First, let me make this clear: I have never been a fan of any yoga organization that sets itself up as the end all and be all of yoga. I think this flies in the face of what yoga actually is.
Call me an idealist, but I believe prior to the last decade, most yoga teacher training schools were interested in Yoga and turning out instructors that shared a love and respect of the yogic tradition. I have friends that studied to become yoga instructors in the latter part of the 20th century and that training consisted of studying under a yogi for years. When their mentor believed them ready to teach they sent them out. This was yoga.
As yoga gained popularity, trainees began paying tuition, studying in groups, and getting “certifications”. The status of yoga instructor, which had previously taken years to acquire, was now available in a couple of weeks. Unity in Yoga, later Yoga Alliance, recognized a need to establish guidelines for what a yoga instructor should study.
When I became a teacher of certification programs it became glaringly apparent that certification did not equate competence, let alone mastery. I recognized that the focus of more and more trainings had shifted from absorbing and embodying yoga to turning out as many instructors as possible. Trainees meant dollars. The more trainees one could certify, the more money in the coffers. Focus was not on learning and honoring a lineage or a mission one wanted to share. Focus was now on a Yoga Alliance certification. The concept and creation of a 200-hour certification was Yoga Alliance’s. I do not fault them for what they were trying to achieve. But, completion of a 200-hour curriculum that Yoga Alliance deemed necessary was now the way to gain legitimacy to teach in health clubs, and the like, that only had a marginal concept of yoga. Whether Yoga Alliance meant to or not, their establishment and certification of a curriculum ushered in an age of churn and burn. The YA Certification became the end game and a cash cow. Those with no understanding of yoga believed Yoga Alliance to be a governing body and those whose only intention was profit played that misconception up. YA Certification inadvertently fed the generic concept of “yoga instructor”. It didn’t signify depth of knowledge. It signified yoga Barbie.
Do I blame this on Yoga Alliance? The answer is an emphatic NO.
I blame the Yoga schools that see dollar signs rather than honor and have made an organization like Yoga Alliance necessary. I blame the self-forgetting instructors and schools that sign Yoga Alliance’s Ethics Agreement, but believe paying their dues gives them license to steal. I have become keenly aware that Yoga Alliance is not a policing organization, even of their own policies. The fact that policing is necessary is indicative of the lack of yogic depth among so-called schools. I have witnessed in my own area the certifications of 200-hour Yoga Alliance eligible instructors that have, unbeknownst to Yoga Alliance, not met current YA minimum standards. Trainers and Studio Owners sign their names to certificates knowing they are making a mockery of Yoga Alliance and their trainee’s trust. Their allegiance is to cash flow.
I dug my heels in on joining Yoga Alliance for many years. I chose my original training based on its beliefs and teaching style. I knew I wouldn’t be YA certified and was fine with that. My purpose was larger than that designation. I was not a YA instructor for many years. When I finally bent to the inevitable, I paid in time, money and travel for programs I deemed credible and would earn me the YA seal. Did I find them more yogic than my original programs? No. But, they were “in the club”.
When I accepted Yoga Alliance’s conditions for membership, I meant it. The fact that I have now trained in duplicate to attain that membership makes me hypersensitive to those members that pay their dues with no intention of maintaining YA guidelines. Know this: I am watching you. You will not diminish what I have invested so much to be a member in.
As for the new YA standards for Yoga Schools, I applaud their efforts, but know that the same people that pervert what has already been instituted for their own financial gain will do the same with the new guidelines. Am I bitter or vindictive? No. I am honoring and vigilant. I want the students certified to be exposed to the depth and breath of yoga. What they do with it is up to them. If physical fitness is their end game, fine. No shame in their game if they have explored the deeper aspects and choose the fitness path. But shame on training programs that disservice the trainees that have put their trust and money in them by not giving them every opportunity necessary to become a competent instructor that can grow from a firm foundation. Their respect for their students is as deep as their respect for Yoga Alliance.
So, to those seeking yoga teacher training, explore your why. Is it for a deeper knowledge of yogic philosophy? Is it to explore and deepen a knowledge of a style you enjoy? Is there a spiritual purpose? Is it to share what has served you well? Then ignore the YA certification – train under your mentor or a recommendation from someone you trust. Are you basing your training on a school’s schedule or cost? Are you considering training for the income potential? With love, I urge you to reconsider why you are seeking a certification.
Finally, Yoga Alliance is only as good and beneficial as its members are diligent and honorable. Tuition is not an ugly word. It is necessary to pay trainers that have invested in what they believe in and are giving their time and talents. Tuition pays the rent and keeps the lights on. But when a school is driven by profit rather than mission, it makes a mockery of yoga and in turn, Yoga Alliance.