What NOT to look for in a Yoga Teacher Training program

or, the ongoing debacle of what the Yoga Alliance ISN’T

Sitting in my inbox recently was this article from DoYouYoga (DYY) on what to look for in a yoga teacher training. The author seems to have a sweet, inspiring story and the piece has some good points. So, great – right?

Except the article did something that drives me (and a lot of other teachers and trainers) crazy: It conflated the marketing site Yoga Alliance with the status of a credentialing body in our industry.

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body in yoga. Let me be clear –

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

One more time: The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

It does not set the standards for yoga teacher training in yoga, though it suggests its own guidelines. It does not guarantee compliance to its suggested guidelines (which it confusingly still wants to call “standards”). Though they create an opportunity to advertise yoga teachers and schools, and do create structure around how people present themselves (this teacher has X hours of training, this training promises to teach the following material, etc.), being “registered” with the Yoga Alliance in no way means the same thing as being, say, a Registered Massage Therapist. Yoga does not have a credentialing board, legal guidelines for training, an agreed-upon scope of practice, or a governing body. So, let’s all say it together again, one more time:

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

I’m not saying anything the Yoga Alliance won’t tell you themselves. Hear it from the former Yoga Alliance CEO himself HERE.

What *is* the Yoga Alliance, then?

The Yoga Alliance (YA) is an American, fee-based marketing business (and a “non-membership public charity”  in the form of their voluntary, unregulated registry). People pay yearly fees to advertise themselves and their trainings through the YA website.

Now, the Yoga Alliance has been doing some interesting things lately. I’m very much for having standards in the yoga field. I’m happy to support any progress being made in that arena. The YA has been at least attempting to provide this through their guidelines. As well, I’ve been Yoga Alliance certified for the past few years in part because they’ve finally included a Canadian insurance option, and have offered a few discounts that essentially negate the registration fee for me. I’m cautiously optimistic that what they’re doing may be of some use to professional yoga teachers and schools.

I’ve also recently registered my yoga teacher training with them, as they’ve finally integrated social credentialing as a way to check that what schools say they offer is in fact what they offer (this was not done previously; it was an honour system). I’m offering online teacher training soon and I want to promote it to a larger audience; now that they offer social credentialing, this is a reasonably good way to drive traffic to my online YTT (in much the same way a site like Trip Advisor helps drive traffic to well-rated restaurants or hotels).

I support what the Yoga Alliance stands forI would love for yoga to be regulated such that trainings had to be certified according to standardized, confirmed requirements in areas of competency in at least anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics and basic clinical ethics. I would love for there to be a governing body to create and uphold a clear scope of practice for the physical practice of yoga, strong definitions of what we do – and what we don’t do – as yoga instructors with people’s bodies.

I would also love there to also be a union-esque governance in the industry that protects yoga teachers with standards that allowed yoga studios to build business models around enforced expectations for labour costs, rather than take poor risks and bank on paying their teachers shit in order to make up the difference (#notallstudios).

And I can appreciate that all of this is contentious and complicated, and met with stress in the yoga community. It’s a big, hairy issue that deserves more time to talk about than I’ve given here.

But let’s pare back down to yoga teacher trainings and how the Yoga Alliance does NOT set credentialing standards for them.

None of this kind of regulation and credentialing is what the Yoga Alliance actually does.

What does being Yoga Alliance Registered mean, then?

That’s a great question. Essentially, if a training is registered with the Yoga Alliance, it means it’s told the Yoga Alliance that its training complies with the Alliance’s guidelines for teachers and/or schools. So, for example, in a 200-hour training, a Yoga Alliance registered training has told YA that they’ll spend 25 of those hours as such:

Teaching Methodology: 25 Hours

Topics in this category could include, but are not limited to:

  • Communication skills such as group dynamics, time management, and the establishment of priorities and boundaries
  • How to address the specific needs of individuals and special populations, to the degree possible in a group setting
  • Principles of demonstration, observation, assisting and correcting
  • Teaching styles
  • Qualities of a teacher
  • The student learning process
  • Business aspects of teaching yoga* (including marketing and legal)

[and I would like to draw attention to this “special requirement”:

*Special Requirement: A maximum of five hours related to the business aspects of teaching yoga may be counted towards the Yoga Alliance Contact Hours requirements for this category.

Good luck surviving in the world of yoga teaching with a MAXIMUM of FIVE HOURS spent talking about the business aspects of teaching yoga. If the training you’re considering is abiding by these guidelines, that’s all you’re getting. I include more time on the biz of yoga in hours designated outside of these categories in my own YTT, as I define on my YA YTT page.]

Being registered with the Yoga Alliance also means that the teacher or school has paid a fee to have a public page within the YA website. As I’m testing this year, this allegedly means the Yoga Alliance is putting me and my training in front of a large, targeted audience.

It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s not an arrival. When a yoga teacher is “registered” with the Yoga Alliance, it means they’ve made public what they teach and have paid a fee to have a public profile with the site, in hopes that it generates leads for them.

So, to summarize …

If you’re looking for this little symbol on a yoga teacher or yoga school’s page:

Yoga Alliance Registered School 200 hours

understand that it means that the school or teacher is really just doing their best to display credibility in a professional space that struggles to clarify what that credibility might be. It may indicate a good training with excellent internal standards – and it may not. It certainly won’t guarantee that those standards are being met in any way.

Because … let’s say it together again (and again):

The Yoga Alliance is not a credentialing body.

I encourage you, if you’re Yoga Alliance anxious, to go to the Yoga Alliance for what it does do; namely, it gives your face/school some visibility through their website, and may send some clients your way. You may also get a few discounts on yoga clothes or insurance, and you can sign up for some of their webinars or peruse through their teaching resource videos. There’s some cool stuff in there.

But don’t look to the Yoga Alliance for credentials. That’s not what it does.


J Brown, as usual, has some fascinating things to say on this subject, should you wish to explore it further:

The incendiary initial rant: Yoga Alliance Approved My Ass – J Brown

The follow-up, when we all felt like Giving Yoga Alliance a Chance – J Brown

And the wonderfully straight-forward summary of why that follow-up hasn’t worked for him: What Now Yoga Alliance? – J Brown


For the record, Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training is an ESDC Certified Institution in Canada, meaning it’s federally recognized by our government as a professionalizing institution with standards that can be checked by a governing body. It’s not a perfect solution either, but we’ve taken steps to become an accredited school that provides skills in the profession in which you’re signing up to be trained, as defined by federal standards. It also means we can issue T2202A tuition tax receipts for our training.

Learn more about Pranalife Yoga Teacher Training HERE.

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