Yoga Alliance CEO Richard Karpel Answers Important Questions of new concepts and YogaGlo Patent Controversy.

Dear Registered Yoga Schools,

As we prepare to launch a new website and adopt a new, more rigorous credentialing system next month, I thought it would be a good time to review the challenges we face as well as the rationale behind the changes that we are making. For many years, Yoga Alliance has operated a credentialing system based largely on the honor code, with little oversight of our Registered Yoga Schools.

By the time I joined the organization 16 months ago, the yoga community was demanding change. You wanted us to uphold rigorous standards, and elevate what it means to be a Registered Yoga School or Registered Yoga Teacher. The challenge we faced was adding rigor to the system while continuing to fulfill Yoga Alliance’s founding charter of protecting the rich diversity of yoga. How could we add credibility to the system without adding staff, raising fees, launching investigations and becoming a heavy-handed version of the Yoga Police? It was clear that tinkering around the edges of our current system — or in R. Buckminster Fuller’s formulation, “fighting the existing reality” — wasn’t enough.

So we decided to build a whole new model that we’re calling Social Credentialing. Social Credentialing is a blend of traditional credentialing and the best practices of social-ratings sites, utilizing ground-level feedback in order to provide the public with more information about the yoga teacher-training programs listed in our directory. With the advent of social media and rating sites, people are using the web to seek opinions and advice from others in order to identify the individuals and organizations they can trust. In this spirit of transparency and distributed knowledge, our new system will ask students of teacher-training programs to share their experiences for the benefit of the yoga community and the public, as well as the school they attended. It is understandable if this feels scary at first.

But let’s face it – whether you like it or not, many of your students are already rating and reviewing your school online and that trend is only going to grow. Rather than sit on the sidelines and let commercial social-ratings sites define the tools by which the yoga community will be evaluated, Yoga Alliance is building a new platform that will be managed and operated by the community itself. And our model is better suited to the needs of the community since it relies solely on objective, constructive feedback from verified users. Social Credentialing promotes empowerment and transparency over bureaucracy and control. Instead of creating an expensive, centralized bureaucracy to provide oversight, this new model shines a light on our Registered Yoga Schools and empowers the community to determine whether they meet the standards that all of our registrants have agreed to uphold. Social Credentialing is also well suited to the ethos of the yoga community because it decentralizes power.

We believe that a transparent system of self-regulation has greater moral authority than control exerted behind closed doors by a governing organization. It’s worth emphasizing that we are not changing our standards, and the standards themselves will not be set via Social Credentialing. Social Credentialing is merely the mechanism by which we will determine whether our standards are being met. Since it’s a new model, we don’t have all the answers. We’re confident that it will meet our broad objectives of adding rigor and credibility while protecting diversity, but we will be looking to you to help us make it work. We have received a flood of feedback from our registrants since we announced the new system earlier this year, and we have already made a number of significant changes based on what we learned. You can expect that process of continual improvement through feedback to continue. It also is important for us to acknowledge another inescapable reality of our new system: The website through which we administer it will be far from perfect when it launches next month.

It will be a vast improvement over our current website, with more robust directory pages that showcase the character and personality of our registrants, but like all large-scale development projects, there will be problems that need to be fixed. In addition, we already have a lengthy list of features that we plan to build and that would improve the site, but they won’t be available on day one. There is no denying that making these kinds of sweeping changes will require more work on the part of both Yoga Alliance staff and members, especially for the schools that are registered with us. But we promise to provide all of you with the support you need to adapt to our new credentialing model. We also know that, over time, the burden will subside and the steps you will need to take to maintain your registration will become second nature. Your reward will be a significant enhancement in the credibility that your registration confers, and more clients who want to practice and study yoga with you or your organization. And, ultimately, more lives are transformed by the practice of yoga, which is the shared goal of our community.

Richard Karpel
President and CEO of Yoga Alliance

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