By Jenna Zizzo, Guest Blogger
It’s no secret that yoga and all things holistic are on the rise in America. Once considered esoteric by some, and often perceived as being practiced only by those who fell into the category of “hippie” or “granola,” recent decades have demonstrated how yoga has catapulted into mainstream society, becoming a popular way for people to stay in shape, relax and connect with their higher selves.
It is widely known that the history of yoga dates back to ancient India. While there isn’t any official written proof as to the exact date that yoga began, there are many accounts online and in books about the birth of yoga, and how it came to America from India. However, what is even less documented is the history of yoga teaching.
It’s been written and recorded that one yogi taught another who then brought those teachings to another individual or group, and the tradition and philosophy was passed down from person to person, group to group. From old school yoga masters such as Patanjali and his yoga sutras and B.K.S. Iyengar’s alignment instruction, to contemporary instructors like Tara Stiles and Sean Corn, the influence of yoga in America is an essential part of today’s culture.
Yoga’s popularity in America surged in the later decades of the 20th century. Yoga teachers, teacher trainings and studios began to appear throughout the United States. In 1997 Yoga Alliance was established, in response to the numerous teacher trainings and teachers through the U.S. According to their website, Yoga Alliance is a standards-setting organization for yoga teachers and yoga teacher training programs.
Many new yoga instructors go to the Yoga Alliance website upon completing their teacher training to gain that coveted designation of Registered Yoga Teacher, or "RYT."
There are a number of different designations, some of the most common being RYT 200 and RYT 500. The minimum number of teacher training hours required by Yoga Alliance to be registered to teach is 200; there is also a 500 hour designation, which is often a more advanced, in-depth level of training. Teachers can also receive the designation of E-RYT 200 or E-RYT 500. The ‘E’ stands for ‘experienced’, which means that the instructor has significant teaching experience.
For example, Yoga Alliance’s website states that an E-RYT 200 “is a teacher with at least two years of teaching experience following completion of training with a RYS 200 and who has taught at least 1,000 hours of yoga since that time.”
Why are these designations so important for current yoga teachers and newly certified teachers?
Yoga Alliance is the most widely recognized credential for yoga teachers; it sets teachers apart as someone who have achieved a high level of training and experience that meets the standards set by Yoga Alliance.
While it does cost to register with Yoga Alliance, the price isn’t too steep. The initial, one time application fee is $45. To receive the RYT designation it is $55, which is also what it costs to renew every year. So a mere $100 is what is needed to become a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. Not too bad, considering the average pay teachers earn per class ranges from $20 to $40!
It is also beneficial to receive yoga teacher training from a school that is a Registered Yoga School (RYS) with Yoga Alliance, such as Spirit of Yoga’s Unity Yoga program at Southwest Institute of Healing Arts (SWIHA). The Unity Yoga program strives to teach an authentic expression of yoga with a transformational approach, while honoring diverse practice styles and belief systems. The Unity Yoga program is based on the principle that yoga can be a unifying tool to create health, well-being, and spiritual connection, while providing structure and educational freedom so teacher trainees can bring what they learn off their yoga mats and into their lives.
Yoga schools, such as Spirit of Yoga at SWIHA, must meet specific criteria in order to qualify as an RYS, such as teaching techniques and methodologies, anatomy, physiology, philosophy and ethics. And that’s just to be registered as a 200 hour school!
Yoga teachers and studio owners often praise Yoga Alliance for their dedication to ensuring credentialing of instructors. Duane Armitage, an E-RYT 500, founder of Hatha-Gong, instructor at Spirit of Yoga, and the Yoga Philosophy instructor for the 2015 Advanced Teacher Training program, is a big supporter of Yoga Alliance. He and his wife Aradhana, who is also a yoga teacher, have been registered with Yoga Alliance for many years.
“As a long-time registered yoga teacher, I find that I am acknowledged in the general yoga community for having the knowledge and experience that meets the standards for training and teaching established by Yoga Alliance,” says Duane. “This has greatly enhanced my credibility when seeking a teaching position.”
Another important reason to register with Yoga Alliance is that many studios and facilities require yoga instructors to be RYT’s.
Gyms, health clubs, corporate yoga spaces, wellness centers and rehabilitation centers often ask that their instructors be registered. Duane teaches at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, and shares that the facility requires registration with YA as a prerequisite for hiring.
Laura McKinzie, an E-RYT 500 and Yoga Teacher Training Program Director for Spirit of Yoga at SWIHA, is also an advocator for Yoga Alliance. “In my teacher training classes, I encourage my students to register with Yoga Alliance as soon as they receive their certification,” says Laura. “I let them know that being an RYT through Yoga Alliance will not only help them establish credibility within the yoga world, but it also opens doors for larger teaching opportunities.
In addition, Yoga Alliance offers discounts for yoga related products and brands to instructors who are registered, as well as provides resources and recommendations via email about upcoming workshops and online trainings nationwide. To learn more about Yoga Alliance, visit their website at www.YogaAlliance.org.
Interested in becoming a yoga teacher? Southwest Institute of Healing Arts offers two Yoga Teacher Training programs starting in January, both which will be taught by Laura McKinzie at the Spirit of Yoga educational facility. Aspiring yoga teachers can choose a Tuesday/Thursday weeknight option, beginning on January 13th from 6:30 to 9:30 pm. Or, for those who are interested in a faster paced training, the Fast Track option is available beginning on January 27th. The Fast Track YTT Program is four mornings a week (Mondays through Thursdays) from 10 am to 1 pm. For more information or to enroll in a teacher training program contact an Admissions Advisor at 480-994-9244.