Minimum requirements to be a yoga teacher

As I understand it, there was once a time where a student would practice for years with a realized yoga master. When and only when that master felt the student was ready did that student become a teacher.

These days people are getting certified over the internet, during weekend retreats, during 7 day pina colada intensives, after 200 hours, and so forth. The once strong foundation and lineage that made up yoga has crumbled. As such, finding a yoga teacher who is more than a good dance choreographer with a nice voice can be an exercise in frustration. And people are getting hurt. A lot. People that often sought out yoga in an effort to heal in the first place.

Before I continue, let me say I have a lot of personal bias and traumas from the past that no doubt influence my feelings on this matter. I have been harmed by doctors. A lot. So when I experience more harm or see others being harmed, I get very upset because, well, I understand.

My question to this forum is: what makes a yoga teacher exactly that? Can we police ourselves? Can we create some sort of means of separating the wheat from the chaff? Does 200 hours of instruction give you enough knowledge and wisdom to teach people in dire need of healing? 500 hours? 1000?

I feel VERY strongly that something needs to change. We need to first do no harm. We need to ensure that teachers are in fact teachers so that ahimsa is being embodied.


I think I have mentioned it before here on the forum, but my yoga teacher, Sri Durga Devi only gave me permission in 2006 to do my teacher’s course and that was after I have done yoga with her since 1999. This included satsang from 18:00 - 21:00 every monday evening, tantra training wednesday morning from 08:00 - 13:00 and yoga on tuesday and thursday evenings for 2 hours. In betwen she expected me to attend talks, workshops and regular visits to the Sivananda Ashram in johannesburg. If she presented a workshop I had to be there to assist her etc. In her 35 years as a teacher herself, she gave permission to me and two other ladies to do a teacher’s course and that was it. I am a strong believer in this system and I feel it should be a requirement by a school to accept you only if you have a letter from your teacher recommending that you become a teacher.

By training I am actually a teacher (although my life took me into the field of journalism and graphic design) and I have been to yoga classes where you can see clearly the teacher has no idea how to convey a message or how to follow a syllabus or even implementing a teaching methodology or even how to control the class. In short they can do yoga, but has no clue how to teach. Teaching is a skill that you need training for, very few people are natural teachers.

In short I am all in favour of permission from the teacher and at least some teaching skills course or qualification before you are allowed to teach yoga to others.

David, I very much share your concern.

We live in a society where we want everything, and to make matters worse we want it now!

I almost fell victim to exactly this. I?ve only done yoga for around 18 months, and wanted to qualify as a yoga teacher to improve my own practise and eventually teach others. I found a yoga school where I could get qualified in three months (training took place only over the weekends). I got accepted to this school and was going to start my course in Sept. Luckily I came to my senses, and realized exactly what you described above, I took a step back, followed my gut, and practiced patience instead.

It is a shame how diluted yoga is becoming, not sure how we turn back from this…but it is concerning.

I too, share all your concerns. If I may, I’d like to share my story.

I began my journey in my late teens/early twenties practicing yoga with Lilias Folan (mother of modern yoga) from my TV. I took a few classes as well. I got sidetracked in my journey, happily, with marriage and children. I quit my job as a social worker to raise my 3 children, again, happily. I did much community/volunteer work, including getting involved at our children’s school. I resumed my yoga practice when I was close to 40. I practiced at home for many years and was never so happy. After about 7 years of home practice and an occasional class, I felt I was missing something. It was the spiritual component. I also felt the need to teach. Here in the States, it is a bit different. Especially where I live in Ohio. The yoga community is more about fitness, so actually having a Guru find you and being taught by that Guru is virtually nonexistent. I did some research and enrolled in teacher training at a well known Yoga School. The owner had spent much time in India and my teacher for teacher training was Hindu and only been living in the States for about 10 years. I felt it was a good fit. I enrolled. What surprised and dismayed me was 3/4 of the people who enrolled had only been practicing yoga for 6 months or less. I thought, “how is this possible? How can one be called upon to teach when they know so little?” Several of us had been practicing for many years and felt it was time to move to the next level in our journey. Others just wanted to learn the asanas. We conveyed to our teacher we wanted to learn more about the spiritual side of yoga and how we could apply it to our teaching. While we did this, I felt it could have been more in depth. Most everyone was happy with the training that was provided (took about 6 months to complete) I felt like some pieces of the puzzle were missing. I knew I just had to find them myself. So I did. I began reading everything I could about yoga, from the spiritual side to the physical side. I felt that I was given an opportunity to assist people in the healing process. And I took it seriously. I have since, been to too many classes where the teacher stands on a podium and doesn’t even look at the students let alone adjust. Instruction is minimal and there is no meditation or pranayama. This is not yoga! When a teacher doesn’t even look at their students how can they practice ahimsa? Becoming a good teacher takes practice. We are constantly learning and exploring. I have learned more from my students actually than any book. We have a wonderful bond that I so cherish!

I don’t begrudge anyone who feels the calling to become a teacher. I rejoice in it! But I truly think there needs to be more guidance from your teacher. I would have loved it! That is not to say that my teacher did not assist me throughout. He did. We often times had great discussions about my experiences with pranayama and chakra meditation, not to mention Kundalini (which he does not like) and my experiences with that. He helped me, and continues to, a great deal.

I feel in the end, we short change our students when we don’t fully understand or feel comfortable with yoga. Practice, reflection and experience helps with that. I agree it is a concern. But what can be done? I don’t know, honestly.

Recently back from The Omega Institute assisting my teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, and I can completely understand your point of view David.
Our last session there was a two-hour workshop entitled The Energy Behind Being a Yoga Teacher.

There are things that need changing and I assure you some are working toward that change. What we can do is ensure that we embody the difference, get proper training, continue educating ourselves, teach from integrity, and heed a calling rather than a desire for the “flavor of the day”.

Teaching yoga comes with an enormous responsibility for we can deeply effect peoples lives; first at the physical level, then later at all levels of their living. Because the ability to impact runs so deep, so too does the responsibility and when we understand that how could we shirk on our training? A 200-hour training is a bare minimum. It is a beginning not an end.

And this 200-hour training, this bare minimum is not enough to teach therapeutics. Therapeutics takes nearly a decade of consistent study to cultivate.

My teacher studied with Guruji (Iyengar) for seven years before being allowed to teach and even then he was only allowed to teach children! And those studies were hours-long, daily, intense, and ongoing.

What we are really seeing is a lack of commitment to teacher training, a lack of commitment to the yoga in yoga, a lack of integrity in teaching (stemming from poor or insufficient training), a lack of oversight, and a lack of discernment on the part of the prospective student.

If we do not know ourselves how can we direct others to know themselves? If we cannot examine ourselves how can we direct others so? If we do not heal ourselves by exploring and addressing our issues, then how can we teach others to do so?

Therefore the work is to oppose the shallowness with depth - this is why after 2,000-hours of training and a vocational certification from the State of Washington I did not pause. It is not a matter of who is watching. It is a matter of I am watching.

Thank you all for sharing your perspectives, it’s appreciated. Right now, Texas is moving towards legislation that will change the face of Yoga teacher training there. And I guarantee yoga practitioners aren’t going to like any governmental regulation that comes down the pipeline. But if we don’t come together on a national level and police ourselves, the government will. And frankly, at that point, as much as I hate governmental regulation, I will be on their side. I pray it doesn’t come to that.

Are they looking to network with others interested in the same? If so, can you connect me?

While I agree, there are far too few people like you who are doing this. And the common person off the street will likely not be able to tell the difference between a good yoga teacher and one who is not. Just as most would have trouble telling the difference between the doctor who has 18 years experience and has continued their education and the doctor who just got out of a terrible medical school with a 72%. In the end, they’re both doctors.

When I graduated my 200 hour training I was told I was a yoga teacher. I so wanted to believe that. I believe much of the burden of the crumbling yoga foundation lies with the schools churning out yoga teachers who are anything but.


I believe that after a 200-hour training, that is Yoga Alliance registered, you are a yoga teacher. Of course what sort of yoga teacher you are depends on other factors. This would include the curriculum of the program and your understanding of and commitment to further training.

Anyone can become a good yoga teacher however like all growth in our lives it requires deep work and most folks simply aren’t willing to do that work unless it’s only at the physical level.

Ask people to really look at themselves in your class and watch the myriad of excuses (squirming) bubble to the top.

I just finished 200 hours in May, then did an additional 25 hours in July with someone else. And while I am very blessed to have been hired to teach Yoga, I do so with the responsibility that I am definitely impacting the lives of my students. Before each class (before I leave the house), I say a prayer and ask to be of service to my students, and even during class, I do an ego check on myself, and find a moment to again pray to let me guide them safely. I by no means take this lightly. Though light-heartedness is certainly an important part of this. I approach my students with friendliness, and kindness, and compassion. It’s not about me, it’s about them. My own practice is for me. I try to bring a gentle, kind energy in with me, and I can feel the students responding to that energy. I teach what I can of asana, pranayama, and concentration/meditation. In other words, I know my limitations, areas where I need more knowledge. I know not to teach what I cannot yet do.

Aside from my regular practice, I read on the subject endlessly. I study, probably every day and know that this is a lifelong commitment. I know over time, I will accumulate more hours in additional TT, when I have some extra money:) In the meantime, I teach because I feel so incredibly called to be of service to my community. I can’t explain it. It’s something I can’t even understand, the feeling is so deep. I am committed.

That is absolutely lovely. Thank you.

I don’t mean to feel like a snob but tonight’s class (which has been subbed for the last month while the regular teacher is away) was taught by a gal who just finished her 200 hour month long intensive YTT in July. I felt a bit ripped off-not money wise cause the class is only $7; more so because I didn’t get anything out of the class. Maybe its just because I am comparing this teacher to the regular teacher. Is it wrong to feel this way? Maybe some home practice tonight to supplement today’s class will redeem things.

I believe there are two points here. One of them a carry-over from another post. And that is that my shopping for a Yoga practice is profoundly rewarding when the shopping is done based on content rather than price. And I don’t believe they can occupy the same space just as I don’t believe forcing and feeling can occupy the same space.

The second point is that there is always something for me, as a student, to learn in the class in which I have freely chosen to attend. Sometimes that learning is as simple as what I like, what reaches me, what empowers me. Other times is is the lesson of having made choice, taking full responsibility, levying no blame, and enjoying what is rather than what is not. And of course there are many points in between.

Historically, in sampling some 60 teachers here in Seattle over 6 years, I’ve gotten something from all of them. Often that something was about me.

[QUOTE=InnerAthlete;36369]Historically, in sampling some 60 teachers here in Seattle over 6 years, I’ve gotten something from all of them. Often that something was about me.[/QUOTE]

Fantastic answer. Absolutely fantastic!

Thanks for the insight Gordon. I don’t just go to the class because of the cheap price. I go because the regular teacher of the class is excatly what I’m looking for. Since she has been away for a month her classes have been subbed. You’re right, I did willingly choose to go. Maybe I walked into the room with too many expectations. Maybe that’s what I walked out feeling like something was missing…


I feel VERY strongly that something needs to change. We need to first do no harm. We need to ensure that teachers are in fact teachers so that ahimsa is being embodied.[/QUO

Well…what about some teachers that do not have certification at all and practicing for about 20 years and constantly learning and attending workshops…I dont see any problems if such a person decides to get online certification for some purposes…

What about doctors with 10 years of college who still do horrible mesh-ups? What about car mechanics who mess with your car brakes, and they got their certification for a week or so…ill school teacher who can damage child’s Psyche forever…prescription of antidepressants to almost everyone… we can continue indifenately.

This is a beurocratic and systematic problem and the best one can do - is just stay away from bad teacher and doctors…


Of course in all fields there are some who are amazing without papers and others who have multiple degrees who are not so great. A degree or certification is only one of many assessment tools. The approach is not to look at only one thing. The approach, like Yoga, is holistic. We look at the entire body of work for the healthcare provider, the auto mechanic, and the teacher.

Well…what about some teachers that do not have certification at all and practicing for about 20 years and constantly learning and attending workshops…I dont see any problems if such a person decides to get online certification for some purposes…

I personally would use care not to intermix the skill set of a practitioner with the skill set of a teacher. A long-time practitioner with continuing studies may not have been taught, learned, or cultivated the skills of a teacher. After all to have a practice does not require language skills, honing an ability to see, anatomical knowledge, an understanding of economy of words, or the ability to differentiate levels of study.

Who would certify a teacher based only on their practice? My mechanic has been driving for decades, my dentist chewing all her life but I’d not go to either based solely on that :slight_smile:

In my experience most of the people teaching yoga are very sweet, well intentioned, kind gentle people. And this too is a necessary component but again, only one of many. As long as students continue to vote “yes” with their yoga dollar by patronizing classes with poorly trained teachers, not much is likely to change.

Well said Gordon! Everyone in this thread has brought up excellent points. They all center around the fact that something needs to be done. As teachers we are charged with the safety of our students and assisting them on their yoga journey. We should all take this very seriously, and most do. Becoming a good teacher doesn’t happen overnight. For some, it may never happen. That doesn’t mean they are not true yogi’s. They may have the desire to teach, not not the skills necessary. Can they eventually cultivate those skills? Perhaps. After teacher training, an internship along side a seasoned teacher would greatly help the new teacher gain the confidence and knowledge needed. When I look back at my beginning as a teacher, I often times think, “what was I thinking?” But I like to look at that as a learning tool to help me stay on the path of humility while constantly striving to increase my knowledge and look at the ‘bigger picture’. I find today, I feel so comfortable in saying, ‘I don’t know, I’ll find out’ or intuitively adjusting my students. But I can still look at the class I taught yesterday and find some part that I can say,‘what was I thinking?’ Learning is forever ongoing.

For me, being able to effectively communicate with students is so important. I’ve been to classes where a seasoned 500 hr. RYT/Yoga Therapist had no connection whatsoever with his students. Students were struggling and not understanding his cues, but he just kept on going like the energizer bunny. On the opposite end, I’ve seen new teachers feel very comfortable with both their knowledge and communication. One of the biggest challenges for a new teacher is having a monkey wrench thrown into their beautifully planned class. Perhaps someone with an injury, a beginner in a intermediate level class, etc. can all really challenge the new teacher. For most though, with practice and humility, they can learn and be comfortable with those monkey wrenches. Some of my best classes where ones that were spontaneous and playful and nothing like what I had planned. Again, this comes from experience.

I feel change is on the horizon and hopefully it will be good change. We can hope and pray it is soon!

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