National Occupation Standards

Where do Yoga Alliance Professionals stand?

Skills Active have produced a survey of NOS guidelines which they are inviting all yoga teachers to complete.

YAP's stand on NOS

The standards can be found here and the NOS survey can be found here.

There is debate in the yoga world about the pros and cons of filling out or simply ignoring it. Before we look at the arguments, it is worth taking a quick look at what led to the survey and its implications for yoga teachers in the UK.

It all started with an initiative from Skills Active which outlined the proposed National Occupation Standards as applied to Yoga. The following links will provide you with the information sent out to YAP at our request back in September 2016. It is worth noting that at no time was YAP contacted directly with this information.


Just to pick out a few salient points from the above documents:

‘The initial approach for the development of a set of NOS for hatha Yoga teachers was driven by several aspects:  

-request from the sector to set a benchmark for the teaching of hatha Yoga

-confusion of insurance providers regarding the standards for Yoga practice and what could be insured -confusion from training providers regarding the correct qualification required by the sector

-need for standards that set a minimum level of experience/skills that ensure safe practice in teaching hatha yoga, preventing the risk of injury to participants

-request for consistency of standards for teaching hatha yoga, across the UK to provide a clear benchmark for entry on to the SkillsActive Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)’  

‘We are extremely keen to ensure that stakeholders from across the UK are fully represented to ensure that the ‘voice of Yoga’ is effectively captured, ensuring the NOS and any future qualification developments truly address the specific employment needs of your sector’  

‘NOS would be a benchmark for good practice in teaching. They are not compulsory for yoga teachers to abide by’  

A request from YAP as to who had been invited to the steering group got no response. A meeting was held in London on the 24th October and was attended by the following:

3 representatives from the BWY, Heather Mason from the Minded institute, a representative from Iyengar yoga, Amiee Newton from FRYOG, Alistair Livingstone representing Northern Ireland, Joy Chandler representing yoga Scotland, Satish K Sharma representing Hindu temples, Dr Peter Yates and Ellen Lee representing IYN, Barry Elms representing the Devon school of yoga, Swami Ambikananda and Uddarva representing the Traditional Yoga Association. Amjit (Ayurveda) representing YHET. The 2 representatives from Skills Active were Caroline Larissey (head of qualifications) and Tracey James.

YAP did not attend because we were only given 5 days notice of the meeting. We did request minutes of the meeting and were told that no minutes had been taken. A representative however did take her own minutes and summed it up:

‘The majority requested that this whole process be stopped. Only the BWY members and Heather Mason showed any interest. Caroline said she would have to get back to her CEO and let us know. We don’t trust what she would say so the CEO is being contacted by a member of the group with our version.’  

From this time onwards as far as we can ascertain, the ‘Steering Group’ meetings became secret. It can now be revealed that the steering group consisted almost entirely of BWY members. The original interested organisations who had questioned the NOS were no longer invited. The full list of the Steering Group.

YAP persisted in asking for information and was told to ‘stop hassling our staff‘ by Caroline Larissey of Skills Active.

A further meeting was scheduled to take place in London on 16th January 2017. YAP’s request to attend was rejected on the grounds that ‘The meeting is for invited attendees only who are committed to supporting the development of the NOS‘. Those attending this meeting were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, effectively making it secret and not to be shared with interested parties.

In July this year the draft NOS appeared along with the survey above. The ‘stakeholders’ have turned out to be the BWY. None of the groups who would contribute to the ‘voice of yoga’ have had any input. You now have to decide if you want to reject or fill out the survey (which could be in the negative).

Here are a few comments from yoga teachers regarding this survey:

The Government officer leading the meeting was clear that the initiative can be deferred so that wider participation or better definition could be included. However, that’s only if enough people respond to the survey to ask for this.’  

‘The survey is a waste of time… Its a fact finding exercise that exploits teachers’ good will to draw upon our collective specialist skills and expertise to help develop the NOS for them – without paying anyone or acknowledging their contribution. There is no room in the survey to offer a difference of opinion, or critical dialogue.

‘My understanding from the the SA representative is that there is no way to stop this process, only to perhaps influence it. After much reflection and not a little frustration with how this has all come about, my conclusion is, similar to James Dylan Russell, that this is British Wheel of Yoga’s project and it is best to step aside and allow them enough rope to wrap themselves up in it. There is no mechanism for enforcing these standards, no way of checking if anyone complies with them, and, without widespread consensus from the yoga teaching and teacher training community, no way of implementing them. If I was a BWY yogi/ni I would be wondering why my accrediting body had chosen to define Yoga as a sport (with Sport England), spent £20,000 of my membership dues on asking for Government involvement.’

‘Your response, if you fill in the survey, will count for nothing. They have already decided the outcome. But if you fill it in, they will claim that they have been inclusive, although your survey will go straight to trash.’

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