Yoga Alliance: Yay or Nay?

Scrolling through the search results for ‘yoga teacher training’, there are literally over tens of thousands of institutions that offer yoga instruction across the world. From independent yoga teachers, local studios, to lengthy yoga teacher training retreats, it can be hard to decide what’s right for you. Would you rather an immersive and intensive course that teaches yoga all day, every day? Or a 9 month course that lets you learn at a slower pace? Whatever your learning style, it’s possible to find the right program wherever you are in America.

Another major decision you’ll have to make is whether to go for a Yoga Alliance approved course.

So, what is the purpose of Yoga Alliance accreditation exactly? It’s a much debated topic. Does the yoga industry need to be standardized? How is Yoga Alliance working to make sure these benchmarks are actually met around the world? Here we’ll look at issues surrounding Yoga Alliance, but first and foremost:

What Is Yoga Alliance?

Formed in 1999, Yoga Alliance is the result two organisations merging: Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Registry. It is a non-profit organization and for the last 20 years, Yoga Alliance has authorised and administered a standard for yoga teachers and yoga teacher training courses across the world. According to their website, Yoga Alliance Registry currently has over 75,000 teachers and schools registered. Their mission is to:

  • Encourage safe yoga instruction
  • Advocate for self-regulation of the industry outside of government law
  • Provide feedback to registered yoga schools

Surveying the Yoga Alliance website, their support, advocacy and dedication to maintaining a community appears ideal. But there are those who believe Yoga Alliance are falling short of meeting their objectives.

Some objections to Yoga Alliance

Curriculum isn’t standardized

Some individuals and entities, including The American Yoga School, believe that Yoga Alliance as an organization lacks the necessary authority to do its job. According to an impassioned post by The American Yoga School, Yoga Alliance is not effective because there is no specific curriculum, reinforcement, or mandatory teacher assessments issued by the association.

As listed on Yoga Alliance website, registered 200 hour trainings must include specific hours in the following categories: practice, teaching methodology, anatomy, philosophy & ethics and practice teaching. However, the content of each area is up to the course provider. The lack of control in content raises many eyebrows in the yoga community.

With over 75,000 instructors and schools to monitor, some feel this colossal task is too difficult for Yoga Alliance to undertake. As Pam Weber, Director of Credentialing at Yoga Alliance, told The American Yoga School:

“How do you monitor such a diverse population? Our standards are focused on educational category and number of hours per educational category. But we don’t dive into content.”

Which begs the question, why complete yoga teacher training at a Yoga Alliance registered yoga school? What is the value in registering with Yoga Alliance?

Personal experience vs. institutionalized learning

Tanja Bell, who has completed her 290 hour yoga teacher training at the Yoga and Meditation School of India in Melbourne, Australia, doesn’t believe that authority has a place in yoga.

“I’m a non-Yoga Alliance member, and don’t plan on ever becoming one. I don’t think having the membership distinguishes between a good or excellent teacher. Individual knowledge of yoga and practice itself does that” she says.

“I understand that there are some benefits as to ongoing development, but this can also be done independently without Yoga Alliance.” said Tanja.

The positives of membership

Ethical governance

Vidula Sawant, an experienced yoga teacher and studio owner in Australia, believes that accreditation adds professionalism for a yoga teacher. After being brought up in a spiritual and highly philosophical family, she began teaching yoga in Brazil in 2003. Her knowledge of the Mudras and Asanas was passed down from family and friends, with no formal training.

“Yoga was a way of life, not a qualification as such,” Vidula explains. “But as someone who has worked for multinational companies in non-regulated markets, I totally appreciate and understand the importance of regulation. I feel more comfortable working as a yoga teacher now than I did 18 years ago. By regulating any industry, an opportunity is created for safe, ethical work guidelines.”

Insurance cover

Further more, when talking to other studio owners, Yoga Alliance certification for teachers meant that some liability insurance companies would cover the teachers in case of an accident, as they were perceived to have a higher standard of training.

The verdict?

Is there an absolute conclusion from yoga instructors, teacher trainers, studio owners and students? Not quite, but there are positive and negatives to deeply consider.

“I’m registered with the Yoga Alliance” explains yoga teacher Jacqueline Kulka. “Although I think it is a good thing to be registered, I always wonder if it is truly needed. I mean, the true Gurus have never been registered, and students were meant to look for them. Nowadays it is all about reputation and image. There is no right or wrong here, and there is no good or bad.”

The question of the standardization of yoga still remains. But perhaps asking yourself why you’re registering with Yoga Alliance would be a better question. Are you looking for a stamp of approval because you truly believe you’ll benefit from the guidelines? There’s no single objective truth here; there are many paths.

In my opinion, just walk the one that suits you. What do you think?

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Camilla Peffer

Camilla is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She began practising yoga 2.5 years ago after taking a break from running. You can find her perfecting her handstands, eating her way across her adopted home town, or bothering people for a vino.

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