Ready the warrior pose: Yogi devotees to descend on Austin for protest
During the height of the rockin' SXSW music festival, a peaceful demonstration by unstrung yogis will be going down on the lawn of the Texas state capitol. The gathering is in support of House Bills No. 1839 and 2167, which aim to halt government regulations on yoga practice and teacher certification.
Buergermeister's crew will pile into a bus in Houston on Wednesday morning and join a mass yoga class on the capitol's grass at 5:30 p.m. "We're asking for everyone who loves yoga to come join us," she says.
So far, over 1,500 people have signed a petition against the state regulating the 5,000-year-old tradition of yoga. Buergermeister explains that the state government has reclassified yoga centers that train instructors as post-secondary career schools or colleges — thus applying a second layer of taxes. She cites Virginia and New York among the states that have now passed bills protecting yoga centers from the extra fees.
"The state audit alone costs a yoga center around $5,000," says Buergermeister. "I already pay my taxes as a business owner. Why do I need to pay a double taxation because I'm holding some sort of training program?"
It's just a way for the state to get revenue. But aren't there some things that just need to be left alone? No person has ever been harmed in yoga training. There's no reason for them to be looking at yoga right now."
She argues that the issue is one of semantics, in which yoga instruction is being misunderstood as college.
"Martial arts, dance and other arts are exempted," she says. "Yoga is an art form, too."
Buergermeister anticipates a few hundred yoga enthusiasts will participate in the Wednesday demonstration. House representative Eddie Lucio III will lead other representatives and staff to meet the yoga enthusiasts on the lawn. Also in attendance will be musician and "blessed friend" David Berkeley, who will fly in from Atlanta to perform at the event.
When the bills will actually come up for vote is still undetermined. "We're hoping that if we show that we support yoga and wellness, then the bill will pass," Buergermeister says. "I think we just need to change our paradigm."