Shackling Shiva - Controlling Yoga in the UK

For 10 000 years or more (depending on your prejudices) Yoga has been free of the interference of bureaucratic red tape. Well here in the UK there is now an initiative underway to "regulate" Yoga teachers. This decision has earned the would be regulator a backlash from the well established "free" yoga scene who value their freedom to practice, teach and choose their own yogic journey.


nos shiva 2


NCHT(UK) whose member temples have been teaching and practicing all of the Yoga Darshans for over half a century here in the UK, usually free of charge, were contacted by concerned Yoga schools and practitioners and we have written to the would be regulator as follows:-


Open letter to SkillsActive re NOS



Hello Caroline,

Thank you for your reply from which I understand the following:-

A decision has already been made to apply standards
The Steering Group will influence which standards.

This is of concern to us and contrary to the conclusion arrived at in my initial request for clarification, in which according to the notes of our telephone conversation – you assured me that the decision to apply standards had not yet been taken.

In your subsequent email you wrote :-

“As there are numerous types of qualifications being delivered already in Yoga this has presented the need for National Occupational Standards to ensure standardisation” ….. why must there be standardisation and who made this decision and on the basis of what research and what evidence ? The fact that there is diversity is to be applauded - why does there need to be uniformity? Please justify this foundational assumption.

To the best of my knowledge, you have not felt it necessary or courteous to consult with my religious community before deciding that we needed your regulation and yet you have pressed ahead holding meetings with the BWY? To us this demonstrates a singular lack of sensitivity or a lack of knowledge, both of which are disappointing in this day and age. We have chosen to respond to you in a reciprocal mode of directness.

Allow me to express that Yoga is a fundamental part of the Hindu Religious and spiritual practices. We have family lineages of priests and guru’s who have been practicing and preserving this body of knowledge for millennia and under no circumstances will we permit any of our religious practices to be assessed, defined, judged or assessed in any manner which curtails or even presumes to pass comment upon our traditions, scriptures or religious practices. This is NOT NEGOTIABLE.

If you do presume to rush forward with standards, we will ensure that any person who is harmed physically, psychologically or intellectually by one of your “approved teachers”, by our standards has the full support of our community in pursuing legal redress, and we will be publicising our availability as legal experts in this field. The standards of the BWY with whom I note you have already had meetings do NOT pass muster on many counts and do not adhere to the traditional teachings of Yoga. As long as their activities in this regard, were minimal we were willing to tolerate their pretensions to be a” Governing Body” . The very fact that they have not withdrawn from this title is a display of a lack of integrity and a disregard of the very basic requirements of those who aspire to learn Yoga, never mind teach. I personally have spent significant time picking up the emotional pieces of so called Yoga teachers whose tranquillity and mental well being had been significantly disturbed in the process of “qualifying” with the so called leading organisations. In future we may encourage them to seek legal redress. If this proceeds, we will also turn our attention to the BWY’s own teaching and “output” and begin scrutiny of the suitability, stability and tranquillity of their “teachers”, more so than we have to date.

I would draw your attention to the UN Resolutions on both the rights to Religious Freedom, specifically Article 18, and UN Rights of Indigenous peoples and their cultures, specifically article 8 which states -

Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
“Recognizing, the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies …”

Please be aware that these UN resolutions were passed to protect humanity from the depredations inflicted upon the First Nations, all non white and non Christian, by predominantly European barbarians in their various colonial exploits, especially in their attempts to perpetrate cultural genocide. It therefore is NOT for you to determine what is or isn’t Yoga and what is or isn’t Hinduism nor indeed to attempt to extricate or separate them so that you can regulate them. YogaVidya is a religious, philosophical and spiritual resource of the Hindus and we have safeguarded it through the last 2,000 years of aggression, so that all may have free and open access to it purely on the basis of merit and humility, and that its capacity for liberation and human empowerment do not become the subject of limit by those who hold lesser aspirations for humanity.

Unless you can first establish that Yoga and the religion of my ancestors are separate, you cannot legally proceed. We have already tolerated the foolishness, endorsed by the BWY parading itself as the Sport England Governing Body of Yoga, as if Yoga were a Sport, allowing the BWY to work its course as one does with adolescents in the hope that age will mature and bring understanding if not wisdom but your “expedition” transgresses upon our religious freedoms.

We are very comfortable with the manner in which the understanding of Yoga is developing in this country with an increasing number of persons’ who are becoming aware that unless they have mastery, they honestly cannot teach and in order to attain a degree of stable mastery, freedom of personal exploration is vital.

Please note that this is an experiential science where a person’s demonstrable ability is the determinant of their suitability to teach and in the UK there are no more than a handful of Yogi’s who are able to demonstrate sufficient mastery of their own thought processes and moral and physical purification to be entrusted with the well-being of another human being, we have the ability to judge this and we will begin to do this should the need arise.

I personally would not presume to even speak on say “birthing” if I were seated in a gathering of midwifes, I would feel it dishonest, lacking in professional integrity and above all hugely disrespectful. Unless the persons involved in all aspects of Yoga adhere to the same moral standards which are clearly defined in the basic practices of Yoga, what right do they have to do otherwise? I would very much like to know the basis upon which you, professionally, have been authorised to venture into this “space” and your religious, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. Bumbling good intentions no matter how well meaning, are not adequate qualification in any field, least of all Yogabhyasa.

Since this is an issue affecting many genuine practitioners, this letter is an open letter and is being sent to the BWY, the IYN and other yoga related bodies and individuals. I note that you have advised that only one person per organisation is attending, please confirm that this applies to ALL organisations who have been invited.

Kind regards

Satish K Sharma B.Sc. (Hons) Econ MBCS FRSA
General Secretary, National Council of Hindu Temples (UK)
Chair, British Board of Hindu Scholars
Chair, City of London InterFaith
Director, InterFaith Network UK












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