Yoga Alliance Standards for Teachers' Training Programs

The Role of the Yoga Alliance

The Yoga Alliance Registers Yoga Teachers
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The Yoga Alliance is an organization dedicated to yoga education in the United States. Though the Yoga Alliance is involved in many outreach programs, including the International Day of Yoga, it is best known for setting recommended standards for yoga teacher training programs.

Registered (Not Certified) Training Programs

You often see references to yoga teachers or studios being "certified" by the Yoga Alliance.

This is a misconception, because the Yoga Alliance does not certify teachers, but rather registers teacher training programs that meet its minimum standards in the following categories: 200-hour, 500-hour, prenatal, and children's yoga. For example, at the 200-hour level, the Yoga Alliance breaks down how many hours should be spent on each part of the training, including teaching methodology, physiology, philosophy, etc. If a yoga studio's teacher training program meets these standards, they can register with the Yoga Alliance.

Becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT)

Once you have completed a teacher training with a Yoga Alliance registered program, you may register yourself as a teacher. Many assume that this happens automatically, but you must contact the Yoga Alliance directly and pay an annual fee in order to be registered. You may then use the abbreviation RYT, which stands for Registered Yoga Teacher, behind your name.

In the past, if you completed a teacher training with a non-registered program, you could fill out paperwork provided by the YA and petition for registered status. This is no longer the case. There are currently no alternate or grandfathering options for registration.

Is the Yoga Alliance Relevant?

Now that we've clarified the difference between certification and registration, you may be wondering if it matters whether a program or teacher is registered or not.

One of YA's core principles is to promote minimum standards for safe and competent teaching. Their success with this has made them relevant, even though registering with them is voluntary. At the very least, the minimum standards provided by the YA provide a baseline for the number of instructional hours required for teachers and standardizes the content taught in teacher training programs.

Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, including those certified in a specialized area of yoga, such as Ashtanga or Iyengar, in which cases you can be sure they have far exceeded the 200-hour standards, but the RYT is a very useful way of identifying that a teacher has completed a well-rounded program and put in at least 200 hours, not just a weekend of training.

Yoga Alliance Abbreviations

The following is a list of the levels of teacher training registry marks used by the Yoga Alliance:

  • RYS: Registered Yoga School. A teacher training program that meets, or exceeds, YA standards.
  • RYS-200, RYS-300 or RYS-500 indicates which training programs are certified by the YA. A teacher training program may have met the criteria for one course, but not others.
  • RCYS: Registered Children's Yoga School
  • RPYS: Registered Prenatal Yoga School

Here is what the demarcations mean for yoga teachers:

  • RYT: a teacher who has completed an RYS training program. 
  • RYT-200 means the course your teacher took was at least 200 hours
  • RYT-500 means your teacher took one course that was at least 500 hours, or has taken a series of courses that add up to 500 hours
  • E-RYT 200 means your teacher has at least 1000 hours of teaching experience after completing a 200-hour training
  • E-RYT 500 means your teacher has at least 1000 hours of teaching experience after completing 500 hours of training

For more information, including how to register, see the Yoga Alliance website.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.