The IYN conference will not take place

In 1991, the French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer Jean Baudrillard famously published three short essays in the French newspaper Libération and the British paper The Guardian.

Entitled, 'The Gulf War Did Not Take Place', he famously admitted the violence and events called 'The Gulf War' actually took place, but the interpretation of the violence and events in the media raised questions as to whether it should be called a 'war' or something more like a 'human atrocity'.

Melodramatically, that the IYN conference helps to unite people and nurture yoga are debatable on grounds that the IYN is one company among many leading thought on developing a landscape of 'metaregulation' in yoga tutor training.

Metaregulation is a concept used by researchers interested in standards, regulation, systems theory and corporate social responsibility. It describes a mechanism of corporate self-regulation and the IYN is just one among many companies promoting the idea, in what is assumed to be an appropriate response to the undoubtedly problematic commercial growth and market failures in yoga tutor training around the world.

Far from being against all forms of regulation then, the IYN promotes metaregulation. The company's viability depends entirely on the occupational demands of yoga tutor trainers who teach for a fee, not yoga practitioners more generally who don't. Practitioners who (in lieu of having an identifiable commercial product to sell) may join a metaregulator and become part of the metaregulator's income-generating inventory, touting the metaregulator's membership insignia they become a product of the metaregulator, no matter what the training style, individual experience or knowledge gains they may offer as human beings.

Many like to present as benign and progressive organizations with policies that are capable of transcending more brutal, market forces by providing shelter for the conflicted, dissident yoga tutors, despondent with the more commercial actors in the industry. The IYN is accumulating reserves of capital too, I suspect gaining ground because of the embarrassingly weak professional status certification schemes run most notably by companies like Yoga Alliance, and the excessively expensive and prescriptive training codes offered by companies like the British Wheel of Yoga, Iyengar Yoga franchises and many others like them.

By distributing ethical rhetoric about 'keeping yoga free' from strict, government regulation; in being broadly critical of commercialization and in offering a lower entry point than the traditional 'command and control' regulation found in religious scripture (and whose patriarchal tenor is surprisingly in evidence even in post-feminsit yoga cultures of the metaregulators) they each re-imagine the traditional, tutor/learner dyad as a vector for harnessing the tutor training market. They each set about enlisting the broadest range of tutors as possible, borrowing the 'unity through diversity' slogan, it is a mass market strategy not unlike an artisanal, guild socialism, conflating libertarian, objectivism, (neo)liberal ideas of market-led freedom and a desire for independence from the state, free from the tyranny of conservatism: organized religions, protectionist social elites, military dictatorships and the equally unpalatable political ideologies of mainstream politics - such as the socialist 'left'. I have personally encountered bad behaviour in all these metaregulation networks first hand, not least bullying, bigotry, secrecy and censorship as they seek to control the yoga tutor training narrative in various ways while keeping each individual's reputation in good standing through concerted conviviality and mutual admiration, despite observable weaknesses in corporate leadership and policy making across the entire niche.

It is therefore no coincidence that my contribution from the floor at the last IYN conference was deleted by the editorial team and my repeated attempts to join the IYN Facebook group were repeatedly, and silently rejected.

It is not personal grievance though that is motivating me to write. I mention my own experience only because it is this kind of bad behavior that fuels a growing backlash against the fragile consensus among the metaregulator's. It is because of the bad behavior metaregulation seems to produce that it features in discussions on facebook groups like Occupy Yoga as a matter of routine.

My contribution is embarrassing for metaregulator's of course, but not because it is embarrassingly personal, prejudiced or plain wrong, but because it forces an inconvenient examination of the market-led sentiments that silently pervade metaregulators as they enlist people who are prepared to fiercely protect the company's reputation above all else, including perhaps their own better judgment.

It is somewhat ironic to use censorship to maintain the principles of openness and diversity on which such companies claim to trade in, but reputation is everything in terms of protecting revenues. The metaregulators are here because the yoga tutor training demand is nothing if it not an industry.

Via the lens of the United Nations Industrial Standard Industrial Classification system, the entire family of UN classifications that deforms the world's view of yoga is a blinker that guides practitioners towards sports and recreation education and not much else. What was once called 'adult education' in recent years has become more complicated by national workforce agenda's like Sport England's 'Active Nation', Skillsactive's NOS and the triumphant postures of globalized, pro-capitalist neoliberalism that national healthcare and educational systems find difficult to resist.

None of this problematic leadership is helped by the aggressive political lobbying by companies like the Yoga in Healthcare Alliance alongside supportive, powerful interests in private medical healthcare championed in America by the likes of the International Association of Yoga Teachers.

In summary, the IYN Conference is not really a conference, but rather a trade fair which masquerades as a conference. Using informal social networks, the IYN does not directly engage in the kind of preeminent or deeply-embedded institutional work that the word 'conference' usually implies. The presenter's are self-selecting and approved by a tiny management team of volunteers and so the quality can safely be predicted to be inconsistent. This conference may or may not discuss 'What is Yoga?' but it certainly will help to maintain a problematic, fragile and lop-sided consensus among peers generally seeking personal advantage in the way of status and social capital in maintaining the networks rather than looking to deliver an event that could easily be designed to offer more substantial public benefits.

Almost nothing of broader consequence emerges from such events. It's a social networking event, so let's call it that - a 'meet-up' or a 'seminar' - something like that.

The IYN conference will not take place for the millions of people that practice yoga as an everyday function of human life. Moreover, it becomes a spectacle about the IYN and IYN members. It is impossible to relate to the idea of attending an IYN conference, or any yoga conference perhaps to what generally passes as a conference in say, science, tech, engineering, maths or academia more generally where new material is almost a prerequisite and high quality, innovative and thought-provoking questions are presented openly and discussed openly.

My prediction is the IYN conference will not take place, but a formalized, selective misrepresentation of yoga through a series of self-selecting presenter's likely will.


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