Yoga Instructor Certificate: What Will I Learn & How Can I Find The Right Fit For Me?

reviewed by Liz Burns 500H RYT
Last Updated:

In order to become a yoga instructor, you need insurance, and in order to get insurance, you need a yoga instructor certificate! A yoga instructor certificate is proof that you have attended and completed either a 200-hour or 500-hour training course (specifically in yoga).

Most people tend to complete the initial/foundation 200-hour certificate, taking a further 300-hour course at a later date to advance their teaching and their practice.

If you’re considering becoming a yoga instructor, either through a 200 or 500-hour course, finding the right one can be overwhelming.

It can be hard to know which format to choose and what style to go for, let alone which teacher! There are seemingly endless choices when it comes to getting a yoga instructor certificate, so let us help you out.

In this article, we’ll take a look at:

  • What is a yoga instructor certificate
  • What styles of yoga can I specialize in
  • Yoga instructor certificate formats
  • What to expect on a yoga instructor training
woman adjusting yoga student in childs pose

What style to choose

By now, hopefully, you have a good deal of yoga practice under your belt and have explored many styles of yoga.

If you haven’t, putting in the practice before becoming a teacher is necessary for both yourself and your future students.

If you haven’t yet tried out a range of styles here are some of the most common styles to give a go:

1. Iyengar

An alignment-based approach founded by B.K.S. Iyengar.

There is a long and rigorous process to gain a teaching certificate in Iyengar and it has a well-respected and long tradition.

2. Ashtanga

The original flow style. This strict and demanding style is practiced almost every day and certification can require multiple trips to Mysore.

Ashtanga is Pattabhi Jois’ signature style and demands a significant commitment to just one style, much like Iyengar. Made up of different series’, students do not progress their pose repertoire until given permission by their teacher.

woman practicing yoga from home in a forward fold

3. Vinyasa Flow

Inspired by Ashtanga and often Iyengar Yoga, this style of yoga is more creative than others and often fuses elements of dance, strength work and somatics.  Most Vinyasa Flow teacher certificates are relatively easy to attain and quick to get certified in.

4. Hatha

Hatha is a bit of an umbrella term for yoga that is not Iyengar, Ashtanga or Vinyasa Flow.

Hatha courses can often be lengthier than Vinyasa Flow courses and they are often more in-depth, covering a broader range of yoga.

Continuing professional development

Some yoga trainings are in short forms – they are usually around 50 hours long and allow you to specialize in a certain aspect of the practice. Some of the more common styles that you may want to try out are:

  • Yin – A style of yoga that focuses on stressing soft tissues through stretching via long holds.
  • Restorative Yoga – This form of yoga uses lots of props. It is often confused with Yin but it is quite different. The props help support the body in yoga shapes so that you can completely relax rather than stretch.
  • Yoga Nidra – A form of meditation fused with deep relaxation. This practice is usually done in savasana and is guided by a teacher.
  • Children’s yoga – How to adapt your regular yoga teaching for a class of little ones
children's yoga class

Yoga instructor certificate formats

The formats for Iyengar and Ashtanga, as mentioned, are different from other styles of yoga training. For these other styles, there are usually two formats:

  • Long-form – This format of training normally takes place anywhere from a few months to a few years. It can take place over long weekends monthly or one day per week.
  • Intensive – This format of training often comes in the form of a month-long intensive. It is not uncommon for these types of trainings to be residential, in hot and sunny locations.

What to expect on your training

Whatever style of yoga you have chosen there will be some aspects that are found in all instructor trainings.

In particular, all trainings should prioritize practice; so much can be learned through practicing yoga and the importance of embodying the teachings should not be understated.

Most yoga trainings will include at least one practice per day and will explore all aspects of asana, including more advanced postures. The majority of trainings include:

class outdoors practicing at a yoga instructor certificate course
  • Practice – This will include asana, pranayama and meditation.
  • Teaching methodology – Methodology is the actual teaching of yoga, the sequencing, posture, and style breakdown.
  • Anatomy – This will give you the skills and knowledge of the body to teach yoga poses. It will likely cover the basic anatomical structures of the body and planes of movement.
  • History and philosophy – This will likely include an overview of yoga’s historical context as well as key texts such as The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and The Upanishads.

What’s your ‘why’?

Becoming a yoga teacher is a wonderful and often life-changing experience, but it is not easy. It is important to know exactly why you want to embark on the training. Maybe you want to deepen your practice, maybe you are keen to dive straight into teaching, or maybe both!

Whatever your reasons, you need to have a significant interest in yoga and its related practices and be well-versed in them before you sign up.

Often, students will sign up to a training with no intention to teach and this often changes throughout the course, and many do, in fact, end up actively teaching.

yoga teacher adjusting a student in a pose

What skills will I learn as a yoga teacher?

1. Cuing and language

This is one of the most valuable skills you will learn. Being able to talk people through poses and give them subtle nuances to look for will help make you a great teacher and will help keep your students safe.

Language is a powerful tool to aid students in developing their skills as practitioners. It also helps you to keep your teaching fresh so that you are not just teaching the bare bones of the poses each time you offer a class.

2. Accessibility and adaptability

Good trainings will teach you how to adapt postures and practices for all types of bodies.

This includes modifications and various degrees of poses that people can choose from to ensure that they are able to practice self-agency and make good choices for their bodies.

Being able to often adaptations is a skill that your training can help you to hone.

yoga teacher adjusting someone in butterfly pose

3. How to use props

Props can be an important part of yoga practice and are often overlooked. In fact, they can provide a much more pleasant experience for some students while being an aid to others.

Just remember that no amount of yoga is going to make your bones grow, so using a brick under your hand to make your arm longer can be a wonderful thing.

4. How to incorporate the philosophical teachings of yoga into a class

Most people come to yoga because they want to move their body, but why did they choose yoga over the gym, a fitness class, or Pilates? The mindful and spiritual qualities set it apart from most other movement modalities.

Weaving elements of self-care, self-compassion, good breathing practices, self-agency, connection, community, and personal/spiritual growth can be done by reflecting on the historical and philosophical teachings of yoga.

a class of yoga students outside in cobra pose

For example, the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an excellent place to start for students to take responsibility for their own well-being.

5. Get to grips with the business of yoga

Knowing how to navigate the yoga landscape can be tricky. You’ll get guidance on Yoga Alliance, insurance providers, how to market yourself and how to set up or get classes.

6. Compassion first

Taking into account all of the above, hopefully, your teacher training program will encourage you to act with compassion first – both for yourself and your students.

What does a yoga teacher training program cost?

Yoga teacher training programs are not cheap. Or are they?

We would advise you to be cautious of any course that significantly undercuts other programs in terms of price. You should be looking to pay around $3000 for a 200hr course.

yoga instructor certificate student adjusting a student in class

How much do yoga teachers earn?

This varies a lot from place to place but most studios pay between $30-$40 per class.

Private sessions with students and corporate classes are often much better paid.

The bulk of earrings for teachers comes from workshops, retreats, and trainings. It’s important to remember that these won’t happen straight away, so always keep this in mind when you are budgeting.

Online, in-person or hybrid?

There are a lot more options for taking yoga trainings now than there used to be.

While nothing beats the experience of training in person and being a part of a live community, online options are more popular, especially for those who have work/home commitments or live in remote areas.

woman doing a yoga class on her laptop at home

If you’re choosing an online-only option make sure there are live calls with the teacher to ensure that you get interaction with them and the opportunity to ask questions.

Hybrid courses are a great option as they allow you to balance some of the work in your own time while still having contact with your tutors and peers.

The Roundup

Do plenty of research and get to know your tutors before you sign up!

What’s next?

Want to find out more about the difference between Hatha and Vinyasa yoga? Check out Hatha Yoga Vs Vinyasa: Differences Explained.

Photo of author
Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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