November 29, 2011

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

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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fiona Jan 22, 2016 12:06pm

People also need to watch out for yoga trainings that make you audition to teach after wards. How many people actually pass? Observe these trainings before you give them money and if they do not let you sit in a class to observe, Do not give them any money. I fell for one of these trainings only to fail the audition. The class was over packed aprox. 30 people. I was one of the last students after participating in twenty-something auditions my body was so tired by the time it was my turn, I was over exhausted. The instructor kept saying they were going to get rich off of all of us. I remember thinking why is the instructor saying that. then when we were all finished we found out we have to subscribe to a membership to teach.

bendysue Feb 3, 2014 12:23pm

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!

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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.