Colorado Cracks Down on Unlicensed Yoga Teachers

Published February 23, 2015

Colorado’s Division of Private Occupational Schools is now enforcing rules banning instructing yoga classes without official state licensing. 

Instructors at smaller studios are concerned the regulations and associated fees would squeeze out all but the largest organizations, while causing them to raise fees and prices.

Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath says the early-February move to regulate yoga instruction is misguided.

“What happens in occupational licensing in general is that there are large components of training that are irrelevant and really serve no interest, other than to protect existing providers from new entrants and new competitors,” McGrath said.

McGrath likens the Colorado requirement to rules in other states regarding hair braiders to have cosmetology degrees.

“For a hair braider, the beauty of those cases in Oregon, California, and other states that we litigated and lobbied against was that none of the requirements to become a cosmetologist dealt with hair braiding,” he said. “We like to joke that it would be just as good for hair braiders to get a journalism degree, because they’d receive just as much instruction in hair braiding as they would in cosmetology school.

Consumers Know Best

McGrath says occupational licensing is a frequent source of regulatory capture.

“The state of Colorado is engaged in corporate cronyism, and not the protection of consumers. The customers are in the best position to judge the efficacy of their trainers,” he said.

“When the state puts up barriers to entry, it’s going to reduce the available supply of providers,” he said. “It’s reverse Robin Hood. It’s a transfer of wealth from middle- and low-income people mostly to high-end compensated professionals, So the rich are getting richer. The kicker to this is that licensing is not an effective tool to weed out incompetence and fraud.”

Doubts Consumers Benefit

Saint Francis University Associate Professor of Economics Edward J. Timmons says the consumer benefits of government licensing’s are questionable at best.

“I’m skeptical about the benefits to consumers, because almost every study that I’ve done, and every study I’ve read, finds that the practitioners benefit from the legislation, either in the form of higher salaries or higher prices for their services,” he said. “There’s just not a lot of good evidence that consumers receive any benefit in the form of better service or any measurable outcome.

“It’s hard to imagine the harm that would be felt by a consumer from an unlicensed yoga instructor,” Timmons added. “The general trend has been toward licensing. I mean, you’re seeing licensing appearing for florists, pet groomers, tattoo artists. It’s almost out of control, the number and types of occupations seeking licensing.”

“It’s a little absurd,” he said.

Professional Groups Push Laws

Timmons says professional groups often promote occupational licensing.

“Usually the motivation for licenses is some sort of professional group,” he said. “Every licensing law that I’ve looked at, the professional group lobbies lawmakers to try to get regulations passed. Who knows, maybe the professionals are acting in the best interests of the consumers, but if the professionals are the ones doing the lobbying, and the professionals are the ones that reap the gains in the form of higher pay, it doesn’t look like the consumers’ best interests are being represented.”

Jeffery Reynolds ([email protected]) writes from Portland, Oregon

Internet Info:

“Bringing the Effects of Occupational Licensing into Focus: Optician Licensing in the United States,” Edward J. Timmons and Anna Mills, Mercatus Center,