Friday at SYTAR

After the invocation and greeting, John Kepner, IAYT’s executive director revealed that they were hoping that maybe 400 people would sign up for this event. They opened registration in May, and by July, a small trickle of registrations had turned into a torrent. There were 800 people packed into the largest ballroom at the LAX Hilton. Not bad, considering that the Yoga Journal Conference is happening simultaneously in San Francisco this weekend. The size and quality of the crowd was very impressive – especially when viewed from up on the dais (where I eventually sat to moderate the “YOGA AS AN EMERGING COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE (CAM) PROFESSION” panel.

One of the most memorable elements of the morning session was the sight of my good friend Larry Payne sitting on the dais looking over the vast crowd with an expression of stunned joy on his face. He and Richard Miller started IAYT in 1989. I asked Richard if he ever, in his wildest dreams, imagined the possibility of such a huge response to their work. He said “it’s exactly what I hoped for.” I replied that it pays to have big dreams.

My first opportunity to address the group came at the end of the “CAM” panel I was moderating with John Kepner. My main point, which was very well received, started with the question: “Does anybody else get a knot in their guts when the idea of regulation of Yoga Therapy is discussed?” After nearly everyone raised their hands, I pointed out that we should honor that feeling, and try to understand its source. I suggested that it may be because something we hold to be sacred – the student teacher relationship – is tangibly threatened by the third-party interference that regulation represents.

I renewed my call for us to honor the principle of Ahimsa when it comes to our role as Yoga Therapists, obviously, to do no harm to our clients/students, but most importantly, to first do no harm to ourselves and our profession. Here, it bears repeating the 1993 statement I composed while serving as VP of Unity in Yoga:
“We enthusiastically support the ongoing dialog addressing higher personal, professional and ethical standards for yoga teachers and therapists.”
“We are in support of a process that results in the establishment of yoga as a respected personal and academic pursuit, and any certification or accreditation that may result.”
“We are, however, opposed to the establishment of any entity that assumes the authority to license or regulate yoga teachers as professional practitioners and to enforce it’s standards on the yoga community.”
I also made sure to point out that the current leadership of IAYT takes these issues very seriously, and would never knowingly do anything to violate that first principle of AHIMSA.
Since then, I’ve had innumerable people coming up to me to thank me for my comments, which is very heartening.