Proposal for a National Exam for Yoga Teacher Certification

Proposal for a National Certification Exam for Yoga Instructors

                                               

 

           At present there is no national certification exam for yoga teachers. There are recommended standards for teacher training programs but there is no consistent assessment of how these are met. In making this proposal, I would like to say that although some of my statements may seem critical of Yoga Alliance (YA) that is not the purpose of this article. I believe that Yoga Alliance has made a valuable contribution to creating standards in yoga teacher training. The fact that I consider it only a beginning, and no longer sufficient in the changing legal and professional environment in which yoga finds itself, does not negate their important contribution.

            I also respect the excellent work done by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). IAYT has begun important work on developing educational standards for Yoga Therapists. As yoga therapists are often initially trained as yoga teachers, it follows logically that an assessed standard foundation for a basic yoga teacher qualification is necessary as a precedent. IAYT’s proposed standards are still, as far as I know, a work in progress rather than a required standard.

            As anyone who knows me as an educator has heard me say, testing is not an end in and of itself. Testing is only an indicator of what the tested individual knows. It cannot be the end point of their learning, or it will induce closure which leads to forgetting. This is why all professions that have testing for entry into the profession, whether physicians or personal trainers, require continuing education. Yoga teachers who are registered with YA are asked to document continuing education, but their initial training is not assessed by validated testing.

            Currently, Yoga Alliance’s registry for schools and teachers sets the only national standard.  It is a good start, but it is not a final place in which yoga standards should rest. It has set guidelines for the minimum necessary training and categories of educational content for yoga teachers. The categories are valid; the contact and non-contact hours are not adequate measures of learning, nor are they necessarily proportioned ideally. Each yoga school decides what constitutes evidence of learning in these categories, and may vary greatly in rigorousness of assessment. As J. Brown says in his 2006 article on opening a yoga therapy practice and training program, the Yoga Alliance registry “lends an air of credibility where there often is none.” (1) It is a registry, not a certification or accreditation.

           

Rationale:

At present Yoga Alliance is the only national organization credentialing yoga teachers. Their program is an umbrella for various schools each with their own way of evaluating a student’s readiness to graduate from the program. Teaching methods vary, and while content areas have to be covered according to distribution of contact and noncontact hours for YA requirements, none of this is monitored by site visits. The way these requirements are met may vary from school to school, and any director may be able to certify any student for his or her own reasons, regardless of how that student performed in the training.

The E-RYT registration is all that is required to become a teacher of other teachers. For $90.00 and self-statement on requisite hours of teaching, anyone can become a teacher trainer. It does not assess the ability to teach others or the quality of one’s own training. In the YA system insightful, attentive and knowledgeable teachers can become an E-RYT’s; and so could less able teachers who had accumulated the required hours. Teachers who never get off their own mats, or who perpetuate unsafe ways of teaching, or who may give inappropriate medical and nutritional advice, can and sometimes do stay in business. They can become E-RYT’s and pass on their ways of teaching. This may be rare, but it is not prevented in any way by this system. To teach specific contact areas in a YA registered yoga school, the instructor in philosophy or anatomy, for example, should have 100 hours of training in that area. The source of those 100 hours in not specified. In a 3 credit basic college course in anatomy—without a lab– a person may put in a bare minimum of 100 of study to be successful, and approximately 45 hours of classroom time (3 hours a week in a 15 week semester). Yoga Alliance requires less than this, in other words, to teach anatomy to other teachers who will use it in the complex movements of yoga. We have no way of knowing quality, only quantity, of training, in the Yoga Alliance system.

 

A person identifying now as a certified yoga therapist may have studied in a graduate school certificate program, in a year-long, in-depth training with an internship, or in a 4 day “YogaFitTx” workshop. Exams for national certifications would help employers and consumers identify the level of knowledge the practitioner has.

 

The basic Hatha Yoga Instructor exam is proposed to cover universal content a yoga teacher should know, and it would be accompanied by a style-specific (Kripalu, Jivamukti, Ashtanga, Anusara, etc.) school’s certification. Passing a national exam as well as having been assessed in person as a teacher in a specific style will enhance credibility and assure competence both in broad, standardized knowledge bases, and style-specific skills. The individual schools’ teaching and assessment will cover their own way of teaching asana, ways of organizing a class, their approach to yoga philosophy, and most of all, a practical demonstration of teaching skills. This dual system will support the diversity of yoga traditions and the credibility of professional certification.

 

A complement to the Yoga Alliance registry, if offered by another entity, will encourage both organizations to work either collaboratively or competitively for the good of yoga as a profession. There are multiple certification organizations in such areas as personal training, another profession that requires in depth understanding of anatomy and physiology and also business, ethics, psychology, injury prevention, and adaptation to injury and illness. These several national certifying organizations require rigorous entry-level exams, and some also offer certification exams at higher levels for advanced trainers.*  Among these national organizations, some are more highly credentialed than others, being recognized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. If  YA, IAYT or a new, independent body established for that purpose offers a yoga teacher exam and yoga therapist exam, it might do well to apply for NCCA accreditation. (2) Another possibility is that a currently accredited organization such as the American Council on Exercise or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) might collaborate with IAYT or YA  to create and administer the exam.

 

The fitness professions share space with yoga in gyms and hospital-sponsored fitness centers. Yoga should ask no less of its teachers than the fitness industry asks of personal trainers and aerobics instructors. To be certified in these professions, one must pass a national exam, even if one has a degree in Exercise Science or Physical Education. Ill and injured people, or depressed and anxious people, may seek out a basic yoga class, not a yoga therapist, and the more educated and competent that teacher is the better the outcome and the decision making process that teacher will use in dealing with each student. Multiple certification levels will help students choose teachers and yoga therapists, and help to prevent the misidentification of yoga therapists.

 

Not only the fitness industry, but the medical professions, are taking yoga seriously. It is now a well established modality in integrative health care, with research published in peer reviewed journals supporting its benefits. Since allied health and medical professionals have to pass national examinations themselves, they may expect similar credentialing in yoga at least in therapeutic and clinical settings.

 

Another reason to create a national standardized exam is to take the reins of enforcing higher standards before states do so. Increasing regulation at state levels, whether it is a requirement for licensure, or a requirement for yoga teacher training programs to be credentialed as vocational schools, is already underway. We can be proactive, or reactive. While maintaining the integrity of yoga’s diversity, and its oral traditions of teacher-to-student transmission, are valuable, it is going to have to be done alongside a system of assuring qualifications within the realities of the modern world. Just as some traditional Navajo medicine men now teach new healers through the tribal community colleges without losing the integrity of their traditions, we can also adapt our teacher training and credentialing without losing our roots.

 

Yoga Exam Content Areas and Sub-Categories

 

1. Philosophy

2. Anatomy*

            Structure and function of of the musculoskeletal system and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Application of kinesiology and biomechanics in yoga. *

3. Teaching techniques

Verbal, demonstration, viewing, assisting and adjusting, adapting to multiple levels, teaching specific basic asanas,teaching vinyasa

 

 4. Safety and injury prevention

            Safe transitions through vinyasa

Common yoga injuries and their prevention

Decision making: whether or not to teach high risk students; referrals

            Class size, individual attention. Multi-level and skill level classes.

            Emergency procedures

5. Pranayama and Subtle Anatomy (Prana Vayus, Chakras, major nadis)

6. Meditation

7. Professional ethics

8. Legal aspects of yoga as a business.

Scope of practice; limits on advice given; music use; insurance; injuries; harassment; waivers.

 

A higher level Yoga Therapist exam would include content on yoga and Ayurveda, more complex anatomy, more sophisticated decision-making skills and ethical explorations, common chronic diseases and pain conditions that may present in yoga therapy, basic psychology and common psychological concerns that present in yoga therapy, adaptation of asana, pranayama and other practices to various conditions, appropriate professional referrals to other health care professionals, and legal aspects of practice as a yoga therapist.

 

An examinee would have to pass each section with 70% or better, and the whole exam with 80% or better.

 

Process of Making a Valid Examination

1.      Content in each area should be contributed by teachers who are recognized as experts by their peers

2.      Content should be set up as exam questions by a yoga teacher with expertise in test design and writing. There should be a question bank that exceeds the number of questions in each content area used in the exam, so that alternate versions can be given (to prevent cheating—yes, even yoga teachers might do that.)

3.      Test should be piloted with  a national sample of current teachers  and teacher training program directors for the following:

a.      Are the questions clear? Do any specific questions need revision?

b.      Is the knowledge base covered in the exam adequate or excessive?

c.       Do current teachers have common deficits in the knowledge that has been identified by experts as foundational and necessary?

d.      How long does the exam take?

e.      Unforeseen problems

f.        Is it fully or partially incompatible with the teaching of any particular school of yoga?

Test Administration

            Secure administration of an exam with alternating forms can be done online, without testing centers and exam dates. Log-in to a timed test will assure that the examinee is not simply looking up answers as he or she goes. Course management systems used in higher education, for example, have this type of test-building and test taking component. A fee would be charged to cover the administrative expenses of developing and giving the exam and maintaining records.

            As suggested earlier, an option might be to collaborate with an organization that already does testing and certification in the fitness professions.

 

Feedback Requested

            IAYT board members, yoga teacher training program directors, practicing yoga therapists, scholars in yoga philosophy,  and experienced yoga teachers: your views on this subject are requested.  If the idea is well accepted, volunteers to collaborate on the test building process, and recommended experts and volunteer experts to write questions, are invited. The author has experience and education in the design of tests and would be willing to work on the development of the final product.

 

Conclusion

            The creation of national certification exam to accompany style-specific RYS certification will enhance the standing of the professions of yoga teacher and yoga therapists, and may also encourage colleges to offer courses in yoga teacher training. A more rigorous standard for certification may prevent a more restrictive move to licensure.

 

References:

1. Brown, J. The making of a yoga therapy center. Yoga Therapy in Practice June 2006 v.4 (2) 16-17

2. National Commission for Certifying Agencies www.noca.org/Resources/NCCAAccreditation/tabid/82/default.aspx

*Example: The American Council on Exercise, which is NCCA accredited, offers a basic Personal Trainer certification; one needs to have passed this exam to move up to Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist, for working with post-rehab and other more challenging clients, or Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant, for working with overweight and obese clients in weight loss related programming.

 *

By “anatomy” I do not mean any style-specific teaching. Some yoga teachers and yoga teacher trainers have misinterpreted this term  to mean what it sometimes does in the minimal hours allotted in a YA 200 hour program—a class that teaches about the body wholly within the context of asana and the alignment principles of that school’s style. I mean the study of the human body. With this knowledge, and with familiarity with kinesiology and biomechanics–the studies of the body in motion and the mechanics of the body in relation to gravity—a teacher of any style of yoga can analyze the safety of something new he or she learns,  and adapt practices to individual students’ needs for reduced stresses on certain joints. Anatomy  is not style specific or controversial. All bodies have hearts, diaphragms, fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joint capsules, intervertebral disks, etc. Flexion is still flexion, extension is still extension, adduction and abduction are still the what they are; hinge joints, ball and socket joints and gliding joints do not change with style, not does synovial fluid or articular cartilage. The effect of lever length, the effect of speed— the laws of physics apply to all bodies. This knowledge helps us to be non-harming. It also helps us in self-study in our personal practice. Some of the more confusing instructions I have heard yoga teachers give have been founded in a lack of knowledge of the body—instructions that ask the student to do something anatomically impossible, setting the student up for bewilderment and a sense of not being capable, if not injury. While each style has its own language to describe specific movements and sensations, learning medical and scientific language deepens our comprehension of those concepts, it does not interfere with or lessen them.

Author bio:

Patricia Kearney is a graduate of a 1,000 hour training program in Integrative Yoga Therapy (Joseph LePage, director.) She is a Yoga Alliance RYT 500. Her initial teacher training was though the Temple of Kriya Yoga. She has Master’s Degrees in Dance and in Community Health, and is certified through the American Council on Exercise in Group Fitness, Personal Training and Lifestyle and Weight Management. She teaches in the Dept. of Health and Exercise Science at Bridgewater College, Bridgewater, VA and is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist at Shenandoah Yoga in Harrisonburg, VA.

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19 Comments

  1. April 14, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    This is an excellent start on something that’s needed to bring yoga teaching to higher levels of both recognition and responsibility. Thank you! After a 30-year career in communications, during which time I was consistently a yoga student, I graduated in 2004 from an IYT program that was very poor. Following the training I put in hundreds of hours bringing myself up to an acceptable level to teach and do yoga therapy. Yoga training programs should also be regulated. This year I let my YA membership lapse because I couldn’t figure out what the membership was about. I called YA and discussed it with staff there, who couldn’t help me. Vagueness surrounding yoga teacher trainings and on-going certifications is holding the profession back. Thanks again for starting this. — Kathleen
    (Note: Kathleen later let me know that her teachers were not in fact the regular IYT faculty, but other teachers using IYT materials. I think it worthwhile to annotate this, since I don’t want this to reflect on the LePages when it does not refer to them. Patty)

    • Patty Kearney said,

      April 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm

      Kathleen, thanks for such prompt feedback. Please encourage others to join the discussion.
      My own experience with IYT was very good. The IYT training in psychology and philosophy, and the spiritual elements of yoga therapy, was excellent when I attended. In the course I took, I found the work with pranayama, mudras, and yoga nidra, and the application of ayurveda and of yoga philosophy in yoga therapy to be outstanding. I felt that it was a program that worked better if one already had a very strong background in assisting and adjustments. Although the anatomy teacher when I took the training was very good, she was having to work with a mixed group, some whose 200 hour training gave them limited understanding of anatomy and alignment, and others who were fully competent in those areas. I suppose this illustrates a problem with 200-hr teacher trainings– quality in various areas is inconsistent, but all come out with RYT 200 registration. It seemed that this did hold back what we could do in asana at the IYT training I attended in 2006 because some graduates of 200 hour programs were not really ready for an advanced training. I don’t mean advanced asana practice– most therapeutic clients don’t come for that– I mean an advanced understanding of adaptive and therapeutic application of asana at the physiological level.
      I have maintained my YA registry because it is the only thing anyone knows to look for as a credential. I am relieved to see that someone else had puzzled over what we get for our membership, however. I called to ask about the E-RYT designation and it was not a satisfying inquiry. I had to conclude that all I would get for my $90.00 would be an E. It would not actually affect my qualifications to teach other teachers. I would not be learning anything new in order to qualify, or even documenting any advanced skills, just hours. Processing my paperwork documenting hours of teaching did not amount to $90.00 worth of service from YA to me. So, I am not yet going to buy a vowel. 🙂
      ACE (American Council on Exercise), the organization through which I am certified as a personal trainer, gives me meaningful educational and professional support. They send newsletters online and on paper regularly that provide continuing education, and I know that they check the credentials of their CEC providers. I am a course reviewer for one of their providers– I am not paid for this other than getting CEC’s for the courses if they are approved.I have no financial interest in what I am supporting. I mention this, rather, to explain that I know there is a process for assessing the quality of specific CEC courses. I know I get meaning for my money when I renew all my ACE certifications.
      I would like to see Yoga, from YA or another source, also having an accredited national certification.

  2. Carol Cook said,

    April 21, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    I agree that the current YA requirements are minimal and that individual yoga schools have almost unlimited latitude to interpret and implement the requirements as they choose. There is much to be said for more rigorous standards. My concern is that it would be very difficult to implement and monitor such standards effectively.
    I was happy to see that you call for any new exam to be produced by a yoga teacher with expertise in test design and test writing. I myself am an E-RYT who has extensive experience in the production of standardized college and graduate school entrance exams and I can testify to the difficulty of producing truly reliable, fair, and valid tests. Test production is very labor-intensive. Scrupulous reviewing, editing, and pilot-testing of test questions is essential to ensure that the questions are free of ambiguity and test only the intended body of knowledge, not extraneous knowledge or experience. To create a fair standard test for yoga teachers would be especially difficult because different schools of yoga disagree with one another on some key points. For example, a Viniyoga expert and an Iyengar yoga expert will likely have diametrically opposed views on how certain asanas should be performed and on what constitutes proper alignment. It might not be impossible to find common ground, but it would certainly be a challenge. If you want a consultant with test development experience to weigh in on this effort, feel free to contact me.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      April 21, 2009 at 8:06 pm

      Your example of the difference between a Viniyoga or an Iyengar approach to alignment is a good example of some of the challenges. I also considered how very different Kundalini is from most other styles. In my own experience, Viniyoga is taught more in therapeutic settings than in open drop-in studio classes or fitness center classes– but my experience hardly covers the whole country. One reason I proposed that a test be an addition to, not a replacement of, certification from Yoga Alliance Registered Schools, is because of style specific approaches. The test would assure competence in anatomy, philosophy, and other areas that are not style-specific. A certification from a school would address a particular style. My hope is that it is possible– with input from and pilot-testing on expert teachers from many styles of yoga–for a common ground to be found. The injury prevention skills for common yoga injuries mentioned in Dr. Timothy McCall’s book Yoga as Medicine are an example, I think, of common ground for all styles of yoga. I appreciate your offer of being involved in test development– your expertise in both this and yoga would make you a good person to do that. To progress with this, of course, an organization that would be responsible for the test would need to come aboard. So far I have not heard from any, but it is very early in the process. Thank you for your feedback.

  3. Jo Canfield said,

    April 23, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Thank you for all your hard work in creating this website and starting this discussion.

    I am an E-RYT and LMT. I am relatively new to the teaching yoga teachers arena (4 years) and no other previous teaching experience. In the past year a wonderful professor from Weber State has stepped up and taught me so much about curriculum and objectives and so much more that I am truly blessed. Through his help the training has become more reliable and reproducable. Others are not this fortunate and students suffer for it.

    Coming from a massage background I have often said this needs to happen in the yoga world. But I am not the person to make that happen, but am willing to help. I applaud you and will support you by spreading the word about this site. Keep up the good work. Yoga training needs to be accountable.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      April 24, 2009 at 12:41 am

      Thank you for your supportive comments. And thank you for spreading the word. It will take time to create a test. Once a pilot test, is ready– and this will be a long time in the future, but I hope not more than two years at the most!– people like yourself with expertise in yoga and in teaching methods would be excellent people to try out the test to see what revisions it needs. Or you might have ideas to contribute for content on teaching methodology, when test is in that stage of development. This project is only two weeks old. Keep an eye on it and see how it progresses.

  4. Patty Kearney said,

    April 24, 2009 at 12:48 am

    American Council on Exercise published an article in their online newsletter this week saying that yoga teachers are in greater demand, and that increasingly stricter requirements and higher standards are being sought for yoga teachers. They say Yoga Alliance is one way to meet those standards. They do not specify what the other ways are. (See the new link to Scottsdale Community College on this blog’s home page. There is another way to meet high standards, with a college program, but ACE does not mention this.) This article made me think that ACE and YA are on good terms with each other; it sounded as if both support each other’s mission. Would they work together on a test? It’s worth suggesting to both organizations.

  5. Patty Kearney said,

    May 16, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    This did not come up as the submitting author’s post because I moved it from the main page to this page, where the rest of the discussion on testing is taking place, so readers could see it in context of the proposal.Please note that the post in quotations is from a visitor to the site.
    Comment from Susanna Nicholson:I think in theory standardized testing would be a good thing. It creates another hurdle for mastery and a route to recognition and respect by the public and the medical profession. But realistically … this will become political football in the yoga profession and as usual the “brand name” players (you know the schools of yoga I refer to, so I’m going to be discreet) will prevail. But that is profoundly unfair. There is NO universal agreement among highly regarded yoga teachers about anatomical principles. I cannot stress this enough. There is legitimate disagreement about sequencing which is at least as important as any other aspect of teaching. There is no agreement about when and how to teach certain pranayama. I don’t think you can design a national exam that reconciles these strongly opposed views of the nature of yoga anatomy and pedagogy.”
    Susanna, I appreciate your comments. It makes me realize that I can clarify some of the topics I propose in an exam.
    I agree that there is variation on sequencing, and when to teach pranayama.There are basic things that I think overlap among different schools of yoga—health contraindications for certain intense pranayama practices, for example; or the simple physiological fact that warming up muscles and joints is important prior to deep stretching, regardless of the style of yoga being done.I only propose understanding sequencing for safety and physiologically sound approaches to the body.
    Sequencing in its most basic sense simply means understanding the human body well enough not to do radically deep stretches with cold muscles, and knowing that one does not stop suddenly after demanding cardiovascular work such as certain sun salutations without gradually lowering the heart rate. It does not mean scripting everyone’s class as to when you do inversions or standing one-leg balances, for example. I do not propose that there is a universal standard on that.
    I wonder if others think there is no agreement on anatomy? I would like all yoga teachers to demonstrate that they know the locations and functions of all the major muscle groups in the body, and to know correct anatomical terminology, the difference between flexion and extension, the function and structure of the sacroiliac joint, the origin and insertion of the psoas., etc., etc. I do not think there is any disagreement on the location and function of parts of the body. Anatomy is not style-based. An intervertebral disk has the same structure and function, and a muscle moves the same bones.The body is the same body whether it is practicing Kripalu or Jivamukti or Iyengar or Anusara, or whether it is running, lifting weights, or gardening, for that matter. The same muscles and joints operate.The principles of kinesiology and biomechanics are not changed by what the body is doing; the movement to which the skilled and knowledgeable person is applying them for teaching and analysis changes.
    The profound unfairness that you imagine will occur is because, if I understand you correctly, you expect the dominance of certain styles in the design of a national exam. I hope to have exactly the opposite result. I hope to get input from teachers in various styles, and to encourage this exam to be a complement to style-specific training from Registered Yoga Schools in various traditions.
    Other readers, what do you think? Will the yoga community play political football with a national exam? An exam may well be imposed sooner or later by a state (see the proposed law in New Jersey on the page relating to Impact of State Laws). If we do not want to take a test created by a “State Board of Fitness Examiners”, I think we actually will become capable of working together across styles of yoga.
    I just now compared teacher training manuals from two different schools and found strong similarities in the instruction on various pranayama techniques and the contraindications for the use of certain ones. I also found strong similarities in the description of the subtle anatomy ( chakras, vayus, etc.) I am encouraged that we can find common ground.

  6. May 17, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I appreciate your good intentions, Patty. But the length of your reply indicates just the beginning of the complexities involved, which supports the point I’m trying to get across.

    By teaching and learning “Yoga studies”, we teachers have I hope learned the basics of biomechanics. Having said that as a KHYF certified teacher, I use the a panchamaya model, all levels, all the time. That means I might not put a physical anatomical model (“principles of kinesiology and biomechanics”) SOLELY at the forefront of my mind as I teach. That is what I mean by very different views of anatomy.

    And sequencing, at least from the KHYF perspective, is an art as much as a science. Sequencing is not just about “warming up”. For KHYF teachers, it is a critical component of teaching methodology and represents a substantial part of our curriculum.

    Therefore, given the very different emphases of our curricula, the “common ground” we reach as yoga teachers will probably be a polite “agreement to disagree”. The national test we could sincerely agree upon would be the same watered-down standards of proficiency that we’ve had from YA all these many years.

    That’s OK I guess, but where does it get us or our students for all hours and hours and the cost it will take to implement?

    I say this as a person who would dearly love to see the day when Yoga is integrated into public health planning.

    So I’m glad our dialogue continues. I think a national certificate is not the way to go. Personally I would prefer to be covered by “Health Freedom” acts and to have Yoga recognized as a traditional health practice/cultural property whose transmission should be made transparent in at least some basic respects so consumer rights are somewhat protected. No full protection is possible, because there will always be good and bad teachers!

    • Patty Kearney said,

      May 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm

      For those who want to know about Health Freedom Acts that Susanna refers to, see the links in Jo Brill’s post on the page discussing the impact of state laws on teacher training programs.

      Ahimsa means non-harming, and although no perfect protection is possible, teachers who know the body are less likely to do harm. I see no contradiction between a deep understanding of the physical body and a deep understanding of the subtle body.

      I emphasized the physical in this response because I thought you were saying there was actual disagreement about the principals of anatomy, rather than about the primacy of the physical aspects of yoga, and also because it is where I have seen the greatest deficiencies in the limited hours allotted in a 200 hour program. I do not put the physiological alone at the forefront of my teaching, either. I think only “fitness yoga” teachers might, but yoga in gyms is certainly a big part of the real world, teachers in that setting are sometimes discouraged from addressing anything but the phsyical, and it is many people’s first contact with yoga. If this first teacher a person meets is not skilled in addressing the body safely, the student will probably not move on to a deeper study of yoga. The body is where many people start. It is what brings then in the door. My training in Integrative Yoga Therapy placed a strong emphasis on the energetic and spiritual aspects of yoga as well as understanding the body. We are taught to address the five “koshas”, in an integrated way in the whole of any session with a group or a client.

      Would an exam keep up the “watered down standards” we currently have? Possibly. I think of an exam as a minimum level of professional credentialing, not the maximum. Think of it is step one, not a final step. As stated twice earlier, it should not replace, but accompany, style specific training. The current YA standards have no independent documentation that a teacher trainee has actually met them, so even if the curriculum areas covered were similar to YA, a test might have more credibility with states, and might pre-empt a state licensing exam. (I feel that I am repeating parts of the proposal article here that may have been in need of clarification. So, this process will help me with eventual revision!)

      There are those who welcome licensing and examination, and those who don’t. I want to hear from all viewpoints.

  7. Jo Canfield said,

    July 26, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Just an update from Utah – the state is now licensing Yoga Schools. It is a fairly easy process, categorizes us under Proprietary Post Secondary Schools, and the biggest expense is the insurance bond. The only negative I have found so far, only those listed with the Yoga Alliance need meet this standard as that is the list the state used. During a discussion with the state – there are no plans at this time to license yoga teachers as they license massage therapist.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      July 27, 2009 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks for the update. I am going through surveying all 50 states now but have not gotten to Utah yet. So far the only new ones I have to add are Delaware and Minnesota; Georgia has an interesting approach– a school has to meet a size threshold before it has to be licensed, and yoga teacher training programs so far have remained under the size threshold.

  8. Jo Canfield said,

    September 7, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Another update. The State says if we fall under the category of “avocational” we register to let them know we exist, but we are NOT licensed. Very little paperwork and no fees. For now we are going with that, but the State said in the future if we change our minds, then to contact them again.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      September 13, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      I had trouble moving this to the right page– it really belongs on the page on teacher training programs. Sorry, readers, if it seems off topic here! My yoga expertise exceeds my tech expertise.

  9. sharon allitt said,

    December 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Hi everyone and thank you for the stimulating discourse. I do agree that there should be some “standard” in our industry but let me just remind everyone of a few key points. First, in most states you do not need to be Yoga Alliance Certified or Registered to teach yoga or to teach the art of teaching yoga. We had a local studio who “certified” people and they had nothing to do with YA. Additionally – as for teaching there are numerous online courses whose “certification” is not recognized by YA and encompasses all of 8 to 16 hours of independent reading accompanied by a dvd… As for the therapeutics aspect of yoga that is innate in the practice itself, which is why so many of us where attracted to the practice to begin with. I think it is the word “therapist” that we get hung up on. We are not “medical” practitioners but spiritual people (mostly) who happen to have knowledge (albeit to varying extents) of human anatomy, alignment and the path to holistic wellness through increasing happiness. I may sound like I don’t agree with standardizing the teaching of yoga but actually do agree that some level of expectation should be set for teachers to follow – but rather than focusing on how much more those of us who already take multiple courses every year and who work hard to keep our students safe can do, the focus should instead be on the individuals who teach yoga and it’s related therapeutics after only a few hours of dvd mentorship. They give our practice a questionable reputation. Keep doing the good work and let the drama play itself out. Namaste.

  10. Harold Rose said,

    March 19, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Hello,

    I do appreciate your efforts to outline a comprehensive standardized national exam for yoga teachers. From where I stand, I feel that there is much emphasis being placed on a certain style from which one’s teaching hails. Although style is important, there may be those instructors out there that were certified in Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga, in and of itself, does not lend itself to any style classification but, if taught properly, can meld into most any type of class setting.

    My background consist of: A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer (lots emphasis on anatomy/movement for Continuing Education Credits), Temple of Kriya Yoga HYTT Correspondence Course – 200 hour (Have read that anatomy of Hatha Yoga, have attended an anatomy course that was pursuant to the Ana Forrest Teacher Training Intensive and have study esoteric practices with Andre Lappa ad read various books on the spiritual aspects of yoga), Tai Chi Practitioner and Martial Arts Black Belt.

    What I am wanting to present is a picture of someone who is knowledgeable in their teaching but is not bound to any particular style. How would the lack of affiliation with any particular style be impacted by the advent of a national exam.

    Thank You.

    • Patty Kearney said,

      March 20, 2010 at 1:27 am

      I notice we have a few things in common– the ACE certification exam experience, and the in depth training provided by the Temple of Kriya Yoga with all those written exams on yoga every month.

      Programs like the Temple of Kriya Yoga which are not style specific –(although Kim’s teaching approach is Iyengar influenced we don’t get certified as Iyengar teachers) — would still have an important place in the system I propose. The RYS (YA Registered Yoga School) not only provides training in a particular style, but provides the opportunity to practice teaching, and to have one’s teaching skills critiqued by peers and a master teacher. This is valuable in addition to an exam that would assess the broad spectrum of foundational knowledge in anatomy, philosophy, ethics, teaching as listed in the proposal above. I do tend to mention the style-specific aspects of RYS training when I discuss the proposed exam as an addition, not a replacement for these schools, because of the fears people have that somehow their style would be biased out any exam. It’s all yoga, and I have taken classes with teachers from varied traditions and found that the many styles I’ve encountered have more in common than not.

      So far no exam is on the horizon. I have talked with Mark Davis, and he has read the proposal, and I have also talked with Bob Patrick of the YA standards committee in 2009; but I have no updates on what they might think about it, nor any knowledge about any plans– should they even consider it.

      I get the impression from teacher training program directors I have talked with, who operate in states that license Yoga Teacher Training schools, that the licensing process does require a clear standard for that school’s assessment of a student’s knowledge and the criteria for graduation. These can be unique to each school, the same way I as a professor can write my own final exams but the college has to have an assessment process for student achievement in order to remain accredited. So licensing, in addition to protecting students’ investment in case of school closure, should also require good assessment processes. States that license schools all accept the YA 200 hr. standards, though, and those are not very demanding, as stated above, in anatomy.

      Much as I liked the Temple of Kriya’s training, it still didn’t have enough hours on that topic.

  11. Emma said,

    March 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Hello, I am taking the Yoga Alliance cert 200hr program and will be taking my exam soon. Do you have suggestions of things I should focus to study on for doing well on my test and also for being a good teacher in the future? I found this site and think its great to have people that have gone through all of this to ask advise from!

    When I become a teacher I want to mostly teach one on one or small groups outdoors. I have also thought of teaching people as they are recovering from depression or illness.

    This is all alittle new to me but would love some help or advise if possible. I want to do well in my exam and as a teacher.

    Thanks

    • Patty Kearney said,

      May 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

      I wish there were an exam, and have met with YA to discuss this, but to my knowledge none has been planned yet, and I don’t know if it ever will be. YA treated my idea respectfully but did not commit to acting on it.
      I recommend you look into further training with schools of yoga that are members of International Association of Yoga Therapists, after you complete your 200 hour program and have some experience as a yoga teacher. IAYT affiliated programs will help you with the goals you have as a yoga teacher.


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