Background of Yoga Alliance UK
In 2006 we contacted Yoga Alliance USA to ask if they were interested in setting up a yoga alliance in the UK. We were told that their organisation had been set up in the States, under United States law and specifically for the USA, and they were not considering establishing a British counterpart. However, in the spirit of yoga, they were very helpful and encouraged us to set up a UK version of Yoga Alliance, and offered to give us advice and help if needed. And so Yoga Alliance UK was born. The next year was spent researching the British yoga scene, and based on our findings, we decided on a plan of action which we felt was long overdue.
There was a lot of dissatisfaction among many yoga teachers that the British Wheel of Yoga was falsely placing itself as the ‘National Governing Body for Yoga’. Although some of their advertising followed this statement with ‘as recognised by the English Sports Council’ , the overall impression given to the public was that they were a governing body and authority on yoga, and that teacher training courses had to be endorsed by them. Part of Yoga Alliance UK’s remit was to address this and set the record straight. It is worth repeating this here:
You do not have to register with the British Wheel to teach yoga; the British Wheel does not regulate yoga in the UK, nor is it the UK authority on yoga teaching and practice. The British Wheel does not monitor and co-ordinate yoga activities in the UK and does not represent the interests of the UK yoga community.
Earlier this year, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the statement that ‘the British Wheel of Yoga is the National Governing Body for Yoga’ was misleading and should be amended. The British Wheel have finally agreed and changed it to:
‘The British Wheel of Yoga is recognised by Sport England as the National Governing Body for Yoga’
Needless to say, many yoga practitioners are not happy to see yoga considered as a sport and wonder what Sport England has to do with the regulation of yoga.
The second area that Yoga Alliance UK wanted to address concerns standards in yoga teaching and particularly in yoga teacher training courses. There has been a proliferation of training courses in the last few years and it begs the question ‘where did they all come from and how good are they?’ We personally know of two training courses whose main teachers only qualified as yoga teachers two years before offering teacher training. Surely there must be some way of, if not regulating, at least making it clear to the public if a training course has met some basic common-sense standards.
We first modelled Yoga Alliance UK on the USA model although it soon became clear that there were going to be some important differences. In the meantime, the CEO of Yoga Alliance USA, with whom we were in discussion, was removed from office, and Yoga Alliance USA’s former warmth became distinctly cold, to the point of threatening us with legal action if we did not stop calling ourselves Yoga Alliance UK. The threat was withdrawn because we are registered British company with the registered trademarks RYT, RYS and ATP. However, it was disappointing to find that the spirit of sharing and cooperation one would expect between two organisations set up to promote the benefits of yoga and maintain high teaching standards, no longer existed.