Yoga Teacher Certification or Registration?

By Dr. Paul Jerard E-RYT 500

Lately, there has been a lot of confusion as to what credentials are needed to teach Yoga. There have been some recent changes within the certifying bodies who train Yoga teachers. Here are some of the most common questions and answers in regard to Yoga credentials and regulations.

Why should a Yoga teacher be certified? What about established Yoga teachers who don’t have a diploma? What is the “right” Yoga credential to have? When should I become a Registered Yoga teacher? Who regulates Yoga?

In many parts of the world Yoga teacher credentialing is a new phenomenon. Traditionally, teachers had very small groups of loyal students and Yoga was not a mainstream activity. This same lack of credentialing still occurs within Tai Chi and some of the Chinese martial arts. The belief among some traditional Yogis has been that credentials would lead to commercialization.

As Yogic techniques became more popular the need for certification became clear. Yoga instructors should be certified for their own protection. With liability law suits being so popular these days, it would be prudent to have a Yoga teacher’s diploma on your wall. Yogic practices are not considered to be as dangerous as some of the other activities in health clubs, but some classes can be surprisingly vigorous, to say the least.

With classes reaching every corner of the earth, some students are jumping off the couch and going straight into the nearest Yoga class, without asking questions. This is one very good reason why teachers should have a questionnaire for new students. A questionnaire will inform you of health conditions, ailments, history, fitness level, and if a student is pregnant.

This sudden popularity of Yoga also creates a less formal relationship between the student and his or her teacher. Yoga may be seen as something to do in order to lose a little weight before swim suit season. Many new students are “just trying it out.” The incentive may be a doctor referral, a magazine article, or a news segment on television.

Teaching credentials make acquiring liability insurance much easier. Depending upon the activities within a studio, the liability insurance policy chosen could be for Yoga only or a sports liability policy similar to what a health club would carry. So the short answer to the question, “Why should a Yoga teacher be certified?” It’s all about liability and don’t leave yourself uninsured. Yogic practices are a relatively safe pursuit, but you should still cover yourself.

What about established teachers who don’t have a diploma? Teaching credentials are a relatively new concept. Many “seasoned” teachers have suddenly found themselves in need of credentials.

Most of the certified Yoga teachers are from Hatha, one of Hatha’s many sub-styles, Ashtanga, or Kundalini Yoga. This may be due to the physical aspect of these styles. Teachers, who are without credentials, should contact a certifying body to inquire about recognition or credit for past experience.

What is the “right” Yoga credential to have? There really is no right or wrong credential. A teacher should have a minimum of 200 hours of study. The Yoga teacher course selected should cover all the facets of Yogic methodology, but when considering liability: anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, safety, modifications, props, and contraindications are of prime importance.

When I hire a Yoga teacher; safety, communication, and knowledge override any credentials. The teaching performance within a class is more important than any other factor. This is why some studios do an evaluation of a new teacher on a trial basis.

When should I become a Registered Yoga teacher? The fact is: At his time, you don’t have to join a teacher’s association or become a registered teacher, to teach Yoga in any country. In Great Britain, you have a choice to register with the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) or The Independent Yoga Network. Until recently, many of us thought BWY was the sole regulator of Yoga within the UK. Apparently this is a myth.

Some studios may require you to be a registered Yoga teacher, but most will not. In North America, South America, Australia, Asia, and most of Europe, teachers are not required to be registered. However, certification may be required.

Who regulates Yoga?

There is no government backed regulator of Yoga. If you are in doubt, contact a local teachers association to be assured of local laws and regulations.

It is a wise practice to network with local Yoga instructors and teacher associations. This will keep you informed and educated about the changes within this field. You will also learn about workshops, seminars, retreats, and camps that are coming to your area.

Lastly, teachers should stay on top of information concerning sports medicine, anatomy, kinesiology, physiology, safety, modifications, and contraindications. The safety of every student is the single most important factor involved in teaching Yoga.