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Modi govt is readying a Yoga Army to meet global ‘demand’

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The Modi government has certified 734 Yoga trainers since 2015 with many deployed abroad

Sai Manish  |  New Delhi  April 14, 2017 Last Updated at 12:30 IST

The Voluntary Certification of Professionals introduced on June 22, 2015 – the first Day after the UN announced one – has started producing the ancient art’s first-ever government approved practitioners at a steady pace. In November 2016, Union State Minister of Yesso Naik had informed the Lok Sabha that the government had certified 734 professionals in 17 months.


That’s 43 government certified trainers every month. There were 31 teachers deployed abroad attached to respective Indian embassies. The (Ayurveda, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) ministry even sent a troupe to Iraq in June 2016. Naik further stated, “It involves certifying the competence level of professionals to help their deployment within and outside the country to meet the increased demand. At present, there is no central legislation for the regulation of education and practice in


That the Centre has taken on itself to bridge this demand gap for trainers can partly be explained by the little control it has over the industry in India. The minister has admitted in Lok Sabha that government doesn’t maintain a database of private institutes. Spread across India, these institutes churn out thousands of trainers of various nationalities every year. In his 2015 Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had declared all related businesses as charities exempt from tax.


These trainers have been certified by the Adil Zainulbhai-headed Quality Council of India (QCI). Zainulbhai, a senior advisor at McKinsey, was appointed to the post in September 2014 by Prime Minister Modi. But, it’s not Zainulbhai who calls the shots. It is the Certification Steering Committee of the QCI which decides who to certify. The committee is headed by founder Sri Sri Ravishankar whose own school is one of the two organisations certified by the QCI.


At the moment, the government has launched two out of the four levels — Level 1, a beginner’s course for certification as ‘instructors’, and Level 2 for being a ‘teacher’. The others include Level 3, which an instructor would have to clear to be called a ‘guru’, and Level 4, which would be required to be titled an ‘acharaya’.


The Parliament was informed that 502 and 232 candidates had passed the Level 1 and Level 2 tests, respectively, till date. The exams conducted by QCI certified agencies are quite like a medical curriculum involving a written and a practical part. Questions on theology can range from controversial to the obvious. For instance, the model test paper for Level 2 asks the following:


Who amongst these is not an Acharya in the traditional sense of term ‘Acharya’


a. Shankara


b. Ramanuja


c. Shri Aurobindo


d. Vallabha


While the government is upping the ante by producing more certified professionals, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been acting as a force multiplier. The ICCR has deployed teachers attached to Indian embassies at 19 missions and consulates, from Mexico to Kula Lumpur and Moscow to Male. The ICCR has made it mandatory for trainers applying for overseas jobs at Indian missions to have a QCI certification. Among other qualifications, a knowledge of Sanskrit or Hindi is deemed desirable unlike for other jobs like a Bharatnatyam or Odissi teacher where English fluency is required. The job has a few perks – a two-year stint abroad with expenses of a one bedroom accommodation borne by the government. “We have been promoting abroad since the late 1980s. But with the creation of a new ministry, there is greater momentum in raising consciousness about overseas. Apart from International Day, we keep organising events at our centres across the world”, a senior official at ICCR told Business Standard.


But the global push for by the Modi government has also to do with cultural fears about an ancient Indian art losing its association with India in the face of the proliferation of various forms of primarily emanating from the US. At an event organised by the Indian embassy in Lima, a total of 30 Peruvian health professionals were offered a two-month course. The aim of the programmes was to ensure “quality control in education and prevent quackery in the teaching and practice of Yoga”. A mail sent to Aayam Gupta, the teacher posted at the Indian embassy in Peru who conducted the programmes, did not elicit a response. 


With the government now aggressively certifying and recruiting trainers, it has also led to the creation of an Ivy League of education. A background check on some of the teachers posted abroad and those who have been certified show that many received training at Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya in Haridwar and the Foundation. This has also become a strong selling point for these institutes. Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living, for instance, provides a 350-hour advanced course for Rs 48,000 ($2300 for non-SAARC citizens) to aspirants at its Bengaluru Ashram. The foundation claims “The five-week curriculum is aligned with the syllabus laid down for Level-2 Teachers, under the Scheme for Voluntary Certification of Professionals, mentored by government of India and owned by QCI. The students who successfully complete the programme and examination thereafter will be eligible for the certificate from QCI after clearing an interview.”


However, India’s production line of trainers may have a hard time catching up with global demand despite the government’s hurried pace to increase the pool of certified teachers. A 2016 report on the US Industry by alliance found that 36 million Americans practice the art every year. That’s an increase of 76 per cent since 2012 and more than double the figure from 2008.  


Ninety per cent of Americans now know what is. In 2012, only 70 per cent were aware of Practitioners spent $16 billion on buying accessories, clothing, mats and classes. That’s an increase of 60 per cent as compared to 2012. With an estimated size of $27 billion, the US is the biggest and most exciting market.


The US not just consumes a lot of Yoga, it also churns out teachers by the dozen. Alliance, the country’s largest teacher registry, states that it has 76,000 registered teachers and over 7,000 schools in its registry. Reports suggest that more than 14,000 new trainers had joined the Alliance in 2014 alone. Meanwhile, the Indian government has no data on how much the tax-free Indian industry is worth or contributes to the global industry.


There was curiosity among some Indian legislators on whether the government planned to certify more than 50,000 more trainers over the next three years and deploy them across the world. This was denied by the government, with Naik telling Parliament in August last year, “No such targets have been fixed. However, efforts will be made to certify the maximum number of professionals under the scheme for voluntary certification of professionals.

Modi govt is readying a Yoga Army to meet global ‘demand’

The Modi government has certified 734 Yoga trainers since 2015 with many deployed abroad

The Modi government has certified 734 Yoga trainers since 2015 with many deployed abroad

The Voluntary Certification of Professionals introduced on June 22, 2015 – the first Day after the UN announced one – has started producing the ancient art’s first-ever government approved practitioners at a steady pace. In November 2016, Union State Minister of Yesso Naik had informed the Lok Sabha that the government had certified 734 professionals in 17 months.


That’s 43 government certified trainers every month. There were 31 teachers deployed abroad attached to respective Indian embassies. The (Ayurveda, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) ministry even sent a troupe to Iraq in June 2016. Naik further stated, “It involves certifying the competence level of professionals to help their deployment within and outside the country to meet the increased demand. At present, there is no central legislation for the regulation of education and practice in


That the Centre has taken on itself to bridge this demand gap for trainers can partly be explained by the little control it has over the industry in India. The minister has admitted in Lok Sabha that government doesn’t maintain a database of private institutes. Spread across India, these institutes churn out thousands of trainers of various nationalities every year. In his 2015 Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had declared all related businesses as charities exempt from tax.


These trainers have been certified by the Adil Zainulbhai-headed Quality Council of India (QCI). Zainulbhai, a senior advisor at McKinsey, was appointed to the post in September 2014 by Prime Minister Modi. But, it’s not Zainulbhai who calls the shots. It is the Certification Steering Committee of the QCI which decides who to certify. The committee is headed by founder Sri Sri Ravishankar whose own school is one of the two organisations certified by the QCI.


At the moment, the government has launched two out of the four levels — Level 1, a beginner’s course for certification as ‘instructors’, and Level 2 for being a ‘teacher’. The others include Level 3, which an instructor would have to clear to be called a ‘guru’, and Level 4, which would be required to be titled an ‘acharaya’.


The Parliament was informed that 502 and 232 candidates had passed the Level 1 and Level 2 tests, respectively, till date. The exams conducted by QCI certified agencies are quite like a medical curriculum involving a written and a practical part. Questions on theology can range from controversial to the obvious. For instance, the model test paper for Level 2 asks the following:


Who amongst these is not an Acharya in the traditional sense of term ‘Acharya’


a. Shankara


b. Ramanuja


c. Shri Aurobindo


d. Vallabha


While the government is upping the ante by producing more certified professionals, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has been acting as a force multiplier. The ICCR has deployed teachers attached to Indian embassies at 19 missions and consulates, from Mexico to Kula Lumpur and Moscow to Male. The ICCR has made it mandatory for trainers applying for overseas jobs at Indian missions to have a QCI certification. Among other qualifications, a knowledge of Sanskrit or Hindi is deemed desirable unlike for other jobs like a Bharatnatyam or Odissi teacher where English fluency is required. The job has a few perks – a two-year stint abroad with expenses of a one bedroom accommodation borne by the government. “We have been promoting abroad since the late 1980s. But with the creation of a new ministry, there is greater momentum in raising consciousness about overseas. Apart from International Day, we keep organising events at our centres across the world”, a senior official at ICCR told Business Standard.


But the global push for by the Modi government has also to do with cultural fears about an ancient Indian art losing its association with India in the face of the proliferation of various forms of primarily emanating from the US. At an event organised by the Indian embassy in Lima, a total of 30 Peruvian health professionals were offered a two-month course. The aim of the programmes was to ensure “quality control in education and prevent quackery in the teaching and practice of Yoga”. A mail sent to Aayam Gupta, the teacher posted at the Indian embassy in Peru who conducted the programmes, did not elicit a response. 


With the government now aggressively certifying and recruiting trainers, it has also led to the creation of an Ivy League of education. A background check on some of the teachers posted abroad and those who have been certified show that many received training at Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya in Haridwar and the Foundation. This has also become a strong selling point for these institutes. Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living, for instance, provides a 350-hour advanced course for Rs 48,000 ($2300 for non-SAARC citizens) to aspirants at its Bengaluru Ashram. The foundation claims “The five-week curriculum is aligned with the syllabus laid down for Level-2 Teachers, under the Scheme for Voluntary Certification of Professionals, mentored by government of India and owned by QCI. The students who successfully complete the programme and examination thereafter will be eligible for the certificate from QCI after clearing an interview.”


However, India’s production line of trainers may have a hard time catching up with global demand despite the government’s hurried pace to increase the pool of certified teachers. A 2016 report on the US Industry by alliance found that 36 million Americans practice the art every year. That’s an increase of 76 per cent since 2012 and more than double the figure from 2008.  


Ninety per cent of Americans now know what is. In 2012, only 70 per cent were aware of Practitioners spent $16 billion on buying accessories, clothing, mats and classes. That’s an increase of 60 per cent as compared to 2012. With an estimated size of $27 billion, the US is the biggest and most exciting market.


The US not just consumes a lot of Yoga, it also churns out teachers by the dozen. Alliance, the country’s largest teacher registry, states that it has 76,000 registered teachers and over 7,000 schools in its registry. Reports suggest that more than 14,000 new trainers had joined the Alliance in 2014 alone. Meanwhile, the Indian government has no data on how much the tax-free Indian industry is worth or contributes to the global industry.


There was curiosity among some Indian legislators on whether the government planned to certify more than 50,000 more trainers over the next three years and deploy them across the world. This was denied by the government, with Naik telling Parliament in August last year, “No such targets have been fixed. However, efforts will be made to certify the maximum number of professionals under the scheme for voluntary certification of professionals.

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Sai Manish

Business Standard

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