How Much Teacher Training do Certified Yoga Instructors Have?

An outdoors yoga class
An outdoors yoga class

How much training should an exercise instructor have? What if the exercise involves turning and twisting your body into different positions, potentially putting stress and strain on different joints in the body? What if some of the poses involve standing on your head or balancing on your arms? What if you are starting this activity to address chronic health issues such as low back pain or a stiff neck? In addition to physical movements, you will be asked to become more aware of subtle movements in your body. You may also learn to guide or regulate your breath. This practice can affect not only your physical health, but your mental health. How much training should your yoga teacher have?

The quality, length and requirements of yoga teacher training programs vary significantly. Some styles of yoga have their own certification methods and programs. Some use Yoga Alliance, a registry of yoga teachers, schools and studios. In the U.S., teaching yoga is not a profession that requires a license, so registration or certification is voluntary. Let’s take a look at some of the differences in yoga teacher certification.

A yoga instructor in sirsasana, headstand
A yoga instructor in sirsasana, headstand | Source
The Key Muscles of Yoga: Scientific Keys, Volume I
The Key Muscles of Yoga: Scientific Keys, Volume I

Fantastic illustrations and useful information


Yoga Alliance

Yoga Alliance (YA) was formed in 1987, but it was not until 1997 that they developed minimum standards for teachers to be listed on their registry. Currently YA has standards for Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT) that complete a 200-hour program and a more advanced listing for Registered Yoga Teachers that complete a 500-hour program. There is also an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher designation. YA does not actually certify teachers or programs themselves, but do record who has met their standards. YA is an umbrella organization that includes many styles and schools of yoga.

A 200-hour yoga teacher training program must meet the following standards:

  • 100 hours of techniques training/practice
  • 25 hours of teaching methodology
  • 20 hours of anatomy and physiology
  • 30 hours of yoga philosophy, lifestyle and ethics
  • 10 hours practicum (testing, practice teaching)
  • 15 hours of electives according to the yoga school’s emphasis

Some yoga styles keep their training and certification independent from Yoga Alliance.

B.K.S. Iyengar
B.K.S. Iyengar | Source

Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training and Certification Requirements

Iyengar yoga is known to have one of the more thorough and detailed teacher certification programs. The first level of the Iyengar Yoga Certification process requires:

  • 3 years of study with a certified Iyengar teacher
  • Completion of an Iyengar teacher training program or a combination of training and apprenticeship
  • Recommendations from a mentoring teacher and a second certified teacher
  • Completion of an assessment (with 3 assessors present) that includes a written test, demonstrated practice of pranayama and over 35 asanas and teaching a class of students 6 poses in a 40-minute mini-class.

It is worth noting that completing this first level does not earn a teacher actual Iyengar certification. That requires another year of study with another round of recommendations and a similar assessment process that requires more knowledge of yoga asanas, anatomy and philosophy. The assessment fee at each level is $290. The cost of Iyengar teacher training programs varies by studio or regional association, but may run $2400 - $3600 depending upon the length and number of sessions. Some studios design their training so that it also meets YA standards.

After gaining additional teaching experience, Iyengar yoga teachers with Introductory level certification have the option of seeking certification at higher levels. Many choose not to do so, but know that anyone with Senior level Iyengar certification is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced yoga teacher.

Bikram Choudhury
Bikram Choudhury | Source

Bikram Yoga Teacher Training and Certification Requirements

Bikram yoga classes are based on a 26 asana sequence performed in a room heated up to 105 degrees. Bikram teacher training is centered on a nine week immersion course. To be admitted to the course you must have a minimum of 6 months experience in Bikram yoga and the recommendation of a Bikram yoga studio director. The Bikram teacher training program is one of the most expensive, costing $11,400, which includes lodging in a shared room. It’s $15,500 for a single room.

John Friend founded Anusara, but left the organization after a scandal
John Friend founded Anusara, but left the organization after a scandal | Source

Anusara Yoga Teacher Training and Certification Requirements

Licensed Anusara teachers must have a minimum of two years and 200 hours of Anusara yoga study, two years of teaching experience and 50 hours of Anusara teacher training. Their curriculum is registered with YA. The cost of teacher training programs varies by studio and location, but is similar to Iyengar training programs.

Iyengar, Bikram and Anusara are three of the more well known yoga systems in the U.S. There are many others with their own approach to teacher training. There are also 200-hour online yoga teacher training courses that will cost only $500 - $600, but will not necessarily earn you certification with YA.

Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques
Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques

This book for yoga teachers has lots of good reviews


Compared to What?

Is it fair to compare yoga teacher training with other education? In a typical semester at college, a student might carry a 15 credit schedule. That’s 15 classroom hours per week. At 15 weeks per semester, a student would have 225 hours of classroom time and, one would expect, at least that much time in study and homework, for a total of 450 or more hours.

It should be apparent that even among teachers with a 200 hour RYT designation, their individual training, background and approach to teaching can have a lot of variation. If you are considering yoga classes, you owe it to yourself to do a little research about the certification of teachers in your area and the style of yoga they teach. In particular, if you have health issues or concerns, talk to local teachers about their experience and the type of classes they offer. There are many experienced, well educated yoga teachers out there. If you find the right teacher and are willing to become a dedicated student, yoga has the potential to dramatically improve the quality of your life.

© 2013 chet thomas

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Comments 2 comments

LupitaRonquillo profile image

LupitaRonquillo 3 years ago from Colorado

Very useful information, thanks for writing and sharing this info!

Act 3 profile image

Act 3 3 years ago from Athens, GA Author

Thanks Lupita! glad you found it to be useful.

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