Well, maybe you aren’t a yoga nerd but were just curious about a new blog. In either case, welcome!
Today’s journey is all about breaking down those acronyms the yoga world has suddenly become quite attached to and why knowing them matters for students.
Long ago, becoming a “yoga teacher” was similar to an apprenticeship. A master teacher, or guru, would allow a pupil to follow him (it has almost always been a him, as yoga was originally predominantly practiced by men; this is still the case in India). This guru and pupil would spend years together practicing not simply the poses (“asanas”) but also the eight limbs (“sutras”) of yoga. Eventually, the guru would announce the student to now be ready to teach.
The path to becoming a teacher today is often quite different. There are weekend workshops that students can attend in order to be able to teach others immediately afterward. There are also teacher trainings that are thorough and rewarding but do not have the acronyms attached. Finally, there are Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance approved yoga teacher trainings-and our first acronym: YTT.
Yoga Alliance is the largest nonprofit representing the yoga community. The nonprofit came about in the mid-90s after teachers in the U.S. had been debating the need for a standard guideline for training teachers. This is because not all teacher trainings are created equal. While not perfect in its oversight, Yoga Alliance has formed a minimal standard to meet each of the levels of certification: Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hour (RYT 200), Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hour (RYT 500), Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 200 hours (E-RYT 200), Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher 500 hours (E-RYT 500), Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYT), and Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT). In addition, there are designations for schools, but we will stick with just teachers for now.
To look at it simply, if the designation includes a number, that is the minimal number of hours that teacher has formally trained. An “E” designation has met additional requirements and can now train other teachers either through continuing education workshops or full teacher trainings. A teacher’s education is not complete here, however, as Yoga Alliance requires continuing education hours in order to maintain credentials.
Why do these acronyms matter? Perhaps in some ways, they don’t. For instance, most teacher trainings will take money, and no matter who signs up, anyone who pays can obtain certification. Second, even with the standards, not all teacher trainings are identical. There are different formats, styles, focus, and education, just like at colleges and universities. All forms of training are supposed to meet the curriculum guidelines encompassing techniques, training, and practice; methodology; anatomy and physiology; philosophy and ethics; and practicum. Other teacher trainings offer additional hours and materials, such as reiki certification or requiring students to participate in as well as observe a set number of classes taught by an experienced instructor.
Ultimately, what the acronyms offer to students is a little insight into their yoga teachers’ experiences. While it is incredibly important to mesh with a teacher’s personality and teaching style, it is also important to know that your teacher is knowledgeable. Yoga Alliance has created a set of standards for both teachers and schools in an effort to create growth, diversity, and access to safe practices for students. This is perhaps the most important aspect for a student looking for a teacher: knowing that your instructor has met specific qualifications and has the skillset to guide you through your practice safely.
I’ll see you on your mat.
Light and Love,
Paige, MA RYT 200
For the curious readers, here is a list of your Performance Locker Mind Body Team:
Samantha Samson-Miller, 200 RYT (Be the Love Yoga Registered Yoga School)
Dr. Maureen Mead, MD, 500 RYT (Union Yoga Registered Yoga School)
Paige Trisko,200 RYT (Be the Love Registered Yoga School)
Charise Mcclendon, Certified Pilates Teacher Recognized by Pilates Alliance (Balanced Body)
We are honored to be a part of your journey!
For further reading and the nitty gritty breakdowns: