The Texas Yoga Association could not have formed at a better time. These words have been echoed many times over the past few weeks from Houston to Austin to Dallas. In January 2010, the Texas Workforce Commission served more than 25 yoga studios and yoga teachers with correspondence suggesting that yoga training programs were subject to licensing laws pertaining to vocational schools under the state education code. Houston had been warned last fall that the yoga community was on the radar of the Texas Workforce Commission. It was only a matter of time before these letters were received. As Houston and Dallas studios were served by the Texas Workforce Commission simultaneously, we quickly learned the entire yoga community is subject to government scrutiny. Recognizing that the Texas yoga community was without an organization advocating for the rights of yoga in this state, Jennifer Buergermeister founded the Texas Yoga Association. Since the fall of 2009, the Texas Yoga Association had been researching these issues, looking at how other states are handling regulation, raising awareness in the Texas yoga community and planning for Texas to unite in order to respond. The Texas Yoga Association represents One Yoga, forming alliances among Texas yoga studios, teachers and students, and with yoga enthusiasts in other states, uniting the yoga community and promoting that we do more than practice yoga, we must Be Yoga. Although the Texas Yoga Association had planned to launch at the Texas Yoga Conference on February 19-20, 2010, the launch date would have to be pushed up to meet the deadlines issued by the Texas Workforce Commission.
On Sunday, January 17, 2010, Jennifer Buergermeister arranged for more than 25 Houston yoga studio owners, yoga teachers, and yoga supporters to gather, including Willy Collins and Kristin Scheel, two Houston pro bono attorneys, Sue Schecter, former State Representative for Harris County, and Brad and Brad Shields, two lobbyists from Austin. On Monday, January 18, 2010, David Sunshine, Kurt Johnsen and Vicki Johnson hosted a meeting of more than 20 Dallas yogis at the Dallas Yoga Center. Jennifer Buergermeister and Kristin Scheel travelled to Dallas representing the Texas Yoga Association. Brad and Brad Shields also attended the Dallas meeting. As these groups joined one spirit emerged: unity in this great community, to create a positive solution for yoga. We learned that as an association, the yoga community has greater standing under the law than we have as individuals. Like many other professions, the yoga community needs industry representation who works with government agencies and policy makers to educate state authorities about yoga. The union of the Texas yoga community was long overdue.
The groups explored a range of options concerning the primary issue of how to respond to the Texas Workforce Commission, while keeping in mind that the larger stake in this game is to preserve and protect the integrity of yoga for years to come. As the fifteen days quickly expired, the Texas Yoga Association legal advisers worked fervently to draft a unified response for the affected yoga teachers. Meanwhile, the Texas Yoga Association lobbyists set up an informational meeting between the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Yoga Association.
On Friday, January 29, 2010, Jennifer Buergermeister, Willy Collins, Kristin Scheel, and David Sunshine, Kurt Johnsen and Vicki Johnson met with the Texas Workforce Commission in Austin. The purpose of this meeting was to help the Texas Workforce Commission understand how yoga studios operate and the distinction of training programs held at studios from programs offered by vocational schools. Meetings lasted two hours and ended with the Texas Workforce Commission agreeing to give the Texas Yoga Association more time to assimilate to represent yoga across the state. Two things were clear by the end of our discussions: 1) The united response by yoga studios and teachers coordinated through the Texas Yoga Association has positively engaged the standing of yoga with state regulators, and the continued growth and organization of the Texas Yoga Association is vital for advocating for the integrity of yoga, and education of our government about yoga; and 2) The Texas Workforce Commission has not received responses from many other recipients, and it is critical that these yoga studios or teachers respond. If you have received a letter from the Texas Workforce Commission and have not sent in a response, and even if your fifteen days to respond has expired, we urge you to immediately respond to the state. The state will enforce these inquiries until you respond. The Texas Yoga Association resources are available to you if you would like to unite with our efforts. You have an opportunity to hear directly from the Texas Yoga Association and the Texas Workforce Commission at the Texas Yoga Conference (and maybe the Texas Workforce Commission will even do some yoga?).
This is only the beginning and there is much to be done at the grassroots level in order to succeed. We need to continue raising awareness of these issues in the yoga community and amongst yoga supporters. With every class we teach and every student we meet we have another opportunity. We must keep a unified front when advancing discussions with the Texas Workforce Commission, and share information relating to these communications. The Texas Yoga Association will continue to issue updates and connect people with each other and the pooling of resources. The Texas Yoga Association needs your help. We are setting up local charters in cities across the state of Texas. Dallas and Austin have set up charters, and we need to continue reaching out to establish charters in other regions. We need representation from the entire state in order to speak on behalf of the Texas yoga community as one. Fundraising and membership must begin immediately to generate donations for our political action fund. Our legal advisers have already spent at least 60 hours of probono time, plus travel, working with us. Our lobbyists have spent nearly 40 hours of pro bono time supporting us. We are blessed with the generosity of these people but we will have to be able to generate funds to sustain ourselves soon.
We will come together on February 19th & 20th as planned at the Texas Yoga Conference to continue building our spirit and developing our united representative community, the Texas Yoga Association. Be sure to join us on Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7 p.m. to discuss this issue with the Texas Yoga Association, learn more about its meeting with the Texas Workforce Commission, and consider the possible outcomes and solutions for the yoga community. Please also plan to attend a presentation about the state education code and possible exemptions given by the Texas Workforce Commission on Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 8 a.m.
We are honored and grateful for your support, and the support of our advisers,
Houston Pro Bono Attorney/litigator:
William J. Collins, III Sheehy, Ware & Pappas, P.C.
2500 Two Houston Center
909 Fannin Street
Houston, Texas 77010
Dallas Pro Bono Attorney/litigator:
John V. McShane
McShane & Davis, LLP
Campbell Center, Tower I
8350 N. Central Expy., Suite 1200
Dallas, Texas 75206-1624
Shields Leglislative Associates
208 W 14th Street
Austin, TX 78701
For more information please visit, http://www.texyoga.org
Live. Breathe. Do Yoga.
“Facilitator of Change”
Jennyoga, LLC, | Breathe the Cure, Inc. | Texas Yoga Conference
3641-C Westheimer Rd.
Houston, TX 77027