Why You Don’t Need a Certificate from Yoga Alliance

When we decided to launch Yoga Detour, a teacher training program that integrates extensively-curated information from outside the yoga community into the asana practice, we endeavoured to fuel future instructors with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and the kind of confidence that comes from gaining a thorough education. 

As applications started coming in, we received several inquiries regarding affiliation with Yoga Alliance, a globally recognized “charity” that bestows yoga instructors and teacher training programs with their “Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT)” and “Registered Yoga School (RYS)” designations. On our website it states:

“[W]e have made the decision not to affiliate with Yoga Alliance. It is our belief that the Yoga Alliance organization is far too removed from what is actually happening on the ground, within the yoga community, to have any appreciation or understanding of what it truly means to be a successful, respected instructor.”

We arrived at this conclusion after careful first-hand research. It was initially suggested that in order to be taken seriously, our program would have to be a Yoga Alliance accredited “RYS” or Registered Yoga School. In order to qualify, however, at least one of our program’s lead instructors would have to hold an “RYT” - Registered Yoga Teacher - designation herself. After countless failed attempts to complete the online registration process, our frustration led us to several phone calls with head office, each one yielding yet another guess on their behalf at what could be the issue. Despite experiencing the disorganization and inefficacy of YA first hand, we completed the registration process and submitted our dues. 

Shortly after this experience, however, we began to poll others in the Toronto yoga community regarding their experiences with Yoga Alliance. Not one student, teacher or studio owner had anything positive to say. We consulted our Yoga Detour faculty, all of whom are onside with our decision, and also took the question to our peers, inquiring whether anyone had something good to say about YA or examples of when this designation proved beneficial.

The results across the board were unanimous: a Yoga Alliance certificate does not denote the credibility it claims. If you are considering training to become a yoga teacher, or if you are already a teacher and plan to affiliate with YA, consider this:

  1. None of your favourite teachers were hired because they’re an “RYT”. They were hired for their skill, character, professionalism and capacity to nurture and inspire. 
  2. Unlike a designation like RMT for registered massage therapists, there is no governing body or council behind Yoga Alliance to hold RYTs accountable for upholding a certain standard.
  3. Schools with the RYS designation aren’t held accountable either. When applying to be an RYS, all you have to do (besides forking over $400US) is tell them what they want to hear. Paint by numbers. Fill in the information that will satisfy their online list of criteria, and you’re off to the races. No one will ever follow-up to see if you’re actually teaching what you said you would on that form.
  4. Yoga Alliance has replaced the importance of skill and tenure with an over-valued logo. The process of becoming registered is time-consuming, frustrating and a perfect example of disorganization and lack of credibility. The only reason teachers and studios put themselves through this is because they’re afraid that without it, business will suffer.
  5. The yoga community doesn’t support Yoga Alliance. Esteemed and senior teachers whose experience predates YA will tell you that there is no way to quantify someone’s ability to teach, regardless of hours spent on the mat. Typically a 200-hour program does little more than introduce students to the basics of teaching. But thanks to YA and the validity of their certification process, these students believe they have accomplished the necessary prerequisites to teach.
  6. Being “certified” is not the same as being a good teacher. YA states, “It is not Yoga Alliance’s role to ‘create great teachers’. We were established by the yoga community to set minimum standards for yoga teacher training programs. It is up to the schools that register with us to provide the training that enables their students to flourish, and it is the responsibility of individual RYTs to practice and study their way to greatness.” While we question the truth behind YA’s claim of being established by the yoga community, it suffices to say that even the organization itself doesn’t purport to be anything more than a purveyor of arbitrary requirements that have come to be accepted as the gold standard. 

As the founders of Yoga Detour, it is our mission to shed light on misconceptions that have for too long shaped the yoga community. These misconceptions range from ill-advised cues like “soften your glutes” to misrepresentations of what it means to be a qualified instructor. Until this experience, neither of us were registered with YA and it made no difference to our success in becoming full-time, in demand instructors. When our membership is up for renewal, we will allow it to lapse. It is our hope that by contributing to the growing discussion surrounding YA, we can have a more productive dialogue around what real accountability could look like for yoga teacher training programs. In the meantime, we will continue to train students in a manner that honours science, integrity, compassion and growth.