (NOS) to set a sector-wide minimum for yoga teaching in the UK. The initiative is backed by British Wheel of Yoga (BWY), the National Governing Body for yoga recognised by Sport England: BWY’s own Certificate and Diploma in Teaching Yoga and Diploma in Teaching Yoga are Ofqual-regulated courses at Level 4 of the National Qualifications Framework.
The intention of the consultation, says SkillsActive, is:
- to underpin industry needs in the development of new and existing yoga qualifications;
- to provide a framework for writing standardised and professional job descriptions; and
- to facilitate workforce development planning and the creation of personal and organisational development plans.
There does, however, seem to be a problem here: there appears to be no totally agreed and accepted definition as to the nature and practice of yoga. Those who practise it range from people who do yoga exercises in order to keep fit to those for whom it is a religious exercise (and, presumably, all stations in between). Critics of the proposal point out that yoga practice has always played a role – to a greater or lesser extent – in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and suggest that the consultation is, in effect, redefining yoga as a sport. The Times (£) reported Swami Ambikananda, a Hindu monk and chairwoman of the Traditional Yoga Association, as suggesting that there was no evidence that poorly-trained yoga teachers were causing physical harm to devotees. Moreover:
“We are not insensitive to people’s safety but yoga is a 7,000-year-old religion and a quasi-governmental organisation cannot regulate a religion. Attempts to do so are the height of hubris.”
It is a difficult issue. The majority of people who attend yoga classes probably see it as simply a healthy and beneficial physical exercise; and it is not too difficult to envisage circumstances in which incompetent supervision might result in the kind of physical injury that one might get from playing sport. But there is certainly a tenable argument that the proposal for regulation shades into the area of regulating religion.
So would regulation be prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the aim pursued? We merely pose the question, without any clue whatsoever as to the answer.