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. Much like how the American Medical Association oversees the standards for a Doctorate of Medicine (MD), the Yoga Alliance maintains the minimum standards required for yoga teachers.
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
There are two primary designations awarded by Yoga Alliance: RYT-200 and RYT-500. The differences have to do with the number of hours of training. There are two ways to earn a 500-hour certification. The first is to attend a RYS-500 school and complete all of the training there. The second, and more popular option, is to first earn the RYT-200 certification by completing 200 hours of classroom training. After you complete the 200-hour certification, you can move on to a 300-Hour RYT program, which is a further level of instruction that enables you to explore more complex techniques and mastery. The hours from 200- and 300-Hour RYT programs combine to achieve the 500-Hour RYT certification.
There is an additional designation available that helps differentiate experienced teachers from recent grads. A registered yoga instructor with an E-RYT-200 title has over 1,000 hours teaching experience that has been officially recognized by Yoga Alliance.
Is Certification Required?
Legally, you do not need a 200-Hour RYT certificate to teach a yoga class, although many yoga studios require their instructors to have one. Since yoga certification was only recently established — yoga organizations began the work in the late 1990s — many of the most renowned 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, and the more likely you are to work at an accredited yoga studio.
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 earning your certification from a recognized RYS. Yoga teacher certification does matter.