This New York Times article on the controversy that’s been a-brewin’ over the push for government-mandated licensing requirements for yoga instructors is a prime piece of head-scratching high comedy. When I first saw the headline I assumed the story would fall into the familiar pattern of cooperation between government and cartel, wherein the established and well-connected representatives of an industry prevail on government officials to pass and enforce official standards that will strengthen their position, by raising barriers to entry and posing additional burdens on their competitors. As it turns out, though, seemingly no one in the multibillion-dollar yoga industry is happy with having their voluntary standards turned into state-sponsored licensing requirements; teachers and students alike claimed that such standardization and oversight runs directly counter to the essence of the practice, and have joined together to lobby and protest to keep the regulatory state at bay.

No, in this case the regulators managed to act as self-moved movers, called to action by the perfect combination of the ever-pressing need to protect citizens from themselves and the sweet smell of taxpayer dollars:

Regulators said licensing the schools would allow states to enforce basic standards and protect customers who usually spend $2,000 to $5,000 on training courses, not to mention provide revenue for cash-starved governments. “If you’re going to start a school and take people’s money, you should play by a set of rules,” said Patrick Sweeney, a Wisconsin licensing official, who believes that in 2004 he was the first to discover the online registry and use it to begin regulating yoga teaching.

“Sooner or later, probably every state will do this,” said Patricia Kearney, an instructor of health and exercise science at Bridgewater College in Virginia, who has been researching the trend. “Once people get used to it, it will ultimately benefit yoga. But it will not be without loss. Some good small programs will close. But so will some not-so-good programs that probably should close.”

Hear that? It’s all for the better! So up and away with the consolidation of the yoga industry, the wishes of its members be damned; it’s better inner peace through rules and regulation, y’all.

P.S. Up next: state oversight of doga?

(Image via Flickrer domestictimes.)