August 11, 2013

Richard Karpel, President of Yoga Alliance Speaks: Creating Radical Tansparency. ~ Edith Lazenby

Richard Karpel, President and CEO, of Yoga Alliance was introduced as being one of us; meaning he is kind, compassionate, motivated and of course, competent.

The new leader of  Yoga Alliance received a standing ovation for his talk at Yoga Alliance Business of Yoga Conference held in Washington, DC, this past weekend at the Capital Hilton.

The mission of Yoga Alliance is the motto of the Alliance: spread the power of yoga one person at a time.

Richard’s presentation was succinct and efficient and he handled the questions after with humor and grace.

As he said when approaching what he found when he took over:

“The dissatisfaction centered primarily around three missing elements: 1. Member benefits and services 2. Oversight and rigor in our credentialing system 3. Transparency and member participation The first two issues are about “what we do.” Transparency and member participation are about “how we do it.” I’m going to start with the first two issues.

They drive our two main objectives: 1. Create a nonprofit membership association for yoga 2. Add rigor and credibility to our credentialing system.”

Richard’s focus for building the association is based on four legs: Education, Member Benefits, Community and Representation. The Yoga Alliance will continue to hold an annual conference and provide online workshops as well as insightful articles about happenings in the yoga community, like the lawsuit in California and those with Bikram.

As he said:

“Most of you got into this business because you love yoga, not because you love making money. So you need less help teaching yoga than running your business. Nobody else is providing that help. So that’s where we think we can add the most value.”

He acknowledged the easier challenge: to develop the trade association aspect of Yoga Alliance, as there are many paradigms for that within the world of nonprofits. And Yoga Alliance has made huge changes in member benefits. It now offers liability insurance to members at one of the best prices around. They offer information on health insurance benefits. If you go to the website and request information you are called back within the time frame given. I know because I called.

They also now have a variety of programs available to members to offer discounts, as many nonprofits do for their members.

The harder nut to crack for the organization is how it functions as a registry. One of the main goals in Richard’s eye is to make Yoga Alliance radically transparent. He went to the website before taking on the position and saw lots of questions and no answers. The organization he took over was opaque. He stressed the word ‘radical’ in how the organization will operate.

He explained how Yoga Alliance is a Registry.

The Alliance does not give certifications, which I have found is often misunderstood. Yoga Alliance works as an independent organization where teachers and schools can register to verify their credibility. And since this registry started it has become almost required for anyone wanting to teach in most arenas to be registered with Yoga Alliance.

The same registry gives credibility to schools, which is how new teachers are registered, by attending a training that is registered with Yoga Alliance.

Richard said:

“How do we meet these challenges? It’s clear that several things need to happen before we can add rigor and credibility to our registry. We need to:

• Get the RYS application process online

• Add clarity to our standards and procedures

• Monitor changes at RYSs

• Measure the quality of instruction our schools and teachers provide.”

Now there will be a forum where students can comment on teachers and/or schools.

He also wants to support studios and offer them a means to participate and receive support from the Alliance.

He wants, as I understand it, to give his members an open forum to support the need to measure the quality of what is being offered in the world of yoga. This will be done by its very same members.

Because yoga is diverse and because it is a registry there are limitations; yet I believe the hope is that by involving the community with radical transparency, higher standards will be met and held.

“You can’t easily measure the value of building community, but in my experience it is the most important thing an association does. We are building community not as an end in itself, but to create a forum of communication for the yoga community to network, share ideas and establish important professional relationships that will provide lifelong intellectual and emotional sustenance.”


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Editor: Bryonie Wise



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