Should teacher training programs be regulated?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Foxtongue

For only $99 and four hours of time you too can teach yoga!

Or at least that’s what one flier I saw at LA Fitness promoted, but it’s not exactly true. Technically speaking anyone can teach yoga, with or without a certification.  Unlike massage therapists, athletic trainers, or dietitians, teaching yoga is not regulated by the states. Granted most individuals and businesses prefer a yoga teacher that has completed teacher training, but what exactly is a teacher training program?

With programs like YogaFit (which certifies you to start teaching after just 2 days of training) and online options like Yoga Teacher Training In-A-box (allows you to become “certified” from the comforts of your couch), I am starting to question the legitimacy of yoga teacher trainings.  It seems to me these programs are neglecting the safety of their students, as well as their student’s students.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Foxtongue

Currently the primary standard for the yoga industry is set by Yoga Alliance, and its standards are minimal and optional.  Through Yoga Alliance, an individual may offer a 200-hour teacher training program only having the E-RYT 200-hr (experience registered yoga teacher) status themselves.

The Yoga Alliance 200 hour program only requires a training programs include a combined 10 contact hours of anatomy and physiology. To give you a standard of comparison, massage therapists in Texas are required to take at least 75 hours of anatomy and physiology. They’re required for good reason, as an inexperienced therapist could inadvertently fracture bones, and even cause internal bleeding with out proper knowledge of the body and it’s functions.

It’s true that some yoga instructors choose not to adjust or assist their students. But can someone really safely guide a student through asanas such as plow or headstand, which can damage the spine if done improperly, with only 10 hours of anatomy and physiology?  Moreover, it concerns me that many yoga instructors advise students on health related issues. They promote yoga as a way to prevent, aid in treating, and even heal a wide range of ailments.

Human Anatomy Skeleton Models in Classroom free creative commons
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

So why is there not a higher standard for teaching yoga teachers? 

Many states have tried to regulate the yoga teacher training programs, but have failed to do so after yoga teachers and students petitioned against it.  Why the fight against state regulations?  Many suggested that it would negatively impact the community, and would interfere with teachers’ ability to teach effectively.  Or was the fight against such regulations due to the fact that with state fees, higher standards, and more paper work many studios would loose a large source of money brought in from teaching future instructors?

The thought of studios having to close their doors or loose a profit is not appealing to me or their owners, and I certainly am not thrilled with the idea of spending more time and money to get re-certified to meet new standards.  But I fear that if the yoga community does not reform it’s standards of education, yoga and it’s instructors will lose all credibility, and have consequences far greater than temporary losses in profit.

Do you think teacher training programs should be regulated?

Is our system for training teachers designed to protect the safety of others, or our own financial security?

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- who has written 21 posts on Yoga Modern.

Patience Steltzer is the Assistant Editor for the World Affairs Current at Yoga Modern. She spends her time drawing, painting, sewing, writing, and practicing/teaching yoga in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. After a lifetime of having no idea what to do with her creativity and energy, she discovered yoga allowed her to find the beauty and excitement in stillness. Since then, she has dedicated herself to sharing her love of yoga with others to help them find the joy she has.

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