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Posted a comment on Change ACC’s coding on Yoga (yoga is not a sport) petition As a professional yoga teacher with thousands of hours of training and over a decade’s experience, I actually use yoga as a rehabilitative tool with…
According to ACC, “Yoga instruction” is as risky as ski and snowboarding instruction, kick-boxing instruction and teaching high-impact aerobics.
This means that irrespective of qualifications, experience levels, or teaching methods, Yoga teachers are pigeon-holed by ACC − without specific industry classification − into the Levy Risk group of ‘Sports and physical recreation instruction’ (CU 84500), paying $1.37 for every $100 earned in ACC levies.
Meanwhile, dance and ballet teachers – a category that undoubtedly includes hip-hop, pole-dancers & twerking instructors – only pay $0.26 for every $100 earned. The same low fee applies to Fitness trainers who teach ‘diet, exercise and lifestyle factors’ under Adult community education. Likewise, Personal health and fitness trainers pay a lower levy of $0.40 per $100.
Ironically, according to ACC, it is less risky to work as a racing dog trainer than to teach downward dog.
Nonetheless, Yoga instruction seems unfairly coded in terms of the rest of New Zealand. For example: sedentary lawyers and accountants in high stress jobs pay $0.04c; ACC workers and plastic surgeons pay $0.06; massage therapists $0.18; prostitutes $0.40; traffic police pay $0.44; fire-fighters $0.92; and professional netball players pay $1.31.
In fact, the only people paying higher ACC levies than Yoga teachers are professionals in high risk jobs such as rugby players, dairy farmers, motor racing trainers, and tow truck drivers.
In contrast to ACC’s risk assessment of NZ’s Yoga industry, the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS), which informs both the ACC and the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classifications (ANZSIC), regards ‘Yoga’ as a relatively gentle heath and relaxation activity:
“Yoga is an ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation.”
Also, according to the ABS, Yoga has been assigned a relatively low metabolic (MET) value, ranging from 2-4 (as per the Australian Health Survey, cat. no. 4364.0.55.004). Yet, Kickboxing and Aerobics have MET scores ranging from 8-10.
ACC uses the ABS website and ANZSIC Classification Units (2006) as a basic framework to code the activities of New Zealand workers. For example, Yoga teaching is classified by both ANZSIC and ACC under Adult (Community) Education and Training (coded under Class 8211, or CU84500). Yoga instruction is regarded by these institutions as the teaching of a non-vocational skill. Yet, unlike Dance Teacher, Yoga does not have its own coding and is lumped in with Community Sports instruction.
I have queried this medium to high risk classification of Yoga with both ACC and ANZSIC.
A spokesperson from ANZSIC replied saying:
“ABS would recommend taking a ‘case by case’ approach to classification of these businesses – for example, if a business describes itself as specifically teaching physical exercise or training skills for clients to take away and apply outside the context of the service they provide, their productive inputs would be considered to align more with Class 8211. Conversely, if their focus is to provide a service helping clients to achieve personal targets or goals within the context of classes or individual sessions, then they are considered to be providing a personal service (Class 9539).”
Although I – and many other qualified, experienced Yoga teachers – have the skillset to adapt and personalise each class for our clients’ safety and wellbeing, ‘Yoga’ is still considered by ACC a ‘non-vocational’ form of Sports and Physical Recreation instruction. This same code is assigned to sporting activities, such as community squash, netball and rugby. What is more, ACC will not consider changing Yoga Teachers’ high levy fees without legal review, or applications from the New Zealand public (the next submission is in September 2015).
While some could argue that the reported increase in injuries from “fad yoga” has put the entire New Zealand Yoga industry into a medium to high-risk levy group; a recent study by Loren M. Fishman (et al.) suggests that “poor technique or alignment, previous injury, excess effort, and improper or inadequate instruction were the most commonly cited causes of Yoga injuries.” This means that qualified Yoga teachers may be taking on the ‘karmic’ debt of risky clients, and paying high premiums to cover inexperienced, unqualified teachers.
At the same time, ACC, keen to promote their WorkSmart programme (paid for by New Zealand’s working public), have produced a range of “Ready made” stretch sheets, which encourage workers from different industries to practice one-size-fits-all stretches. However, none of ACC’s WorkSmart stretches offer any contraindication guidelines, which may prevent people with high blood pressure, pre-existing back, neck or rotator cuff injuries from further harming themselves. Likewise, people who are over-weight, have mobility and balance issues, and women who are pregnant are given no stretch modification to work with in ACC’s WorkSmart Ready made stretch sheets.
Is it that ACC deems Yoga instruction a medium to high risk ‘non-vocational’ activity that can be largely side-lined by promoting unsupervised stretching under the publicly funded WorkSmart banner? Or do they genuinely believe Yoga is a risky type of Sport, like community netball?
Numerous scholarly studies show that carefully instructed Yoga helps improve practioners’ physical and mental health. However, unless experienced, qualified Yoga instructors make a stand and challenge ACC’s in-group biases, Yoga instruction in New Zealand will stay coded as a ‘non-vocational’ skill, rather than a specialised, personalised service with measurable health and fitness benefits.
My next steps are to: 1) submit an application for independent review, which will be looked at by ACC’s Legal and Commercial Team; 2) gather Statistics for Yoga and comparative injuries under the Official Information Act 1982; 3) and, review information that ACC uses to calculate levies based on injury prevention prevalence for the yoga industry.
This is bureaucratic battle has been both time and energy consuming. In the meantime, any Yoga teachers or member of the public who wish to sign the online petition or query their own levy assessment can contact the ACC Business Service Centre on 0800 222 776 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks for your time and consideration,