Yoga Alliance CEO Richard Karpel Reflects on First Year in Office

Yoga Alliance has taken some flak from the yoga community over the years, but under new CEO Richard Karpel, YA has laid out a vision for becoming a more fully fledged service organization for its members, and has launched on the first steps towards fulfilling that vision.

This has included more than doubling the staff from 12 to 25, and the launch of a new, and easier to navigate website, which automatizes functions like updating your registration or entering information about Continuing Ed hours. The website also introduces a rating system a la which requires yoga teacher trainees to rate their yoga teacher training program in regards to overall experience and whether the program covered the material it said it would cover.

Karpel was recently interviewed by about lessons from his first year in office. Below are excerpts from the interview about what Karpel learned in the process—you can read the full interview here.

  • Soliciting honest feedback can be tough when everybody’s chasing bliss. Anonymous and vindictive negative feedback are the bugbear of any ratings website, and Yoga Alliance was determined to avoid it. Raters on the new website can’t be anonymous, and to ensure that there’s plenty of feedback, teachers are required to rate their school as part of their registration. (Schools can turn off their ratings and comments, but the website’s entry declares when one has done so.) That’s made for plenty of reviews—11,000 so far—but Karpel is looking for ways to encourage more thoughtful critiques. “People are very nice in the yoga community, so there tends to be people who are conflict-avoidant,” he says. “We don’t want people to be flamed, but if there’s something you can tell us about that’s constructive, the school needs it and the yoga community needs it.”

  • However much you think you’re communicating, you may not be communicating enough. Because Yoga Alliance wasn’t a membership organization until recently, the credentialed schools weren’t used to hearing much from the organization. So it faced a double challenge of not just making people aware of the new website, but about its potential impact. “I think if we were doing it again, I would’ve done more up-front preparation, telling people this is coming,” Karpel says. “I thought we did a lot of it, a lot of emails, a lot of information on the website. It wasn’t enough.”

  • Stay optimistic. Though there’s still plenty of work to do on the website—not to mention a so-called “yoga tax” in Washington, DC, that Yoga Alliance is protesting—Karpel sees the organization has having passed the worst of its growing pains. . . .  Karpel says its current challenges have been partly a function of little—or no—expectations among members until recently.

But he’s confident the critics will come to understand the upsides of the association’s efforts. “The job now is to turn the gritting of the teeth into happiness,” he says. “Providing value, and that’s what we’re working furiously to do.

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