Everything You Need to Know to Become a Certified Yoga Instructor
These days, it seems like every other person is a certified yoga teacher. You may be wondering how to go about this yourself, or whether it’s even realistic. If you’re passionate about the practice and hope to impart its benefits to others, chances are you are a perfect candidate. I’d recommend reading this post first: How Do I Know If I’m Ready For Yoga Teacher Training? If you find that you don’t want to become a yoga teacher, know that you can still deeply enhance your practice and knowledge by enrolling in a training course: Why should you do Yoga Teacher Training even if you don’t want to become a yoga teacher?
Now that you’re sure you want to pursue a certification, let’s talk about how.
At the time of this publication, there are no official legal requirements for certification anywhere in the world. This essentially means that to learn to teach yoga, all that’s needed is to pick a program that resonates with you and pursue it passionately! However, you’ll want to pick a program officially recognized by the Yoga Alliance (https://www.yogaalliance.org/), the internationally recognized education and accreditation organization that has established a system of requirements for teachers and schools. There are many different teacher training programs available worldwide, which offer certification in a wide array of yoga styles and traditions.
So how does one go about becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) with Yoga Alliance? Everyone who has completed a yoga teacher training program with a Registered Yoga School (RYS) can apply for RYT certification. There are several levels of certification for RYTs, depending on the number of training hours completed and total hours of teaching.
Most people usually start their yoga teacher journey by attending a 200-hour RYS teacher training course. As previously stated, there are many programs available, depending on the style or tradition of yoga, logistics (part time, full time intensive, local or abroad) and cost.
200-hour programs focus on teaching yoga to the general population. This includes:
- Asana and alignment (which also includes how to guide others into the poses and class sequencing)
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Philosophy and Meditation
All 200-hour programs vary in terms of style of yoga. But, to ensure a well-rounded education, they all adhere to these basic guidelines as outlined by Yoga Alliance.
Why 200 hours?
In a 200-hour course, you will not only practice but also learn in-depth about yoga poses–how to execute the poses correctly according to your own physical abilities. You will practice yoga for at least two hours daily, so you come to really understand the mechanics of the poses and what they entail. Your physical health and strength will improve as well.
You will also learn anatomy and physiology, and how they relate to yoga. The benefits and contraindications of the poses will be discussed. Once your physical practice is combined with the knowledge of anatomy and physiology, then the study of alignment in poses comes into play. This is a very important aspect of any yoga teacher training course, as we practice yoga for health … not to injure ourselves!
There will also be sessions on the philosophical aspects of yoga, which are based on Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. Yoga is all about how to live in harmony with ourselves and others, and during these philosophy sessions many questions will arise within you as to how you have been living and what changes you want to see in your life.
Then there is also the practice of Pranayama (breathing techniques). This is a crucial step toward achievement of Samadhi (Divine Union). Your breath affects the quality of your physical, emotional and mental health. So it’s important to learn and understand the proper ways to practice Pranayama.
Throughout the course, you will immerse yourself in yoga. This is not only for your own benefit, but also for others: you can only teach what you truly understand. Along the way, the trainers will guide you on how to assess and adjust others into the poses, which includes the use of props or proper verbal cues.
In the end, 200 hours will actually seem too short! As with everything else in life, the learning does not end there. In fact, after a teacher training course, you will come to realize that this is only the beginning of your journey.
After completing a 200-hour program, some graduates may feel inclined to work with specific specific populations. To this end there are various other extension programs available—kids’ yoga and pre-natal yoga are examples. These programs are usually of a shorter duration.
How long does it actually take to become a yoga teacher?
A yoga teacher’s journey begins even before signing up for a teacher training course. Indeed, it is ideal to have already developed a consistent yoga practice prior to attending a 200-hour program. This way, your body will already be reasonably fit for the physical rigor, and your mind will be prepared with an idea of the asanas and what goes on during class. Is There Anything You Can Do Before A YTTC To Better Prepare Yourself?
Your first official step to becoming a certified teacher will be completing a 200-hour program. After that, if you wish to continue on and become a 500-hour RYT, you can go for a 300-hour program.
Ideally, you’d be able to assist a senior yoga teacher for a few months. Learning directly from someone will definitely fast-track your path to expertise.
In short, there is no definitive timeframe whereby after ‘x’ amount of time, you will become a yoga teacher. Yoga is very hands-on, and the more experience you have with it–regardless of whether it’s with asanas, philosophy, or meditation; the better equipped you will be to teach.
How do I get a yoga certification?
First, decide on a style of yoga you love. If you enjoy sweating it out during your yoga practice, a Vinyasa-style program will be suitable for you. If you prefer using props in your practice, then go for an Iyengar or Therapeutic styled program.
There’s one more step to becoming a registered yoga teacher!
After you’ve completed your teacher training, you will need to register as a yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance of America. Once registered, you’ll be listed in their global directory as a teacher who has met their minimum requirements for teaching and has completed their training with an officially registered yoga school.
You are now ready to teach yoga. Remember that the role of a teacher is very important. Keep learning and expanding your own practice, so you can share the wonderful gift of yoga with everyone.
What’s best: short-term intensive or longer duration; local or overseas?
There are two choices when it comes to Yoga Teacher Training Courses – either a 3-month long course which runs only on weekends, or a full-on one month course. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options.
Short Term or Long Term?
A short term, intensive course would definitely be the opportunity of a lifetime to fully immerse yourself into the yoga lifestyle, as you would have set aside all other obligations to fully commit to presence during the course. This allows you to be more focused on what is being taught and what is happening daily, with minimum distractions from the outside world. The daily schedule, food and environment are also designed specifically to encourage the best yogic experience.
The obvious downside to an intensive course is that you might simply be incapable of taking such time off from work or other pursuits. Delaying obligations might cause you to stress throughout the course, which would be highly counterproductive.
A long term course which runs over a few weekends would not require you to take time off from work, and you can likewise maintain your personal life outside of training hours (if you still have the energy to!). This would also be preferable for people who have familial obligations and cannot, for whatever circumstances, be away from home for long.
Another benefit of a weekend course is that you will have more time in between classes to absorb and process what is being taught, so you have more time with your teachers to ask questions and clarify anything you are unsure about.
However, a weekend course will not immerse you in the full experience of a yoga lifestyle, as the majority of the week is spend in the hustle and bustle of your normal lifestyle.
Local or Overseas?
A local course would be cheaper because you would not have to fork out more money for travel, accommodation and food. The environment would be familiar to you, and there’s no risk of culture shock or disappointment at unmet expectations. However, programs in certain developed countries may actually be more expensive than overseas.
An international course is an unfamiliar setting, but this will help you bond more with your course mates and also spend more time with yourself. If you are the outgoing type, this will also be an opportunity to meet people you’d probably never cross paths with had you done the course locally. You will also experience a different culture and the lives of people vastly different from your own.
It goes without saying that spending a month overseas is more expensive, and the unfamiliar setting may be unsettling for some.
At the end of the day, it comes down to what your priorities are. In my opinion, if you are lucky enough to have the means to attend an intensive course overseas, please do so! You’re sure to return from the experience with life-changing experiences and insights!
If you would like a month’s break and have a budget between $3,000 USD to $7,000 USD, then Bali or Thailand would be the preferred choices. You’ll then have a luxurious yoga retreat along with certification.
If your budget is tight, then the other option is India. However, India is the origin of Yoga and you will most likely have the benefit of learning from venerable Indian teachers.
How much does a yoga instructor certification cost?
As little as $1,500 USD or as much at $20,000 USD.
This depends on the unique logistics of the program: duration, location and accommodation. If you’re doing a program locally, then you won’t need to fork out extra cash for accommodation and airfare. The price of a one month intensive overseas will depend on both the type of accommodation (five star hotel or budget hotel) and the location of the program.
Will a yoga certification make you a great teacher?
Formal yoga training is generally the first step to becoming a yoga teacher. But how often do you hear of people failing at yoga teacher training? To become a great teacher, you will have to earn it.
Upon completing a teacher training course, most people are somewhat shocked when they realize they know so little! Yes, teacher training will provide you with a lot of knowledge, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Indeed, there are legendary yoga teachers out there. If they did not receive any formal training, where does all this magic come from?
To be a great teacher, you will have to be dedicated to exploring yoga through attending workshops, conducting your own research and reading books. But most importantly, you will have to learn through your own experience. Yoga is an incredibly deep aspect of life; it is not limited only to the asanas. It also includes the realms of the spiritual and philosophical. And no organization will be able to sign a certification of your spiritual evolution.
To be able to guide your students through a class and articulate exactly what is happening—which part of the body is feeling what, how to go into the pose, etc.—requires a lot of experience on your part. There is much truth in the saying, “a teacher can only guide his students as far as he himself has experienced.”
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali) and Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur).