The Yogi's Blog: Facts, Figures, and Figments of Imagination

What Does the Title “Yoga Instructor” Really Mean?

Posted by Taryn on 8/29/2013
teaching yoga

It begins as a personal dare. Maybe you attended your first class with a dedicated yogi friend as a fun way to squeeze in a workout, or went to the studio just to be able to tell people you've "done" yoga before. You were weirded out by the chanting, feeling slightly awkward yet kept an open mind. You found the class to be challenging in a way you had never experienced: both physically and mentally. The next day, you found yourself thinking about the night before. You couldn't wait to go back! Soon, the weekly practice turned into two or three nights a week. You began to become integrated into the local yoga community, possibly going out for coffee or a bite to eat after class. On the first day, you could barely hold downward dog. Adho Mukha Svana-who? Now, you've mastered crow, side crow, and firefly. Maybe, a change in lifestyle or career had you thinking about the possibility of taking the next step: totally immersing yourself in a yogic lifestyle and becoming a yoga teacher.

The title of "yoga teacher" conjures up somewhat glamorous images of the decorated yoga guru leading disciples through sun salutations. Surely, you would play the best music, have the most students, and maybe even open your own studio one day! Maybe you can relate to this dreamy scenario, maybe not. If you are a yoga teacher, you were probably surprised at how easy it was to get your certification! If you are an aspiring student, did you know it is really pretty easy to get your certification? To become a "yoga teacher", you must complete a Yoga Alliance-approved 200 hour certification. The Yoga Alliance is an online database that provides little to zero oversight or accreditation to yoga schools. Simply put, to be an instructor, you must take a 200 hour class, pass a written exam, and do some paperwork. A designated yoga teacher has at least a RYT-200. It requires completion of a training program and does not require actual teaching hours. You can complete the class through multiple types of programs (Bikram, Yogaville, Kripalu, for example) and programs are even offered online. Each course costs about $3,000 and can be intensive (completed relatively fast over the course of one or two months) or completed in the evenings over a long period of time.

Yoga instructor certification is a formality. Yes, you will gain knowledge and skills. But will completion of a program magically turn you into the omnipotent yoga god we imagine our instructors to embody? Not necessarily. I passed four years of college-level spanish and a few years after graduation am no longer conversational. I remember how to count to ten! A good yoga instructor challenges themselves and expands on their personal knowledge and understanding of the practice of yoga on a consistent basis after completion of the program, gains wisdom and knowledge from hands-on instruction, and is usually pretty well-connected in the local yoga community. The title of "yoga teacher" is not limited to the technical title, but emcompasses a whole lifestyle and way of living. What do you think makes someone a yoga teacher? Is it an a certification or some other definition?

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