What Yoga Teacher Certification Means
Do you really need yoga teacher certification to teach a yoga class? Why does that “RYT” suffix matter? Hasn’t it been said that anyone can teach yoga? Why go through the bother of graduating from a costly and time-consuming certified yoga teacher training program? Can’t you just learn the poses well enough to teach them?
These are all good questions, but before we delve into the answers, let’s examine the different yoga certifications to understand what they mean.
Yoga Teacher Certification
Just as a medical doctor earns an “MD” to show the world that he or she has graduated from an intensive program designed to prepare the doctor to practice medicine, a yoga teacher must graduate from an intensive program to teach yoga to the general public. Instead of a university bestowing the degree, however, the Yoga Alliance maintains the minimum standards required for yoga teachers.
The Yoga Alliance is a nonprofit entity that keeps track of registered yoga teachers (RYTs) and registered schools (RYSs). That RYT title means that a teacher has completed a serious program and been deemed fit to teach a yoga class. To earn an RYT certificate, you have to study five areas:
- Yoga techniques and postures (the practice)
- Yoga philosophy, history and lifestyle
- Human anatomy, physiology and psychology
- Methods of teaching yoga
- Practical teaching training (in front of a class)
A yoga instructor with an RYT certificate has been trained sufficiently to lead a class. Just as you wouldn’t see a doctor without an MD, you shouldn’t take classes from a teacher without an RYT.
A Numbers Game
The Yoga Alliance recognizes three levels of yoga teacher certification: 200 Hour RYT and 500 Hour RYT. The differences have to do with the number of hours of training. To earn the RYT-300 certification, for example, you need 300 hours of classroom training. While you can use the first 200 hours toward a 300-hour certification, the further level of instruction forces you to explore more complex techniques and mastery.
There’s one more type of yoga teacher certification: the “E.” A registered yoga instructor with an E-RYT title has extensive teaching experience that’s been officially recognized. An E-RYT helps differentiate experienced teachers from recent grads.
Is Certification Required?
Legally, you do not need even an 200 Hour RYT certificate to teach a yoga class, although many yoga studios require their instructors to have a certificate. Since yoga certification is a fairly recent invention — yoga organizations began the work in the late 1990s — many of the most renowned American yoga teachers are not certified.
Chances are, however, that you are not among them, so it behooves you to attend a recognized program, such as the ones offered by the Asheville Yoga Center, to earn an RYT certification. The more training you receive, the better you are able to lead a yoga class and communicate its intricacies.
So, to return to the questions at the beginning of this article, it is true that anyone can teach a yoga class, but we recommend — and you should insist — that your teacher has earned his or her yoga chops by graduating from a recognized RYS. Yoga teacher certification does matter.
For more information about the Yoga Alliance, visit their website.