License to stretch

Three yoga instructors filed suit Tuesday against the state of Virginia, arguing the state’s plan to license yoga teacher-training programs is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech.

“It’s just daft. It’s just a ridiculous idea,” says Suzanne Leitner-Wise, a yoga instructor who has provided training to U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, a regulatory body, had planned to impose licensure requirements on yoga teacher-training programs by the end of the year, but has agreed to wait a few months at the request of state legislators.

“We consider it a student-protection measure,” said Kirsten Nelson, the council’s spokeswoman.


The state council says it is required by law to regulate any vocational training. The state licensure program would require a $2,500 application fee, annual renewals of at least $500 and loads of paperwork.


The yoga instructors are represented by attorneys from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has successfully fought in other states against expensive, burdensome licensing requirements for hair braiders, flower arrangers, and for an Arizona teenager who offered to nail chicken wire across his neighbors’ attic vents to keep out rats.

Attorney Robert Frommer said the state has no business determining what kinds of training programs are acceptable.

More broadly, Mr. Frommer said that teaching is a form of free speech. And if the state wants to regulate free speech, it needs a compelling reason to do so.

But Ms. Nelson said the licensure requirements mostly involve mundane, content-neutral issues revolving around development of a solid business model and the posting of bonds.

Come on. These are protection rackets designed to insulate existing practitioners from cheaper, upstart competition, while getting folks accustomed to the idea that a living can be earned only after the government gives its blessing — a pernicious doctrine with no place in a free country.

The state of Virginia seeks thousands of dollars in fees, in exchange for which it will pretend to decide who is, and who is not, qualified to teach state residents the Half Moon and the Sleeping Vishnu postures.

Kirsten Nelson and her gang, a self-righteous bunch of clowns, should sit and meditate on that for awhile.

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