Economy

Should Your Yoga Instructor Need A License?

March 2nd 2015

By:
Laura Donovan

Yoga is supposed to be relaxing, but in Colorado, the peaceful practice has been a great source of tension lately. Last week, lawmakers approved a bill that exempts yoga instructors from Division of Private Occupational Schools (DPOS) fees and regulations, appeasing many yogis but concerning those who believe certification and licensing are necessary in this line of work. The bill is now in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will determine whether yoga trainers in the state must be licensed once and for all. 

Lorna Candler, the director of DPOS and yoga teacher, told the New York Times that the proposed regulations aren't intended to "gouge the little guy," but to "uphold the law" and establish some order in the yoga classes. The state of Colorado has mandated yoga teacher certification since 1981, but that entails paying a fee, obtaining board approval, and filing paperwork, and many studios have gotten away with dodging these hefty and arguably important requirements. 

The licensing fracas we're seeing in Colorado isn't limited to yoga centers. Whether you want to teach college or become a massage therapist, anything is possible as long as you're willing to accept the possibility of student debt or licensing fees. With higher education costs skyrocketing, economists are encouraging millennials to consider trades. But the argument against licensing fees is that they are regressive against such persons. In Colorado, the lady who wants to help you master the Dove pose might be penalized for lacking the financial resources for proper certification. A few years ago, Jestina Clayton was forced to shut down her Utah hair braiding business for failing to obtain a cosmetology license, which can cost more than $15,000. A federal judge ultimately sided with Clayton, but because she'd already closed up shop, that meant starting over to rebuild the business.

"Why should everyone else who’s doing hair have to conform to requirements and not her?" Brad Masterson, a spokesman for the Professional Beauty Association, told the Times in 2012 when asked about Clayton's situation. 

But are licensing fees necessarily bad?

Last year, Scottsdale-based animal masseuse Grace Granatelli was confronted by the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board for working without a license, which is mandatory for providing massage services to pets. What Grantatelli often found herself doing to comfort anxious dogs was actually against the law, and while California doesn't force pet masseuses to earn licenses, Arizona works differently, and each state's licensing board in the American Veterinary Medical Association gets to make the call whether massages are categorized as veterinary care or not.

The standards for anything pertaining to medical care are understandably high, but where do you draw the line? As Matt Yglesias once wrote for Think Progress, forcing mall Santas and clowns to get licensed merely because massage therapists have to be comes across as unreasonable. It's one thing to want qualified professionals in health-related roles but another to place unnecessary fees on people hoping to make some extra cash and not potentially hurting anyone in the process. Perhaps that's why the yoga debacle caused such a stir in Colorado. People injure themselves doing the practice from time to time, and there's always the risk that an unlicensed instructor could be held responsible. 

Another player in the licensing debate is Uber, the millennial-loving ride sharing startup currently at war with cab services. Millennials use Uber and become drivers to pay their bills, but competitors do not like what the tech platform has done to the taxi industry. Last year, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) threatened to wreak havoc on London streets by causing gridlock traffic in protest of Uber's deceptive business model, which markets itself as a company that connects drivers to customers but comes across as a cab service. To become a driver, you need just four things: a driver's license and insurance, a 4-door car manufactured in 2005 or later, to be 21 or older, and to be someone with a great personality and entrepreneurial spirit. Meanwhile, cab drivers must be licensed, and now they're feeling punished for obtaining credentials. It doesn't help that Uber has received ample criticism in the press, and not simply for the ways its executives conduct themselves. Several Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault, sending the message to women that it's unsafe for them to use

A lot of Uber drivers are below 30 and juggling other jobs, so it's only natural that they'd want to pick up work here and there from the app. For the large group of Uber drivers with other sources of income, there's not much incentive to get licensed and go the cabbie route. But for any service in which a person's life could be at risk (that, of course, doesn't generally include hair braiding), it makes sense that the one performing the task should be properly vetted and licensed. 

Let us know what you think.