Yoga Alliance 101: Myths, Controversies & How They Work

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One of the best-known yoga organizations worldwide, Yoga Alliance is often seen as a universal seal of approval when it comes to yoga schools and individual teachers.

That said, for many practitioners, Yoga Alliance remains a mysterious entity with no discernable structure, purpose, or person behind it all.

If you’re one of those people, you’re in luck! This article truly brings the workings of this global organization to light:

  • What is Yoga Alliance?
  • Yoga Alliance Structure and Leadership
  • How it Works
  • Benefits of Yoga Alliance Membership
  • Yoga Alliance Criticisms and Controversies
  • Yoga Alliance Alternatives
a yoga class sitting cross legged smiling

What is Yoga Alliance?

Founded in 1999, Yoga Alliance is a globally recognized organization that serves as a regulatory body within the yoga industry, promoting quality and consistency in yoga education and practice.

It is not an official governing body or union for yoga professionals, but rather an optional membership-based non-profit that sets standards for yoga teacher training programs and gives yoga teachers the opportunity to join their online directory.

Yoga Alliance is best known for:

  • Establishing and maintaining a set of standards for teacher training programs. These guidelines cover various aspects of training, including curriculum, hours of instruction, and qualifications of lead trainers.
  • Issuing accreditation to yoga teacher training programs and schools that adhere to the standards proposed by Yoga Alliance.
  • Having an online directory of registered yoga teachers who have completed a YA-accredited training. This directory allows students to find certified yoga teachers and schools in their area.
  • Setting a code of conduct and ethical guidelines for registered yoga teachers. This code outlines principles related to professionalism, integrity, and the well-being of students.
  • Providing opportunities for registered teachers to engage in continuing education programs, ensuring ongoing professional development.

It’s important to note that while Yoga Alliance is a significant organization in the yoga community, joining Yoga Alliance is voluntary for both teachers and schools.

However, many yoga studios prefer to hire teachers who are registered with Yoga Alliance due to its international recognition and adherence to industry standards.

a yoga class practicing in a park

Yoga Alliance Structure and Leadership

A non-profit by nature, Yoga Alliance is a large organization with an extensive team of staff, leadership, and a board of directors. The various members of the team are responsible for managing different aspects of Yoga Alliance operations.

An extension to Yoga Alliance, the Yoga Alliance Foundation (YAF) is a public charity dedicated to expanding access to yoga, promoting inclusivity and diversity in the yoga community, and creating more avenues for education, service, and economic empowerment for yoga teachers.

The leadership team at Yoga Alliance combines their diverse backgrounds and extensive expertise to nurture and facilitate high-quality yoga classes, workshops and training courses.

The organization is led by professionals with backgrounds in yoga, education, public health, federal government, and business. This impressive lineup includes:

  • Shannon RochePresident and Chief Executive Officer
  • Kristina GraffManaging Director of Yoga Alliance Foundation
  • Toni CareyVice President of Strategic Communications | RYT 500
  • Dani HayesVice President of Community Engagement | RYT 500
  • Hilary MughlooChief of Staff
  • A. K. Sharma Head of Shared Services

The leadership team is supported by a volunteer board of directors whose responsibilities include strategic planning, governance, and financial strategy.

When required, specially formed committees are called to implement, influence, and enforce the vision devised by the board of directors.

a yoga class wearing white pressing their hands in prayer

How It Works

Now that we know what it is and who is behind it, let’s talk about how it works from the perspective of yoga teachers and schools.

Yoga Alliance Membership for Teachers

When you complete a YTT program that was accredited by Yoga Alliance, you become eligible to a Yoga Alliance membership as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). The specific level of registration (e.g., RYT-200 or RYT-500) depends on the number of training hours you completed.

This membership is obtained by filling out an application and paying an annual fee. In order to maintain your status as a RYT, you must adhere to the YA teaching standards and complete at least 30 hours of continuing education every three years.

Once registered, your name and information will be added to the Yoga Alliance online directory. This directory is accessible to the public and helps potential students find certified teachers in their area.

Additionally, it allows you to use Yoga Alliance registration status when promoting your teaching services on your website or business cards. This can help build trust with students and potential employers who recognize the Yoga Alliance quality standard.

To encourage ongoing professional development, Yoga Alliance connects registered teachers with available workshops, advanced training programs, or specialized certifications.

yoga practitioners walking along laughing with yoga mats

Yoga Alliance Memberships for Schools

Teachers who have successfully completed 500 hours of Yoga Alliance accredited training and have taught at least 2,000 hours over a minimum of four years are eligible to register as RYT-500.

This opens up the avenue to delivering yoga teacher training to others. You can either be employed as a trainer by a Registered Yoga School (RYS) or apply for your own teaching program to become registered with Yoga Alliance.

The membership fee for a yoga school is a significant investment, but joining the YA directory usually pays off. The Yoga Alliance RYS credentials are globally recognized, which is likely to elicit trust from potential trainees.

Furthermore, Yoga Alliance membership includes access to professional yoga tools and resources, as well as discounts for relevant products and services.

There are currently several different RYS credentials offered by Yoga Alliance, each with their own criteria that have to be met by the applicants. It takes about six weeks for it to undergo an academic-style peer review process before the application is approved.

a yoga class sitting in nature holding their hands up in the air

5 Benefits of Yoga Alliance Membership

The reason Yoga Alliance has risen in the ranks of regulatory yoga organizations is due to the many benefits associated with YA membership.

1. Credibility and Recognition

Being registered with Yoga Alliance signals that the teacher or school in question adheres to certain teaching standards and ethical guidelines, which can be important for building relationships with students and employers.

2. Global Network

Although it was conceived in the United States, nowadays Yoga Alliance is an international organization with members and registered schools and teachers around the world. Naturally, this provides opportunities for networking, collaboration, and exposure.

3. Professional Development

Yoga Alliance supports ongoing professional development for registered teachers. This can include further training, workshops, and continuing education courses to help teachers stay updated on the latest standards in the yoga industry and related fields.

4. Marketing and Promotion

Registered teachers and schools are allowed to use the Yoga Alliance logo and designation on their resume and marketing materials, which can help attract students, employers, and business collaborations.

5. Resource Hub

Yoga Alliance provides a range of resources for its members, including articles, webinars, and other useful tools for individual yoga teachers and yoga schools. 

a yoga class sitting cross legged

Yoga Alliance Criticisms and Controversies

Like any major organization, in spite of its status as non-profit and many charitable deeds, Yoga Alliance has faced its share of criticisms and controversies. Here are some of the potential disadvantages associated with Yoga Alliance:

  • Some yoga professionals argue that YA’s standards for teacher training may not be stringent enough to ensure a high level of competence in all registered teachers.
  • The annual fees associated with joining and maintaining registration with Yoga Alliance pose a financial disadvantage, especially for independent teachers or smaller studios who struggle to recoup these costs.
  • While Yoga Alliance sets standards, it doesn’t have the legal authority to enforce them. As such, YA registered teachers and schools may not live up to safety standards and quality expectations.
  • Initially, YA faced backlash when it allowed online teacher courses to issue certification on par with in-person YTTs. Some yogis maintain that online trainings do not provide the same depth of learning and hands-on experience as in-person programs.
  • YA’s standards and membership costs may create barriers for aspiring yoga teachers, particularly those from marginalized communities or low-income backgrounds. 
  • A common criticism of Yoga Alliance is its lack of accountability when it comes to members and schools that breach the ethical guidelines. In particular, this applies to cases of sexual misconduct and improper financial dealings.
a yoga class practicing forward folds

Yoga Alliance Alternatives

Although its name bears a lot of influence, Yoga Alliance is far from being the only notable certification body in the yoga industry. 

There are multiple organizations with their own certification programs, training standards, and codes of ethics that act as alternatives to Yoga Alliance.

  • International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) is focused on the field of yoga therapy.
  • British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) is the primary governing body for yoga in the UK. It offers a comprehensive teacher training program and certification process.
  • Yoga Australia is the peak professional body for yoga in Australia. It provides accreditation for yoga teachers and schools in the country.
  • Canadian Yoga Alliance (CYA) serves the yoga community in Canada and offers registration for yoga teachers and schools.
  • International Yoga Federation (IYF) is an yoga organization that provides certification for yoga teachers and accredits yoga schools worldwide.
  • Independent Yoga Network (IYN) is a network of yoga teachers and schools that operates independently of any specific style or lineage. It offers accreditation and support for yoga professionals.

In Conclusion

All in all, it’s important for every teacher to carefully consider their own values, career goals, and views on yoga education when deciding whether or not to register with Yoga Alliance.  Some teachers and schools find great value in YA registration, while others experience little to no benefit. 

For instance, my YTT was not completed through a Yoga Alliance school, which means I never registered to be in their online directory… And guess what! 

It never stopped me from finding students, being employed by studios and gyms, or completing administrative tasks like insurance or taxes. Ultimately, being a member of Yoga Alliance is entirely voluntary, and is not a prerequisite to teaching yoga.

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An avid yoga practitioner, Cat completed her training as a Hatha yoga teacher in 2016. She firmly believes that with the right guidance, yoga can benefit everyone, regardless of age, gender, size, or ability. With a background in journalism, Cat realized she could share her yoga experience with others, kickstarting her freelance writing career.

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