Private yoga colleges and the Private Career Training Institutions Agency face off over government regulation
Yoga guru Shakti Mhi is done bending over backward for the government.
After years of following provincial regulations governing private colleges like hers that train aspiring yoga teachers, she now wants bureaucrats off her mat.
The founder of the Vancouver-based Prana Yoga Teacher College says she has withdrawn her school’s registration with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency, a Crown corporation under the Ministry of Advanced Education, Industry and Training.
“The government has nothing to do with yoga,” Mhi declared in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.
Mhi has started a petition entitled “Freedom for Yoga” that calls for the removal of PCTIA regulations, which include mandatory registration with the agency and payment of fees.
According to the petition, most schools that train yoga teachers are already “regulated to international standards by organizations that understand the nature of yoga”. It notes that most B.C. companies are members of the Canadian Yoga Alliance, which in turn belongs to the International Yoga Federation.
PCTIA isn’t sitting idly by in the face of Mhi’s defiant posture.
“You can’t unilaterally say to a regulator that you’re not going to be regulated,” PCTIA registrar and CEO Karin Kirkpatrick Campbell told the Straight in a phone interview. “That’s like me deciding I’m not going to pay taxes anymore.”
According to her, institutions that operate without PCTIA registration can be slapped with a court injunction and fines.
Created by legislation, PCTIA covers private vocational schools that charge at least $1,000 in tuition and offer programs of 40 hours or more. It administers a Student Training Completion Fund that refunds fees to students if their school shuts down before they complete their studies.
PCTIA charges three fees that vary depending on the nature of the institution. There’s a fixed annual fee: for example, schools bringing in $100,000 to $349,999 per year have to pay $2,400.
PCTIA also collects an amount that ranges from 0.28 percent to 1.03 percent of a school’s tuition-fee revenues.
Additionally, the agency levies a fee of 0.40 percent to one percent of tuition earnings for the Student Training Completion Fund.
When Nakul Kapur started offering teacher training at his Divine Light yoga centre in North Vancouver, he was advised by PCTIA to register. But when he learned about the administrative requirements and costs, the yogi decided not to comply.
“I was not in a position to register,” Kapur told the Straight by phone. “It’s just that I do not have that much of a financial comfort to be able to go with their requirements. It is very, very expensive for a small school like me.”
Kapur, who continues to run his school, stressed that yoga is a very traditional practice, a point that Mhi also makes.
“Yoga is ancient and has not been regulated,” Mhi said, adding that PCTIA has no expertise regarding yoga.
While Mhi claims that she withdrew her school’s registration, PCTIA’s Campbell counters that the regulatory body actually suspended and later cancelled its registration for failing to meet standards.
“The kinds of schools that we regulate are hypnotherapy to film schools to hairdressing schools, so we hire individual people who we call ‘subject matter experts’ to go into institutions and to work with our staff, and these people know the sector and know the industry,” Campbell said. “So when we sent people on-site to Prana to do their accreditation review, we sent people who have professional backgrounds in yoga and yoga programming.”
Mhi will lead a public yoga event opposing government regulation on Sunday (October 21) at Trout Lake Community Centre starting at 6 p.m. It’s billed as an evening of music, dance, and deep hatha.