Sunday, November 24, 2013

Should All Yoga Teachers Be Certified?

I look forward to answering your questions in this blog.  Please feel free to leave a comment or e-mail your questions to

Kristen asks:  Should all yoga teachers be licensed or certified?

This is a loaded question, and one that I feel strongly about.  Currently there is no US wide regulation of yoga teachers.  Most days I think that’s a very good thing.  Government is good at many things, but understanding yoga isn’t among them.  In New York, they recently tried to pass legislation that would have required licensing and certification of yoga teachers.  That legislation, however, proposed that yoga teachers be certified by the exercise industry, not the yoga industry.   And the exercise industry knows so very little about the true meaning and purpose of yoga.  I honestly believe that, had this law passed, the quality of yoga programs in that state would have suffered.

That said, having no certification or regulation requirements can lead to misuse of the term “yoga teacher.”  There are people all over the country who teach yoga with little or no formal training.
Often times they have a strong personal practice and can do all the poses.  So, they figure, why not teach?  That not only demeans the profession of teaching yoga; it can be dangerous.  Untrained yoga teachers can ask students to do things that are unsafe, may not know how to modify poses for bodies different than their own, or may not fully understand the impact of their teaching all together.  So, if I don’t want licensing, but I DO think proper training is essential, where does that leave us?

The yoga community tackled this question a little over a decade ago.  In 1999 they came together to form an organization called Yoga Alliance.  Yoga Alliance is a voluntary certification body.  It certifies yoga schools that meet certain minimum requirements to train teachers at the 200 hour and 500 hour levels.  Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program meets these requirements and is a registered Yoga Alliance school.  Therefore every teacher that is certified through our program has been given a minimum of 200 hours of training in 5 key areas:
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Teaching methodology
  • Yoga techniques
  • Yoga philosophy
  • Teaching practice
As a yoga studio owner, I do require that all of my instructors be certified; not for the certification paper per se, but because the certification demonstrates a level of dedication and training.  In fact, at this time I only hire people who have been certified through my program.  I know their capabilities; I know their ethics; I know their hearts.   I know I can trust them with my business and with the students that make it great.

As a consumer, I would personally only take yoga from someone who is certified or who has taken an equivalent level of training from a reputable school.  Many schools in India don’t certify per se, but they do offer excellent training.  So, as the saying goes, “Let the buyer beware.”  Wherever you take yoga, be sure to ask the instructor where they received their training, how long the training was, and if they are certified.  If they can’t answer or their training was less than 200 hours, then just be aware that they may not have a significant level of education in how to safely and effectively teach yoga.  Whether or not you want to continue taking yoga from them is a completely personal choice.


Tracy Weber

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out my author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available for preorder now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers! Available at bookstores nation wide starting January 8, 2014!


Linda O. Johnston said...

Interesting issue, Tracy. Sounds as if the certification handles at least some of the problem. Yoga sounds like a worthwhile activity but not if it can lead to injury, and teaching by people who don't know what they're doing could be dangerous.

Tracy Weber said...

Yes, yoga can do as much harm as good, if the teacher doesn't know what they're doing. Certification by no means guarantees you a good teacher, but at least it indicates that the person you're studying with had some level of training.

Betty Hechtman said...

I have taken yoga from a number of teachers and each seemed to have their own interpetation of it. But it was still mostly a fringe thing. I rememember having to get my first yoga mat from a catalog. Now they are all over the place. And there are yoga classes all over the place. The number one concern is to do no harm.

Tracy Weber said...

Exactly, Betty. There are many lineages who are quite different from each other. A trained teacher in a lineage is one thing. The challenges are that untrained teachers don't know how to "do no harm." I'm shocked at how little training some teachers have. Just beware!