Renew BWY, and Recreate Past Mistakes? – Written By Mat Witts

Pitched up almost overnight under the giant digital canvas of Facebook, a small group of yoga tutors are redoubling their efforts to satisfy the likes of OfQual, SkillsActive and Sport England, and rededicating themselves to the ongoing ‘bureaucratization’ of yoga tutoring.

Providing shelter from would-be rival tutors and uplift in revenue for their own operations may be a legitimate aim, but since the ‘boom’ in yoga tutoring in the nineteen nineties, the BWY has controversially appointed itself as a ‘National Governing Body’ for sport, OfQual ‘Awarding Organization’ and primary sponsor of a suite of National Occupation Standards, partially loaned from the fitness industry.

The administrative strain on volunteers and paid staff has been abundant, and the human and economic costs have, at times risen beyond acceptable levels in what has become a something of a sprawling, national yoga tutoring franchise over the intervening years.

The group describe themselves as ‘modernizers’, but having lost the confidence of the controlling body, the ‘National Executive Committee’, and the majority of card carrying members too after a series of costly errors and board level walkouts, board level in-fighting and controversial, ‘C-level resignations’ at the company are hardly new.

For a charity that likes to promote itself as a leading light for would-be yoga tutors, forming links with bodies like Sport England, OfQual, SkillsActive, and perhaps most bizarrely of all, an All Party Parliamentary Group is curious, given such affiliates hardly claim, promise or even care about their relevance to organizing reliable yoga tutoring.

The main problem with the strategy is of course, it’s a bit like hiring a firm of accountants to sort out your sciatica. The results are unlikely to be satisfactory.

While the intentions of the ‘box ticking’ tutors will be as good as ever, it is easy to predict how the impulse to account for, calibrate, measure and evaluate will continue to antagonize the BWY’s own inner strengths, the so called ‘karma yoga’ of BWY volunteers who do what they do for the love of yoga and not for fame or fortune.

The high level strategy of connecting to the apparatus of national governance has the perverse consequence of clearing away intangible assets that have sustained the company, privileging instead increased numbers of disinterested, paid bureaucrats deforming the working lives of well-meaning tutors under the guise of ‘good governance’.

There is a Jain story about six blind men and an elephant, and here we too have one member thinking of the company as an OfQual Awarding Organization, another as a network of local clubs, another as a circle of like-minded friends, another as coordinating yoga at the national level while another thinking it is a National Governing Body for sport, but no one is thinking about the whole picture.

Summing up, all these indiscriminate roles and functions are capable of sustaining an image of a benign and powerful creature, just like the elephant in the Jain fable, but it all depends on the voluntary time contributed by members and paid subscriptions from after-tax personal, disposable income, so the image that perhaps best captures the bloated administrative overhead is that of a White Elephant.

Despite the sabre-rattling about the possibility of hostile, boardroom takeovers from some quarters, there is of course nothing in the company governing documents about maintaining OfQual Awarding Body status, sponsoring SkillsActive’s National Occupational Standards or setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group.

Mistaking what are essentially only squabbles about tactics in achieving enhanced professional standing for yoga tutoring franchisees, as if they are irreconcilable, ideological differences is not the most auspicious start to a renewal campaign promising better governance.

The political influence (and as some say, ‘interference’) of bureaucrats has always spilled over in both the health and education sectors, and if there is one thing guaranteed to stir things up, it’s salaried business managers busying themselves telling us how we ought to look after each other, or pass on our insights and knowledge gains.

The well documented, ‘rise of the professions’ more than adequately explains why the BWY’s own National Executive Committee are nervous about escalating commitments to the sports and recreation industry.

The issue has become so inflamed because much of it is about either the personal advantage or private costs to practitioners affiliated to the BWY, many of whom are probably old enough to recall former Prime Minister John Major’s ‘Back to Basics’ speech in 1993 about “a world that sometimes seems to be changing too fast for comfort”, which intuitively felt right but didn’t translate well to the real world.

Perhaps now is a good time for the BWY to abandon the somewhat neurotic promise of ‘good governance’ and start on devising a sound plan to deliver ‘good yoga’ instead?


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