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Why Do You Keep Seeing Headlines about Yoga in Denver—and What It Means

Denver’s yoga teacher training programs have been in the news a lot recently. The Division of Private Occupational Schools (DPOS), a state agency, has mailed letters to 82 yoga studios across the city that offer teacher training programs, asking them to comply with the 2002 law that requires them to certify themselves with the state. But what does that really mean for small studios trying to support themselves with limited revenue streams? And why are yoga studios being hit with these costs now?

The simple answer: money.

For small studios, the revenue they earn from yoga classes alone is often not much more than the studios’ operational costs, which then motivates some of them to supplement their revenue stream with teacher training programs. To set it up, the studio must pay at least $5,000 for a bond that insures the program, reimbursing students in case the program abruptly shuts down at any point. There also is a $1,750 initial certification fee that renews after two years to the tune of $1,500, and every three years after that.

That’s at least $6,750 for a startup teacher training program just to get it OKed by the state! Keep in mind, this amount doesn't include the time and money spent creating manuals, paying the teachers, marketing, reserving the space in the studio where the classes are held, insurance…the expenses go on and on. A typical yoga student pays $3,000 for an intro-level program, and small studios have approximately 10 students for each one. They usually run between two and eight months, depending on the program.

You don't need to be an economist to see how this favors larger chain studios in a big way.

Large studios have multiple locations and lots of money. They can easily lump the costs of these programs into their normal marketing budgets and pay the state fees. They have many more students per class, and often these students receive much less training than those who do their teacher training in a smaller setting. The students get fewer hours in the program, with their instructors, and teaching other students because of this assembly-line approach that turns out teachers quickly, often in groups far bigger than what the smaller studios offer. Some of these bigger programs are great, but it’s easier for a marginal student to fall through the cracks in a bigger program—and that's a student who might someday become your yoga instructor.

The stated mission of the DPOS is “…to provide standards for and foster and improve private occupational schools and their educational services, and to protect the citizens of this state against fraudulent or substandard private occupational schools.” Yet in the case of yoga training programs, the smaller—and often better—studios are the ones being penalized.

What does all this mean to yoga in Denver?

One of my favorite things about yoga is its individuality. Each instructor has different training and influences. Often, these bigger programs are constructed with a corporate mentality. You have to follow a format, play specified music, turn the lights to a certain setting, etc., so that everyone gets the same experience. This might work just fine if that kind of consistency is what you prefer as a student. But too often, the person who really loses is the client because the corporate method whitewashes the training into a one-size-fits-all experience that doesn't take into account the unique needs and abilities of every student.

I’d never make it in that kind of program. I have so many other influences that I’d feel stifled by such a restrictive environment. If we want to standardize yoga training programs so much that only the larger studios can offer training, we all stand to lose much of what makes yoga so unique and versatile.