Licensing Yoga: Who the F*ck Let You Become a Yoga Teacher?

Via on Nov 29, 2011
The amazing awesome annoying infamous Inappropriate Yoga Guy.

My friend called me in disbelief the other day after trying a new yoga studio and teacher:

That yoga class was so bad I can’t even explain it to you. It made no sense. The teacher should be arrested it was that bad.

Many of us, I’m sure, have experienced a similar feeling before. After a truly horrific experience we can’t help but think: Who the f*ck let this person become a yoga teacher?

I want to return to a subject that has been an ongoing discussion in the yoga world since the creation of Yoga Alliance in 1999. In 2009, The New York Times came out with an article “Yoga Faces Regulation, and Firmly Presses Back” citing the efforts of states, New York in particular, to regulate yoga schools and teacher training programs. Similar to licensing of massage – yoga teachers can expect increased regulations in the future as the yoga industry continues to grow by every OM sounded throughout the thousands of registered yoga studios in our country every day.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea of regulating yoga schools on a state level until recently. Many people that are against regulation believe it would be an infringement upon a religious belief system or that it would limit freedom. For myself, I’ve come to believe that we have a serious problem that could be fixed by regulating and licensing schools and teachers on a state-wide basis.

The problem is the fact that anyone can teach yoga.

And even scarier – the fact that anyone can open a yoga studio.

Problem # 1 – The Integrity of Teacher Training Programs: Most yoga teachers have been through a 200-hour teacher training program if the school is registered with Yoga Alliance. More recently, however, it has become apparent that schools have found a way to cash-in on their teacher training programs by breaking down trainings into 100-hour or 50-hour programs instead. Yoga Alliance requires registered teachers to receive their 200 hours from the same school – which means – these studios are making a lot of money by making their teacher trainees take multiple trainings in order to receive their certificate.

Problem # 2 – Follow-up and Accountability: How are these trainings being regulated by Yoga Alliance anyways? Despite the application process to become a registered yoga school and the requirements these trainings are supposed to meet – there is no follow-up process. Whose to say these schools actually teach what they say they are going to teach?

This subject was lit fresh in my mind recently when a person claiming to be a yoga teacher opened a studio nearby. This is Problem # 3: People who say they are yoga teachers that have no real business saying so.

This particular person has not only never trained formally with a yoga school – but has never practiced yoga regularly. Ever.

How has this person been allowed to open a studio? How is this person allowed to stay in business?

Here is the question I am posing to the universe: Are credible yoga studios and teachers responsible for watching out for non-credible studios and teachers? Is it our job to warn students of an unsafe situation?

Would licensing and regulation of studios really be that bad if it meant more credibility for studios that are actually doing it right?

Yoga practitioners have differing tastes in what makes a good or a bad yoga class. Different styles speak to different practitioners – and this is another obstacle in the way of licensing: How to regulate while maintaining the differences between yoga styles. Would Kundalini and Hatha schools have the same regulations as Ashtanga and Power Yoga schools?

Who decides?

I’ve been a member of Yoga Alliance for two years and believe in its mission – but I strongly believe it needs to do more. It is not enough to place “RYT” next to my name anymore. Not when anyone can turn in their certificate and pay the fee to become registered. There needs to be follow-up, integrity and accountability.

Who’s going to make that happen? I’m at a loss – Please, tell me what you think.

Read Part II in this conversation here.

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About Lauren Hanna

Lauren Hanna, E-RYT 200, MSS Candidate, is a social worker by day and yoga ninja by night. It was in Pittsburgh that she first discovered the thrill of yoga and her love for social welfare and animal rescue work. With her cats Lotus and Calia in tow, Lauren hopes to someday combine her love for yoga and animal welfare with her career as a social worker. Lauren likes to dream a lot about saving the world – one puppy, kitten and human at a time. Lauren also loves cobblestone streets, arts & crafts, action movies and writing books with her Grandmother. If she had a billion dollars she'd probably spend it all here. Follow her @laurenfoste.

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62 Responses to “Licensing Yoga: Who the F*ck Let You Become a Yoga Teacher?”

  1. I agree. I've gotten pretty picky about where I take classes after a few negative experiences with people who were basically fitness instructors who also did a yoga teacher training to expand their resumes. Nothing wrong with that, per se. Plenty of people just want a "yoga fit" or similar workout…but that's not what I want in a yoga teacher.

  2. missbernklau says:

    I think the answer may be simple, the responsibility to regulate studios and teachers should be on Yoga Alliance, not the government. We’d be getting into some murky waters getting government involved. YA should have requirements and standards that can be checked on an annual basis (or more often, if that’s realistic, considering the vast amount of teachers and studios) by YA representatives that visit studios and meet with registered teachers to observe classes and see how they operate in alignment with set standards. Maybe the government’s involvement only extends to making it a law that one cannot open a studio or legally teach unless registered with YA? But a lot of teachers have issues with YA and it’s own credibility, so it’s really hard to know who should be the authority on what are acceptable practices for teachers and studios…so I guess I was wrong in saying the answer is simple hehe

  3. anon says:

    I have to totally agree with you after just completing a 200 YTT in Nepal with a Yoga Alliance Certified organization. I have realized that Yoga Alliance is yet another organization that really does nothing but collect fees so you can say you are apart of the Alliance, which ultimately doesn't do very much for anyone other then say you have followed a set of guidelines for the teaching. Anyone can get this.
    In my teacher training i feel i was abused and treated unfairly (other students where as well), and i tried contacting YA and i got nothing from them. I also realized my teachers had the bare minimums for setting up a school and probably shouldn't be doing any teaching, but yet, there is no way to provide this feedback.

    • Anon, thank you for sharing!! I'm sorry to hear you had a poor experience with your YTT. It seems that people are having experiences like yours more and more often. Here's to hoping YA can step it up.

      ~Lauren

  4. Dimitar says:

    I completely disagree with this article. When has regulating any matter made it better? If you like the idea of being “safe”, then the idea of stronger regulations make sense. But “safe” and coming from the heart are wide ways apart. My friend, who was in marketing decided that the business world was not for her and opened here own yoga studio some years ago. She has practiced with many of the leading figures in the yoga community, yet she is still not officially certified. Her classes are better than many of the ones i have been to with certified teachers. And it has to do with the fact that she pouring her heart into what she believes, not how many certifications she has. This is in Bulgaria, where nothing is truly regulated, and if it is, it is not for the right reasons.

    But, regulating it would actually create a bigger divide between “corporate yoga” and grassroots yoga practices, similarly to many other fields, so it could filter out a lot of people that would just like to do it as fitness as opposed to those that are open and know the path which they have decided to follow.

  5. Joey Foo says:

    I strongly agree with your article and it was exactly how I feel!

  6. rob says:

    no one way is better or worse than any way to become a teacher.

  7. Timmo Skallerup says:

    Regarding the statement with the snappy “f*ck” word by Ms. Foster: this does NOT reflect my experience. Quite the contrary. I have taken at least one yoga class every week for the last 10 years–from the east coast to the west coast and places in between–and I simply can NOT say I’ve ever had a “horrific” experience. Naturally, some teachers offer more poses & better instruction than others. But I agree with Guerrilla Yogi above. The vast majority of teachers have given me at least one thing I can take away to enhance my own practice. And I’m not just being ‘yogi-nice’. You can believe my family & friends when they tell you I can be as persnickety as anyone. Earlier in my life I’ve had careers in medicine and in academia. Now, I’m a full time yoga teacher and never, even in medicine, have I seen as much honest dedication and professionalism as I have from fellow yoga teachers.

    Personally, the best point in this whole discussion thread is made by ‘Guerrilla Yogi’ when he asks “Where is this judgement coming from?” I wonder. Who among us hasn’t gotten a bit carried away with our own self importance at some time in our yoga journey by our perfection of form, function, & disciplined practice? Seriously, are we taking ourselves too seriously? It seems this is a question some of us in this discussion thread need to ask.

    Evidently there are many issues with YA regarding it’s oversight of training programs. For those who own & operate yoga schools, in a society that values labels, honors status, & empowers authoritorian institutions, this must make it problematic to hang a shingle. However, the yoga school in Chicago where I received my CYT is most excellent but not because some arbitrary board of authorities in California is telling the owner how to run his school. He runs an excellent school because he is a great student of yoga & great teacher of yoga.

    I revel in my freedom as a yoga instructor by setting my own quality standards very high. Rather than depend on a group of so-called experts sitting at the top of some worshipped hierarchy to tell me what I need to do to be an acceptable teacher, I simply work earnestly, study passionately, and practice daily. I also network constantly with fellow yoga peeps including: humble teachers in small towns; yoga “rock stars” of international fame; colleagues in afternoon workshops at the local studio down the street; even fashionistas at glitzy yoga conferences in big cities. These are my sources of instruction, insight, & inspiration. And…my yoga students!!! I learn more by closely watching my students than I ever would learn from yet another board (read ‘bored’) of directors.

    I’d like to close my comment by quoting Annie above: “Not everything is meant to be caged by society because not everything is a danger to society when left to wander free”. Thanks for that classic quote, Annie. I couldn’t agree more.

    • I don't mean to impose my experience upon others. I'm genuinely trying to understand both sides to the question: "Does regulation belong in yoga?" Thank you for sharing!!

  8. Jenn P. says:

    I found this article and the comments interesting. This is the same thing that occurs in the personal training profession. Like Annie, I also pursue continuing education courses that are of a certain caliber, which many of my peers do not. I teach a bit of yoga, separate from my personal training clients, and I have not gone through a traditional yoga teacher training for a number of reasons; however, I attend weekend workshops regularly. I have found my knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy enable me to help students in a different way, particularly if they are nursing an injury or are having difficulty with a movement pattern. I don't know that government regulation would help and, as was pointed out above, there will always be good yoga teachers and bad yoga teachers. I do think it is unfortunate yoga, massage therapy, personal training, etc., still do not seem to be respected as "professions," although there are many of us who are passionate about the quality of instruction and work we bring to our clients. I am hopeful that as more people realize what a "good" teacher is, the bad ones will be weeded out. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to demand an exceptional experience from a qualified individual.

  9. West says:

    I am a little ambivolent on this issue as I am not a YA Member but teach Yoga. Having spent over 3 years intensly practicing with great Yogis and my own self-study I was asked to teach. You know who decides whether or not I should be teaching? My students! If I am not a good teacher, I won’t have people attend my classes.

    Would I like to attend a YA school to get Certified? Perhaps, but the outrageous cost (+$2000 USD) is really a negative factor. Throw in the stories of the YA lobbying State Governments really makes me question what their ultimate intentions are. What appears innoculous, creating standards, has turned out to be a revenue stream for Yoga Studios and the YA. How many YA-Accredited studios and retreats churn out “Yogis” in 15 days, 30 days, or 90 days for $$$ knowing full well those students are not the least bit ready to teach a Yoga Class?

    Yoga is such a complex and diverse “way of life” I don’t believe can be regulated from a Allience or Beaurocracy. It can only be regulated by those who practice it. If you are a “bad teacher” you won’t be a teacher for very long.

    Namaste my fellow Yogi.

    • "How many YA-Accredited studios and retreats churn out "Yogis" in 15 days, 30 days, or 90 days for $$$ knowing full well those students are not the least bit ready to teach a Yoga Class?"

      Well said!!! Thanks for sharing :)

  10. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Beverly Burt Not so good I tell ya! Yoga is a high science and good teacher is a must!
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 4Loading…
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    Harleigh Quinn For me it's more along the lines of those that became yoga teachers for the attention.
    They have no idea how to teach, really because their mind is actually dead set on themselves.
    It's a combination of control and ego:
    "I am the teacher. You can't tell me what to do." Coupled with "I'm so cute. Look at me up here…"

    Both really BAD combinations I have seen a LOT of.

    #

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Sachin Iceguy ‎"The problem is the fact that anyone can teach yoga." Really? I want everyone to teach yoga! certifications / licensing is another scheme to inflate prices and prevents those who really need it from getting it the most.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 10Loading…
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    Rick Dickinson No licensing! Yoga will self-regulate. Teachers that suck won't get any students. Teachers that excel will.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 28Loading…
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    Susi Costello There are a few problems with licensing and regulation. It sets some group as the authority and while they may be an adequate authority for a time, they may not stay that way. After awhile, they often become micro managers and adhering to their standards becomes simply more paperwork. It's unfortunate that studios rely on TT programs to survive….if they were choosier about their students – for instance requiring a certain number of years practicing, having their own daily practice, etc. – it might be better.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 6Loading…
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    Linda Stanley Sewell I think this is a perception problem…I've actually been looking for a good yoga teacher in my area and have no idea who's "registered" or not…and even what that would mean to me, a beginner. In my (communications background) opinion, it all comes down to PR. If the "registered" teachers pay to be certified, then part of that certification should go toward educating the public on what a "good" yoga teacher does for his/her client. I just left a class knowing that this wasn't it…but not being connected to the yoga community (I'm a beginner, remember), I have no idea where to go next.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Michele Casella Collier Is anyone who will pay for a TT program ever turned away? And do they always 'pass'? I am thankful that my training was passed teacher to student. My teacher was trained by Indra Devi and I was not allowed to teach until she thought I was ready. I have seen teachers who have spent a lot of money and time on training programs. I think the real learning comes with time and experience. I do not blindly follow any yoga teacher. No one should. Yoga itself is the teacher.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 10Loading…
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    Sachin Iceguy During my first month of gym yoga, I walked out of one class thinking that the teacher was completely inconsiderate, lacked flow, and didn't explain anything. Today, 5 years later, I still remember her slight touch on my lower back, encouraging me to straighten during monkey pose. Moral: with practice, you can always let go of the negative and hold on to the positive.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 5Loading…
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    Daria Baum certification doesn't usually mean anything except that you paid for that too
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2Loading…
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    Lauren Hanna Foster Sachin, I agree with some of your points. I definitely think the more the merrier when it comes to yoga teachers! But it's not so much about good versus bad teachers. The problem is credibility — do trainings prepare teachers properly? Even then, should people teach who haven't gone through a formal training? Who gets to decide?

  12. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Heather Burlison ok – i could not resist commenting here – 1st i am a yoga teacher and have been for 10 years – 2nd – yes i agree in accountability and find the yoga world and teacher trainings have simply just blown up over the past 5 years. now, every studio offer tt's and more of the teachers in the tt's have less than 5 years experience. i want to walk out of many of the classes i take as they are soo poorly taught with crazy sequencing and no bhava/heart around them. HOWEVER – although i dont like it, i need accept the fact that the yoga has moved into the big business sector AND yoga has become a fancy workout for most americans – for some its just the same as a fitness/jane fonda kinda class- so although people believe in more regulation – it really cant be done. just as a personal trainer – they attend a school – study for the exam – pass it and now it is up to the members of the gym and the owners to employee only the best. more regulation is not the answer- the yoga world is starting to sounds like government…should the teacher suck – dont employ them at your studio. should the owner suck – dont support that studio. its really that simple. lets the attendance and the students decide – not more fees, more bs ect…i understand what we are trying to protect with more rules, tighter trainings and I do agree. What I don’t agree with regulations – for this is a physical and spiritual practice and we are adults. If it doesn’t feel right in the body or the heart, you simply shouldn’t do it or support it.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 15Loading…
    #
    Nitai Aleksiewicz The bottom line is no matter how yoga is being capitalized on through an exorbitant amount of teacher trainings, it does take certain qualities, heart, and knowledge to make a good yoga teacher. Students naturally gravitate toward the teachers who excel with all of the above, and the good teachers become the successful teachers. There may be a million certified teachers, but the cream will still rise to the top. I went to a relatively 'small' yoga teacher training which I highly recommend with teachers who classes I love, Rudy Mettia and Travis Eliot. They focused on teaching us how to build a class that was balanced,safe, challenging, yet empowering. Regardless of anything else, I can now define the qualities that make a good teacher in my world.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 3Loading…
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    Michele Casella Collier I have always learned something in every yoga class I have ever attended.
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 4Loading…
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    Karen Sue Timson everyone is their own instructor…less ego…more presence…is all that is needed.
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1Loading…
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    Dominick M. Koscielniak And who regulate regulators ? Yoga government ? Would work on yoga tax, right ?
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Carrie Lisa Boyd Great article! wow- look at all the feedback!
    7 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1Loading…
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    Carrie Lisa Boyd While i agree that licensing/regulations do NOT make for a good instructor..i do think that there has to be some safeguards in place so that when i show up to a studio as a beginner, i can be assured that the class will conducted in a safe manner. We are talking many poses that involve the entire body…the joints, the spine..While i also do not believe that showing up to a TT class will assure someone is a good teacher- there HAS to be some standard..Yoga is an art and a science. ALL bodywork is licensed, at least in my State..The art part. well of course that has to come from the heart and there is certainly no way to regulate that! (thk God!:>)….yes, I agree- don't support horrible teachers or greedy horrible studios- BUT that doesn't help me after i have incurred an injury from someone that just hung out a shingle….I think how does the community go about setting a standard of practice is a great question- thanks for asking it!
    6 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1Loading…
    #

  13. elephantjournal says:

    John Wilson The yoga that flows from the enlightened beings is the real yoga: everything else is "learning to tie your shoes".
    6 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    William L. Wilson Every student has a right to ask their instructor:

    a) how long they've been practicing,
    b) how frequently they practice,
    c) what does their practice consist of and
    d) who their teacher is.

    These are, of course, loaded questions and will quickly reveal the fakes to those who truly wish to study with a qualified teacher. Good luck!
    6 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 5Loading…
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    Sarah Gunnin anyone should be able to become a yoga teacher. in any setting anywhere. all certifications are valid from AFAA to Yoga Alliance. the thing is…you either feel it or you don't and if you don't you end up teaching yogalates. xo
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 3Loading…
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    Karen Frey Suplee Yeah, that's what the world needs… more regulations and government appointed committees (sigh)
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Lisa Nevar-Landsmann I think it's important get only very good teacher training. Would you go to a dentist that was certified during a weekend course?? My training was a mandatory 750-hrs and I have to say I'm so glad it was! I came away from the experience so well prepared in history, philosophy, anatomy, asana, pranayama, managing students with physical or emotional "limitations", hands-on assisting practice, the business of yoga… and on and on. 200 hours is NOT enough in my mind. However, I think anyone can open a yoga studio. Just because you're a good yogi, does not make you a good small business owner. A good business owner must then be accountable for hiring only well trained teachers.
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2Loading…
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    Leslie Letavishsnyder The best yoga teacher is YOURSELF! Only YOU can listen to your body! The mentality of Yoga being a fitness practice drives me nuts!
    5 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 5Loading…
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    TJ Conant was Swami Sivananda, B.K.S. Iyengar, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, or Sri T. Krishnamacharya certified? Being certified has jack shit to do with anything about being a good yoga instructor…..I say get over yourselves it's all Maya anyhow…. :)
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike
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    Penny Kaye McClain Being busy forces me onto my yoga mat in my space since going somewhere to practice entails driving 15 miles one way. I'm saving time, money and drawing on what I have learned over the years from some pretty amazing teachers.
    about an hour ago · LikeUnlike
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    Kimberly Creager Whelan RYT or not… I am a Yoga Teacher. But more importantly, I am and will always be a Yoga Student Constantly learning from others: other teachers; participants in the classes I lead; strangers in my day; friends & loved ones; my church Pastor; well known spiritual leaders; a blog or post of an unknown; and many more people, places and things. The Universe is always providing lessons, and I hope that I am getting even a fraction of them. There are many paths. There is only one Truth.

  14. elephantjournal says:

    #
    Heather B ok – i could not resist commenting here – 1st i am a yoga teacher and have been for 10 years – 2nd – yes i agree in accountability and find the yoga world and teacher trainings have simply just blown up over the past 5 years. now, every stu…dio offer tt's and more of the teachers in the tt's have less than 5 years experience. i want to walk out of many of the classes i take as they are soo poorly taught with crazy sequencing and no bhava/heart around them. HOWEVER – although i dont like it, i need accept the fact that the yoga has moved into the big business sector AND yoga has become a fancy workout for most americans – for some its just the same as a fitness/jane fonda kinda class- so although people believe in more regulation – it really cant be done. just as a personal trainer – they attend a school – study for the exam – pass it and now it is up to the members of the gym and the owners to employee only the best. more regulation is not the answer- the yoga world is starting to sounds like government…should the teacher suck – dont employ them at your studio. should the owner suck – dont support that studio. its really that simple. lets the attendance and the students decide – not more fees, more bs ect…i understand what we are trying to protect with more rules, tighter trainings and I do agree. What I don’t agree with regulations – for this is a physical and spiritual practice and we are adults. If it doesn’t feel right in the body or the heart, you simply shouldn’t do it or support it.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2Sha Sha Kimbo and Justin Wolfer like this.
    #
    Justin W If you don't like a class don't return to it… I encourage my students to try several different teachers and classes so that they can find their own practice. We all interpret Yoga uniquely, it's not ours to regulate. My humble opinion
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    #
    Cathy G well, there is a little mor eto it.. I do agree with both above comments. I am a WA state public school teacher with 25 yrs of teachign and professionalldevelopment and teaching techniques experience and a BS in Prephysical Therapy/PhysicalEducation. 8 yrs of college anduniversity training. I am most bothered by teachers who hurt students through uncareful adjustments o rwho yell at classes.
    I porpose that yA look at its certification methods and require besides the paper.. testaments from students and co-teachers, reference ss so to speak. Also a recertifying requirement could be put into place.

    #
    Julie S Thanks for sharing, heather! I think that yoga alliance should perhaps re-evaluate the teaching cert process and require continuing Ed. Definitely not get the government involved…that's my two cents. Namaste, sista

  15. elephantjournal says:

    Kathleen T via elephantjournal.com
    This is a real concern to me. I have over 1,000 hours of teacher training it's ongoing. I would think this would be apparent to a student taking my classes, as opposed to taking a class from someone who has gotten a certificate in a weekend. If not, I think there's a problem.

    o
    Frank S: Kath, while it may be apparent to you as a very experienced yoga teacher that a student should be able to tell the difference between a horrible teacher and a competent one, I would like to offer a different perspective from a student. To illustrate my point, I would like to talk about my personal experience with deep tissue massages. The person who gave me my first deep tissue massage was actually hurting me constantly. Why did I put up with this? Because I did not know any better and because she had a license and was supposed to be a professional, I trusted her. I have since had massages by other therapists and now I know much better. Only now I can look back and say that my first therapist did NOT know what she was doing and probably should have had her license taken away.

    My only experience with yoga is with Main Street Yoga (MSY), so I cannot draw on other personal experiences to evaluate your competence. But I have learned to trust my instincts and also have concluded that since so many other people attend MSY, many of whom I assume have had other experiences with other studios, that you must be doing something right. So the issue may come down to a matter of trust and experience.

    o
    Amy D I didn't read the article, but I think there is a place for both. I started with a weekend (actually a day) certificate and I've moved on to my 500 hour YTT because yoga is a passion, but I do believe there is room for people with extensive training as well as room for people who supplement fitness training with a weekend yoga cert. But that's coming from a fitness professional so pure yogis may see it differently.

    o
    Sandra M I have very little experience outside of classes with you at MSY, so I have very little to draw from here. But what I do know is that I trust you completely. You are a true Yogarian to the bone & personally I would not want to take yoga classes with anyone with a weekend certification. We all appreciate your efforts at continuing yoga education. We are better people because of you!

  16. elephantjournal says:

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  18. jenifer says:

    Personally, I agree with the sentiment behind this article. Yes, the situation is upsetting.

    But I don’t think state regulation is the answer.

    I think, instead, there are a couple of possible ways of going about things.

    1. If we are going to talk about state regulation, then individual licensing is probably enough. in pennsylvania (last I checked which was years ago now), you didn’t have to go to massage school of any accreditation of any kind to sit for their examination to get a license. So, this could be a possibility. What are the common things that a massage therapist needs to know to be safe? It’s on the exam. For yoga teachers? Exam could be created. But, this is as far as I would be comfortable, personally.

    2. If we were to talk about self regulation, there are a couple of other places to get inspiration: group fitness instructors and dance/martial artists.

    A. for group fitness instructors, it’s actually the same “free for all” — employers ask for a very basic certification, one that can often be gained by simply taking an exam after self study. it usually costs $200. Some places are happy to forgo this, if you can demonstrate that you have the skills or knowledge “required” by them, and some will “train you” in the ways and means that they want you to teach. In a way, it’s very “free market.”

    So, it may be that this is good for yoga. People who are good at teaching will get students, and people who are less so will get fewer students.

    B. for dance/martial arts instructors, they seem to have set a certain kind of standard, and made that standard public knowledge. Most dance studios are run by former dancers. They are credentialed in some way — university education in some cases; others were professionals at conservatories large or small. But others just like to dance. Took dance classes, and teach dance. They aren’t pros. They tens to run smaller schools, or find unique niche markets (teaching 2 yr olds, for example, or senior square dancing in a chair).

    martial artists are also credentialed — either by years of experience and/or the belting system of their community, which indicates proficiency.

    I think that this is the area where YA started to try and work, the only problem being that the standards are pretty low, and people started to see that this “assurance” was creating capital for them. And, it was a pretty easy standard to meet, so why not?

    This is quite different than the standards that martial artists have created for their teachers, right? You really do have to work very hard and demonstrate proficiency before you can teach. And heck, even most of those who get to that level of proficiency, *don’t teach*.

    And there, two, the good teachers vs the proficient teachers will have different client bases.

    So, what is the “answer?” I have no idea. But I think perhaps hewing toward the dance/martial arts way might be beneficial.

    My second point is bit more “abstracted” I would say.

    It’s “mind your own business.”

    I run a yoga studio and holistic health center. It takes up all of my time. I have no time to think about what other studios in town are doing. There are several. Are the teachers good/great/excellent/crappy? No clue. I’d love to go and try them all, but guess what?

    I’m minding my own business.

    Yes, literally. Last night, I worked until 1 am — minding my business. Today, I got up at 7 am and minded my business until 8:30 when I had breakfast, and then got on the bus to go to the studio at 9:15. I subsequently ordered how I was going to mind my business all day long.

    I got into the office, greeted and had a brief communal time with my coworkers, and then I minded my business.

    Then I taught three classes, met one of my client’s new babies, and then I — guess what?

    Oh yeah, Minded My Business. I did this until 7:00 when I got on a bus and came home. I’m currently blowing off some steam here on the old EJ, before watching some TV shows. Yes, I watch TV shows.

    Tomorrow, I’m going to get up and Mind My Own Business.

    It is this consistent Minding of My Own Business that allows my business to succeed. I consider myself a “good” teacher — and I’m well trained and happy to talk to anyone about the training I did, etc. And I’ve been teaching for 15 years now, so i’m experienced at least.

    But there are people who do not like me, my style of teaching, the ways I do things.

    And I wouldn’t be happy if they were trying to mind my business.

    I think, instead, they might want to mind their own business.

    Don’t like the teacher? Mind your own business and don’t take their classes.

    Don’t like a teacher training? Mind your own business and don’t take their trainings.

    Don’t like a school of yoga because of whatever? Mind your own business and don’t go there.

    Let them mind their business — for good or ill — and you mind yours.

    Not to the point of not having empathy for the stupid crap that happens in yoga schools and studios everywhere (and heck, even our place went through a massive drama today — i tried to accord myself with as much grace as possible), but you know, everyone else’s stuff is not My Business. And stuff that is My Business, like today’s drama, is not your business.

    know what i mean?

    • Jess says:

      Hear, hear Jennifer. I'm based out of Bodhisattva Yoga in Brooklyn and today I'm Minding my Own Business. We echo your sentiment. ~Jess

  19. joann lakes says:

    If you want yoga totally messed up, let the government start regulating it.

    • Louise Brooks says:

      Joann, are you in favour of the de-regulation of medical doctors too? That would mean anyone could hang out their shingle and say they're a doctor. If not, why not?

  20. OmShanti says:

    I definitely think that schools need better regulations. My 200 hour was a lot of work and I learned so much. My 500 was a joke. The teachers were going through personal problems & changes, one teacher stopped showing up after 1 month, homework stopped after 2 months, no test, no final project, and these teachers have NEVER seen me teach a class. I am one of those teachers to seeks out major workshops and mentoring to learn as much as I can….but I can tell you for sure that some of the other students did NOT meet the requirements of a 500 hour teacher and they are teaching and advertising at the 500 hour level. I'm embarassed to say I'm 500 hour because I feel very unprepared for such a title. If 1 out of 4 women is currently studying to be a yoga teacher…there are going to be a lot of shitty teachers out there, no? License and regulate me up! I can & do work to meet the highest standards…I have nothing to hide!

  21. kiki says:

    1. Why would the "yoga alliance" have the authority to regulate a thousands of years old spiritual practice?
    2. Yoga is NOT fitness
    3. 200 hours of theory doesn't make ANYONE a teacher, in any tradition. Isn't that what the YA already proposes?
    4. As one of the 6 darshanas of Hinduism, Yoga has different traditions and lineages. How could anyone, foreign to them, or not, regulate it?

  22. [...] just read Laura’s article WHO THE FCK LET YOU BECOME A YOGA TEACHER http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/11/licensing-yoga-who-the-fck-let-you-become-a-yoga-teacher/ , about yoga teaching licensing, a debate that occupies the westen yoga world since [...]

  23. Mira Binzen says:

    As co-founder and director of training of a Yoga Alliance registered school, we are faced with these questions daily. Yoga is an internal practice. External regulation goes right along with the illusion of separation that is the source of "dis-ease". It's not very yogic.

    And yet, many calls we receive from prospective students includes the question, "Is your school registered with Yoga Alliance?" Our focus is on children and families so we feel a need for more "regulation" or accountability than I would want for myself or other adults.

    People have been trained to look for credentials (rather than their own evidence) so we find ourselves in the position of using this registry, which is all Yoga Alliance is. For the current issue of Yoga Chicago, I wrote an article exploring this very issue.

    http://www.yogachicago.com/nov11/mira.shtml

    A large part of our work in the world is to educate the public about minimum standards and what to look for in a teacher. Although our school could quickly fall into line with government licensing and also would weed out many dubious schools and instructors, I strongly appose it.

  24. Brian Castellani says:

    What an interesting article. @Waylon @BobWiesenburg I expect nothing less but the most sincere and highest integrity from the eco "friendly" ElephantJournal. I look forward to meeting both of you.

  25. Valerie Carruthers Valerie Carruthers says:

    Becoming certified after a 200hr teacher training is not an end, it's a beginning. Newly minted teachers may be able to have a format for a class with nice sequencing and know the Sanskrit names for the postures. They may have a lot of personal warmth, making it easy for their students to bond with them. But it may take years for them to fully mature into becoming truly great teachers—and great teachers are perennial students. With the proliferation of teachers we are ever more likely to encounter them early in their growth. It's worth supporting teachers who show potential–even Shiva Rea, Rodney Yee and Seane Corn were newbies once. But there will be clunkers we'd rather forget.

    State licensure is not the answer. It just makes a teacher licensed, not necessarily good. When we don't like what's playing on tv we grab the remote and change the channel. When we have a bad experience with a teacher, next time we can take our mat and our money elsewhere.

  26. Christa says:

    Hi Lauren,
    I was just sent this link in an email from Yoga Alliance. It offers research findings on licensing of yoga teachers in different states. Hope this helps! http://ya.informz.net/YA/archives/archive_1957567

  27. After coming out of an amazing and extremely vigorous 1-year RYT200 training program I try not to focus on this since it only aggravates me to no end. It end up being up to the consumer to look into what they are getting since as well know being a "yoga teacher" can mean almost anything. As I move towards becoming a yoga therapist I run into this again as this is an unreguated profession and anyone can put this title on their name.

    This isn't something that is just in yoga. Take medicine for example. Doctors can do a weekend workshop and call them a plastic surgeon. Would the consumer know the difference, maybe not at first glance but give it time and it will show. Same thing with yoga. One or two classes with a bad instructor won't make a difference, but carry on with it and the injury will speak for itself!

  28. Amelia says:

    I did a foundational yoga teacher training a few years ago with one of my very favorite yoga teachers. The training was not registered with the YA and neither was my teacher. She has studied with teachers from all over the world and has her own feelings about the YA. Her training changed my life and deeply affected my practice.

    I agree that yoga as a tradition is not certifiable. It never was, for thousands of years. But then again, yoga is not (just) asanas. If you want to learn real yoga, that takes time and finding your true teachers.

    However, I will say I would have never found yoga if it hadn’t been for my very Yoga Fit Certified yoga teacher from college. Although her classes included some profound heart opening pondering, she really focused on making it a work out. I assume many people in the west discover yoga first as a physical practice and later as a life philosophy.

    This being said, I think that the physical aspect of yoga should have some kind of certification, and it should be explicit that the certification is ONLY for proper alignment, understanding of anatomy and physiology, etc. It should also be clear that it does not certify any other aspect of yoga, as this is not possible.

    I agree with many of the sentiments above about letting the consumer choose. Some people just want to move their bodies, and teachers should be held accountable for keeping their students bodies safe. If, like me, your journey into the world of yoga brings you to teachers who help show you your true self, you will choose to study with those teachers.

    The fact of the matter is that yoga is growing and changing and hopefully here to stay. Trying to practice as it was hundreds of years ago for everyone is foolish and exclusive. Why not make a certifiable and accountable way to teach Yoga Asanas while allowing yoga as a spiritual path to continue to be just that?

  29. [...] if more classes and more teachers means inconsistent quality. Anyone can become a yoga teacher. Even if they don’t practice yoga. Walk into any gym or health club and they will certainly have at least one yoga class in the [...]

  30. J. Brown says:

    Respectfully, I think this post is a bit naive and doesn't grasp the full extant of the issue. State regulation of yoga does nothing to improve the credibility of Yoga teachers or schools. The YA acting as an accreditation process when it is nothing of the sort does a discredit to the profession. I encourage folks to check out this article: "Yoga Alliance Approved, My Ass" and the comment thread that follows: http://yogijbrown.com/2011/11/yoga-alliance-appro

    • I agree with you! I think I've only scratched the surface in presenting the question in this piece and I wish I could dig deeper into the issue. There are so many dynamics to consider and approaches to this question of accreditation. I would love to invite you to write a follow-up piece to my post or even share your "Yoga Alliance Approved, My Ass" piece on elephant journal. Email me if you are interested: laurenhannafoster@gmail.com

  31. A fabulous post. How does the new student know that the class is bad or yoga is bad?
    Recently I wrote –
    Clues You’ve Found the Perfect Yoga Class –
    Did the level of the class feel right? If your body told you it needed a hard “workout” before it could relax, did you receive it? If you needed only gentle stretches, did you get that? Some classes are more strenuous and/or faster than others. Did you feel no pain or soreness after the class? Or the next day? Were you comfortable even if you didn’t wear a cute yoga outfit?
    And most important – Did you feel better at the end of the class than at the beginning?

    Did the Class Offer
    • Frequent reminders to breathe
    • Suggestions for adapting each pose for limitations
    • Contraindications for special conditions (hypertension, etc.)
    • Reminders of the noncompetitive nature of yoga
    • A minimum of 10 minutes of relaxation at the end

    Are those criteria fair? I'd love feedback.

    And Lauren, Is that an Old English rescue dog? You are truly the best.
    Amber Polo "Relaxing the Writer: Guidebook to the Writer's High"

  32. yogamatt says:

    I don’t think you understand the role of the free market. But that’s ok, I’m here to help :).

    The only possible way you actually even know if that was a bad class is because you had a good one sometime before. The only reason you had a good class before is because teachers compete against each other to get students and attention and try to make a decent product (yoga class).

    Here’s a way you can verify if your theory about regulation is correct:

    Go and try and take that teacher’s class again. First off, are they even around anymore? Once you have figured that out and have taken the class, ask yourself if it was better or the same.

    Basically here’s how it works: if the teacher is serious about being good and staying in the market they will work on their product (yoga class). Of they aren’t, they won’t be there anymore. If they don’t shape up soon, they will most likely be fired, unless the studio owners are total idiots. If that’s the case then they probably won’t be around very long either.

    But of course, everyone here knows the outcome of that experiment will be positive which ever way it goes because the truth of the matter is that market forces are great for weeding out terrible products.

    Isn’t it obvious? Why do you think the yoga industry is exploding in growth while the rest of the economy remains stagnant??? It’s because it is so free. Freedom=jobs=prosperity for everyone.

    Government doesn’t create progress, lively hood, and better regulations, people (market forces) do. Our dollars vote for regulation!!!!

    • Great response! Hope you don't mind if I use your comment in a follow-up article highlighting some very intelligent responses to this difficult subject. Thank you for sharing.

  33. [...] Licensing Yoga: Who the F*ck Let You Become a Yoga Teacher? [...]

  34. Kirsten Dukes says:

    Hello and thank you for your article. I am curious. Do you have any reccommendations for teacher trainining? I am interested in finding a school to train. I live in California but I am willing to travel. Thanks!

  35. [...] Read Part I: Licensing Yoga The amazing awesome annoying infamous Inappropriate Yoga Guy. [...]

  36. Rodan says:

    I believe this about yoga and many other belief systems: Yoga is about responsibility. Let the people be responsible for themselves.

  37. [...] yoga instead of you, but you’re not jealous because now you know what you need to do next: Get a two-week instructor training, and maybe then you can show her the way of the heart. Or so you’d like to [...]

  38. [...] Would licensing and regulation of studios really be that bad if it meant more credibility for studios that are actually doing it right? [source] [...]

  39. [...] not saying that permission needs to be granted or a legal document needs to be signed. It was the simple fact that she was polite enough to mention something that made it more about [...]

  40. [...] And it’s not in a weekend workshop, a month in Mysore or even a 200-hour training. [...]

  41. [...] should know what you are doing. You wouldn’t go to a doctor or hire a lawyer without a license, but some are quick to dismiss establishing standards in yoga. In my opinion, I would take a YTT from a known yoga school, with a certified teacher, and I would [...]

  42. bendysue says:

    Thank you for posting this! I completed my first yoga teacher training and felt it left very much to be desired. There was more practicing for hours at a time than actually breaking down each foundational posture and working on alignment and assisting cues. We also only got through the first half of the 75-minute sequence.

    For someone like me, completing a training has been something I have worked towards for the last handful of years, making sure I had a great understanding in the yoga practice that my training was based on. Majority of the other participants were not similar. It appeared as if they woke up one day and thought, "Today, I want to be a yoga instructor."

    There was also a lack of an application/selection process. I had to answer two questions in less than 500 characters and hit submit with my down-payment. That was 6 months before the actual training and did not hear anything via email from my training school as to what to expect besides reading a lousy-written book (IMO!)

    YA needs to do a better job at regulating these schools. I basically just chose the school that I practice at daily for years now and felt like they took my money and are now asking me to complete a level 2 training with them before I can teach!

  43. Well said!!!! Good point about beginner students being the most vulnerable to teachers who can't keep them safe. ~ Lauren

  44. Tobye Hillier yogi tobye says:

    It's not the spiritual side that needs regulating, only the physical side. Spirituality cannot be regulated and that part of yoga will always be free from regulation and consumerism.

  45. I agree with you Tobye. If there are not some guidelines, then I get concerned about safety of students. It takes time and dedication (to a program and self-study) to learn the basic of keeping so many individuals safe – each individual comes to yoga with physical capabilities and limitations and, perhaps, injuries.

  46. thanks for the little edit!!

  47. AbbyHoffmann says:

    Yoga is fitness, mental and physical, spiritual and emotional. But I agree, the government has no place in regulating our spiritual welfare. That is a contradiction!

  48. PS – I am not saying I want gov't regulation, but I want to know that my teacher knows what the hell they are doing – and as a yoga teacher and a yoga teacher training I know there is so much to consider to keep students safe.

  49. Tobye Hillier yogi tobye says:

    This is it in a nutshell Maureen. And again it's different if the teacher is using adjustments. There's extra responsibility once you start touching someone. The deeper you look into regulation the more complex it seems to get….

  50. Thank you so much for sharing. Really well said!

  51. Really well said. Thank you Louise for sharing.

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