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Yoga Alliance Is Ruining Yoga

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When I started practicing yoga, I never imagined that it would become as popular as it is now. I also never imagined that the majority of yoga classes happening these days would be a string of risky tricks taught by minimally educated teachers, all done to a rocking sound track.

And, while there’s a lot of benefit to moving intelligently through an athletic vinyasa sequence, when we move without any sense of anchoring, we are just feeding into the neurosis of our culture: to get the next thing.

While yoga practice has been documented to offer many profound benefits, it’s also producing an enormous amount of injury. As excerpted in the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer William Broad stated in his brutally honest book, The Science of Yoga, “A growing body of medical evidence supports (the) contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky…The problems ranged from relatively mild injuries to permanent disabilities…Surveys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that the number of emergency-room admissions related to yoga, after years of slow increases, was rising quickly.”

I welcome the increasing public awareness that a platform like the New York Times provides, but I didn’t need to see Broad’s data to know about the growing problem. I’ve been hearing about it frequently from beginning yoga students for years now. An all too common scenario was shared with me in Washington, DC a couple months ago. A beginning yoga student told me that he fell out of the very first headstand he’d ever done because there was no instruction beyond, “If you want to do a headstand, we have a few minutes for that now.” He looked around the room and tried to imitate what he saw. Once up, he fell to the side on a suddenly, sharply bent neck. Fortunately, he only suffered a few days of neck pain. But, injury from such a fall could have been, and often is, much more serious. Headstand, a tremendously beneficial pose, is also terribly risky. And it’s hard to teach well. Doing so requires years of practice and much education. But, sadly, “Do a headstand if you want to,” is the norm for beginning yoga teachers now.

It’s not just the fancy upside-down poses that require a well-educated teacher to be taught well. The populations we are teaching, for the most part, sit in chairs all day and rarely lift anything heavier than an iPad. Then they come to a yoga class where, for an hour or more, they flow quickly through poses, bearing weight in an unfamiliar way on their wrists, spines, and knees. It’s tragic that these poses, that can do so much to benefit sedentary bodies and racing minds, are instead hurting these weak joints and deepening an already troubling familiarity with, and desire for, getting to the next thing- the exact malady that yoga was invented to help heal. In fact, teaching any of the poses well requires an understanding that comes from deep study and long-term practice.

Broad writes, “Yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011 — means that there is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury.”

In a typical flow-based yoga class these days, there is little or no instruction, often led by a teacher with a great personality who plays uplifting music. Not only is the event in no way representative of the vastly positive potential of yoga, it’s an embarrassing charade that looks kind of like something called yoga that one saw in a book once or twice. But, it’s really not the fault of the teachers. They are only doing what they’ve been taught.

Nearly all of these inadequately trained yoga teachers have been educated at or above the minimum standard that is almost universally accepted by those who hire yoga teachers. So, why don’t these teachers know how to teach an authentic and safe yoga practice? The problem lies with the body who sets the industry standard for yoga teacher training. The organization that does that is Yoga Alliance, the world’s largest registry of yoga schools and teachers.

Since 1999, minimum standards for yoga teacher training have been authored and administered by Yoga Alliance. According to Pam Weber, their Director of Credentialing, Yoga Alliance currently has about 40,000 yoga teachers and 3,000 yoga schools registered as being in compliance with their standards, far more than any other such organization. To the untrained eye, they seem to be the gold standard for yoga teacher training standards. But, the standard that they set for yoga teacher training is nowhere near adequate. And it’s ending up with a lot of people getting hurt, and far more people walking away from their first yoga classes disappointed and wondering what all the hype is about.

People who want to start a yoga practice and the majority of the fitness center managers who hire most beginning yoga teachers tend to have at least one thing in common: they don’t do yoga. So, when they see that a yoga teacher has Yoga Alliance’s stamp of approval, and if they learn that Yoga Alliance is the single biggest registry of yoga teachers and schools on Earth, they understandably expect that there has been some inherent rigor in the training that the teacher has had. They’d probably be shocked to know that, in a Yoga Alliance-Registered training, no specific curriculum is required to be taught, nor is there any required assessment of a registered teacher’s skill. Ever. And there are no plans to change that. It is this massive omission that has gotten us where we are with yoga right now: trainings with arbitrary curriculum being taught to prospective teachers who don’t know any better, and the situation was borne of and is propelled forward by Yoga Alliance.

Instead of telling trainings what should be taught, Yoga Alliance simply requires that a certain number of hours be spent covering each of five areas of study, with no specificity given on how to fill those hours. As listed on their website, registered 200-hour trainings (the level that 85% of their registered yoga teachers hold) must include 100 hours of practice, 25 hours of teaching methodology, 20 hours of anatomy, 30 hours of philosophy and ethics, and 10 hours of practice teaching. But, the content of each area of study is left up to the school. As Weber explains, “How do you monitor such diverse populations? Our standards are focused on educational category and number of hours per educational category. But we don’t dive into content.”
And, in response to yoga’s continued meteoric rise in popularity and their organizations own parallel growth spurt, Yoga Alliance has revised the application process, but has provided no further detail about what actually needs to be taught. Says Weber, “The way that it’s administered has changed, like what we require on the application, but not the standards themselves.”

Why aren’t they? Basically, as Weber puts it, it’s simply not where their priorities are at this time. Instead, she says that they are working on increasing transparency, and consistency; and, “Working on creating a credentialing system that can scale.”

Instead of creating content standards for credentialed schools, Yoga Alliance is introducing what they call “social credentialing.” Their website explains it: “Past trainees provide social ratings and comments about their training experience, which may be shown on our public directory.”

“We are empowering the trainees and schools to want to comply without us having to enforce it,” Weber explained. “Social credentialing is our solution to gaining more rigor.”

Yes, that is Yoga Alliance’s response to the mess that’s been made of yoga in the past few years. They are going to add a Yelp-like feature to their website. That is a fantastic disappointment to teachers like me who’ve witnessed an astonishing decline in the quality of classes over the past 20 years. Social credentialing doesn’t even to begin to approach what we need.

What we need is a lengthy set of specific objectives that a yoga teacher training needs to meet, as is the standard in almost all other vocational training. Since yoga can be practiced in many styles with varying emphases, creating rigorous and responsible standards among yoga teachers is indeed a very big job. But, organizations like the International Association of Yoga Therapists have managed to do it. They unveiled, in 2012, their “Educational Standards for the Training of Yoga Therapists“, 19 pages that cover, in great detail, training requirements for sanctioned yoga therapy programs seeking their approval, as well as skills assessments for the therapists they credential.

As difficult as the task will be, with 40,000 yoga teachers paying annual dues, shouldn’t Yoga Alliance be capable of it? As yoga practice has exploded, so have their coffers. According to the IRS Form 990’s that they provide on their website, their total revenue increased over 500% from 2005 – 2012 while their net assets increased nearly 1000% in the same timeframe.

But those impressive assets aren’t going toward raising curriculum standards. Weber says, “We know that there are questions from out there in the community about how well the 200 hour serves a teacher wanting to start teaching”. However, she adds, “It is not something that we are actively saying we must do right now. The earliest we will review the standards would be next year”. (The interview was conducted in September, 2013. It is next year now.)

Yoga Alliance has had 14 years to come up with something better. In that time, they’ve done next to nothing to raise the standard of yoga teaching. As Weber summed it up, “The reality is we haven’t changed the standards. Quite honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of revision.”

There are great teachers out there. But they are great in spite of Yoga Alliance, not because of it. These skilled teachers pushed themselves, and their teachers pushed them, beyond the mild standard that Yoga Alliance created. We need a body that ensures that all yoga teachers are appropriately educated.

While Yoga Alliance is making earnest efforts to improve, it’s too little, but it may not be too late. If we want to make a change, it’s going to take us standing up and saying no.

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206 Responses to Yoga Alliance Is Ruining Yoga

  1. Shaini Verdon October 23, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    Thank you! Why with the amount of money that Yoga Alliance is getting, is it first of all not possible to create an external body that comes to do the exams instead of the school doing the exam and seemingly letting everyone pass? Also how is it possible that some (YA) think it truly possible to teach asana, pranayama, bandhas etc etc within sometimes as little of 3 weeks and less? After 6 years of rigouros Iyengar training one is only qualified in certain asana’s and a small bit of prananyama… examined by a tough external exam commision. There are great systems out there like the iyengar system that are doing this with I think a lot less money, looking at the price of training and exam fees. So why cant YA live up to these standards and most importantly will this ever change as in my eyes they are bringing the name of Yoga down… rapidly… I and are also putting pressure on newly bred YA teachers (I was one of them before I had the luck to find another system) to teach stuff that is well beyond the possibility of a 200hr training… am glad to hear that there are apparently YA teacher training schools out there that are of high standard, but how would you truly know?? How do you know if there is no external commision to examine you and the school, how do you know that you are not being biased? Which in all fairness happens to the best of us.. hope this all changes soon, before.. well the damage is already done, just hoping it will be prevented in the future so that we can set high standards for this amazing practice we all love so much and put teachers out there that are capable and know it!

  2. Molly Huff September 5, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    Thank You Thank You for writing this article, I honestly thought that I was writing it bc everything that was stated is exactly how I feel. I began practicing yoga in the early 90’s, with some of the greatest teachers; Esther Myers whom I was certified with after a 3 year and almost 1,000 hours of training, Victor VanKooten, Angela Farmer, Eric Shifmann, Patrica Walden, Mary Dunn, just to name a few! I opened a studio in 2000 in the Rochester NY area, and since that time I just shake my head with the changes in the yoga world. I have stayed true to my beginnings, I know it’s not the hip and groovy thing to do, but I can honestly say myself and my teachers are teaching yoga how I believe it was meant to be, authentic, grounded with out the fancy bells and whistles. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for writing this!! The entire time I was reading this I was saying out loud, yes, yes, yes! In the beginning I did register with the YA, but it has been years since I have done so and really have not intentions to do. I’m always amazed how new teachers come to my studio looking to teach a class and boast about their 200 hours of training, so many times I just want to say, that’s it?! I’m very fussy who comes into the studio to teach bc I have interviewed too many of these young teachers who think they are the bomb with their 200 hours! Peace~

  3. michelle July 12, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

    Hi, I’m going to India and I wanted to learn more about yoga culture and hard practice yoga, but I don’t want a YA certificate… but it seems that EVERY ashram in rishkesh does so. Where should I go?

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown August 7, 2016 at 1:43 pm #

      I don’t really know because the Yoga Alliance thing is really a huge problem! There are good programs out there, though. Maybe another reader can offer you some advice here?

    • Hari August 8, 2016 at 5:08 am #

      You should look at Isha Hatha yoga teacher training
      https://www.ishayoga.org/hata/teachertraining/

    • Ashley August 9, 2016 at 2:55 am #

      Hi Michelle,

      The best option according to me would be Bihar School of Yoga. They have some of the best teachers with a wide range of courses in Yoga. Check their website http://www.biharyoga.net/

      • selva November 9, 2016 at 6:34 am #

        I agree Ashley, senior disciples from Bihar school of yoga which you’ve recommended are teaching yoga at krushnamacharya yoga mandiram – Chennai – http://www.kym.org
        Which can be seen in following blog: http://www.tinyurl.com/biharyoga

        There also exams conducted in Chennai branch which is not easy to get unless continuous and sincere practice as per my knowledge gathered from a student there..

    • selva November 9, 2016 at 6:17 am #

      I would recommend krishnamacharya yoga mandiram Chennai, if you are looking for authentic complete yoga in south India.

  4. Kathy April 28, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    About 8 months ago I completed a 200 hr YA program through a credited school near my home. I’ve practiced yoga for close to 20 years. Long before you could buy a yoga mat in a store. Of course I can’t speak for every school but I will say the one I attended was a very thorough program from anatomy, asanas to philosophy. It was an intense learning environment spread over 5 months. To me it was a relief to see such high standards. I have too often gone to a class where a teacher had no “official” training. I’ve left frustrated as I witnessed students discouraged because they were being taught to try asanas without modifications and their body just couldn’t manage. Again I can’t speak for all YA accredited schools – but I am relieved to see a standard set.

  5. Monica Fernandez March 26, 2016 at 9:29 am #

    I´d like to have this incredible article translated to spanish… so many “yoga teachers” coming out of all sorts of places. YA is certifying any manual, I´ve seen it. People who have hardly practiced or understood what yoga involves are now “teacher trainers”! All backed up with Yoga Alliance certificates. 🙁

  6. Maryah March 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    I just graduated from Yoga Tree in San Francisco, a 1 month intensive. I feel very good about teaching a fundamental basic beginning yoga class. My personal practice is an advanced asana flow practice. I was taught to teach what I know, which is “a little”, of course I know only a little. It’s a starting point for every teacher. My Sankulpa is to inspire others to join me in the yoga room in this stressful world and I have done that. OK so I need insurance, who should I get insurance from?

  7. Manjaree Bhatt February 25, 2016 at 6:09 pm #

    Well explained the core problem and due reasons for the falling of the standards of yoga teachers, their training and yoga teacher’s training schools. I’ve noticed that such organization and institutes are nothing but a fees collecting agencies. In Canada we used to have FOYT (Federation of Ontario Yoga Teachers) that became OYA (Ontario Yoga Association) now the name is Yoga Network of Canada!
    First of all Yoga was taught n learned in a residential schools were the behavior, progress n changes of the student were constantly monitored by the teachers. Secondly the studio can’t provide the atmosphere and the environment for the Yoga studies. Thirdly, Yoga doesn’t mean only practice of postures, breathing techniques and relaxation. The moral n ethics of Yoga are neither taught nor are practiced even by the teachers. When the base is not profound n sound, naturally the foundation is going to be weak. I’m afraid that the way Yoga has been practiced n taught in Americas will harm the countries more than it can help for the betterment of the global society.

  8. A.L.Wilson February 17, 2016 at 11:28 pm #

    In my community, it seems that everyone and their sister is now a Yoga teacher, and new studios pop up like mushrooms on every corner. There are a few exceptional and highly qualified teachers who have been studio owners for many years, however, they don’t flaunt their slim bodies in the lastest LuLuLemon yoga pants, or market themselves on being hip and cool.
    The great teachers simply teach high quality classes. But sadly, they are overshadowed by the hip and cool chicks in expensive yoga gear, who have very little training or experience, but they look great, and we live in a very superficial world, where looks is everything. So how can an earnest student know if they will get real value for their money when investing in classes, and be protected from injuries? Buyer beware.

  9. John February 11, 2016 at 11:16 pm #

    How does a naive person find a teacher who is teaching yoga correctly? By what standards can they judge a teacher to ensure they are being taught correctly? Can this be codified into a set of questions or check points? Are there yoga ‘traditions’ which are keeping the practice ‘pure’? Of the existing yoga traditions, which are your recommendations? Thanks.

    • LaurajeanZ May 5, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

      Look for a studio that has been around for a long time (decades) … There is such a place near me, and indeed, the instructors have been teaching for decades as well.
      This is not to say that a young, fresh-from-school instructor would not give all you need, but in my experience, the better-seasoned teachers are the ones who are most diligent about safety.
      An added bonus for a 50something instructor is that they are more in tune with how our bodies change with age and less attached to “getting into” poses, when that’s certainly not the point.

    • Sandra September 6, 2016 at 11:49 am #

      first look at the training and credentials of each teacher at the studio you may wish to visit; if all the teachers are YA200 then you know those teachers may not have much personal experience practicing. If you happen to run across a teacher with decades of experience and has also studied within a particular lineage you may not see that YA credential but traditionally one was given permission to teach from the one you studied with after many years.

      let go of “purity” – each lineage has its own way of transmitting its teachings so they may teach something differently than another lineage might. within lineages you may have some variation because each teacher has his or her personal experience informing how they teach. if you are looking for a lineage, look for Ashtanga (Pattabhi Jois, now Sharath is the guru), Shivananda, Kripalu, Iyengar, etc. run away from newer “styles” that look trendy and teach little more than choreographed gymnastic routines with “spiritualized” “heart opening” language that look more like cults…

  10. gaurav pant January 26, 2016 at 7:37 am #

    i dont understand something . India’s: cultural heritage is yoga and then i have to get certificate from an association which is in US. Why? Its like you tell an awesome Italian chef that domino’s franchise is better then your original pizza. and he should buy pizza from them

    • CJ January 28, 2016 at 8:11 am #

      IMO, it’s not so much whose yoga is better, but who is practicing/teaching yoga for the right reasons. Back in the day, it took years to receive the title of Yogi in India, and you had only 1 guru. Here in the US, you only need 200hrs minimum to teach yoga and you’re receiving information from multiple sources that may not all be on the same page. Here in the US, yoga is rushed and seems to only be about who can do the fanciest asanas. Yoga injuries are on the rise due to improper technique and instruction. A person can walk into a gym from the streets and say they can teach a yoga class without having any experience or qualifications. It’s more so about protecting the individual. If Massage Therapists have to pay to keep their qualifications, I’m ok with having to do the same with Yoga.

      • Lisa July 6, 2016 at 11:03 am #

        CJ-Thanks for your comment. I have trained for several years with just one guru and I am now teaching yoga at my local YMCA. I know that my teacher prepared me well and after talking with friends who have taken the 200hr. YA approved training-they know less than I and feel less confident in their teaching abilities than I do. I did receive a yoga certification through an on-line training just to be able to present a form to anyone that asked. My training is on going and rooted in tradition with the safety of my students always in the forefront of my heart and mind. I don’t have YA approval but I know and my students know that I am presenting something authentic but for someone else I can understand the need for a standard. Yoga, however, is a spiritual practice first and foremost…how can you standardize this? Namaste.

  11. John January 26, 2016 at 4:57 am #

    Yoga is an ancient term pointing to a means of transcending habituated, unconscious and illusory behavior. Practicing asans, controlling the body is only one of several beginning teachingsog yoga. However, in the US today asana has been corporatized, capitalized and exagerated. Thus, the purpose and plan of yoga is trivalized and forgotten. So few move on to learn meditation.

    Not only is social credentializing not an efective means of finding a real yoga teacher, but many real yoga teachers choose to exist outside the YA box. They may not advertise, dress like, speak like you have been led to imagine a yogi would. The guruspirit has a much deeper way of communicating and functioning than conventional expectations. Follow your heart.

  12. Lara January 25, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Very interesting. Where I currently live, the small town, the people who think they can teach are about the idea not about the actual practice. It’s all show and its fake. It’s all business makes sense. it makes me so sad because I have been practicing for fifteen years and before that was a ballerina for 20+ years. I’m a certified teacher but cannot find anywhere to teach because I’m an outsider from CA, besides being too kind and passionate about what I do. All I want to do is teach and share my love but can’t because of the small town atmosphere and the pretentious attitude that goes with it. Therefore. I stick to me career of teaching English as a second language to middle and high school students during the day and after school I share my love for yoga with any teachers that want to join me for no cost at all. That is how much it means to me. What matters is that I made a difference for someone at the end of the day.

    • Jen January 27, 2016 at 6:53 am #

      wonderful!

    • Cherry March 3, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

      Lara, what you said is the true definition of what yoga is – sharing the benefits of yoga through love and passion and not worrying about the money. All those individuals you practice with feel your compassion for their well being and your authenticity. Keep it up.

    • Musarrat April 8, 2016 at 8:33 am #

      This is in response to Lara’s comments, Please suggest which Yoga school I should go in India or Thailand to get such a yoga teaching. I look forward to the response.

    • Valerie September 6, 2016 at 6:08 am #

      Lara – where are you located? There are wonderful places for you to teach and do what you love!

  13. John January 25, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    The confusion of yoga with asanas is a sad trivialization of yoga. Sadly, the trend continues, conflating yoga as another form of exercise. Now corporations control the materialization and monetization of this false yoga, sanctioned by YA. However, amongst this pool of devotees perhaps will be found those who have come here for real yoga; who have to inquire and wander through the unreal in order to find the real.

    • Beth March 14, 2016 at 10:07 am #

      True, but isn’t this confusion largely in the mind of the mind of the public? YA places a large emphasis on teaching in an effort to counteract this. YA does need to improve, but they are trying; individual teachers also bear some responsibility.

  14. Vivianne Escolar January 25, 2016 at 7:49 am #

    Yoga alliance is a money making gimmick and a lot of people fell for it because there didn’t seem to be anything else……however check the International Yoga Federation which has set the standards for yoga teachers in Europe and Latin America. Yoga is taught traditionally with none of the new agey stuff that seems to characterize American yoga…… And experience in yoga is emphasized……experience is gained with time and discipline ….. None of this illumination express that seems to pervade in the practice of yoga nowadays…..

    • Beth March 14, 2016 at 10:10 am #

      I am not familiar with the International Yoga Federation, but I assume, like YA, that they charge registration fees–wouldn’t that make them a “money making gimmick” as well? The initial registration fees for YA are actually quite low, and they require both teaching hours and CE credits to keep the registration active. Sure, improvement is needed, but more responsibility needs to be placed on the individual teachers as well.

  15. Sofia January 4, 2016 at 5:22 pm #

    Unfortunately, America loves to regulate everything. Lawsuits, profits, certifications, are high on their list of priorities. Whereas, yoga is a lifestyle, both mental and physical. It has been altered to fit the life of an American. It is done quickly, as a form of exercise, deviating from the meditative breathing and cleansing aspects which are both vital and preliminary in yoga even before the physical. It is sad. American yoga, yoga alliance has taken the very nature of yoga and changed it. It is not physical exercise, an alternative to going to the gym or method of losing weight. It is understandable. Taking the practice and altering to what fits for your country. However, with that alteration it is also taking the very foundation, the core, the purpose of it-and making it not yoga at all. If Americans could take the time, energy and effort to practice Yoga they would see how beneficial, invigorating, mental and physical, complete, and how different it is than what their Yoga Alliance requires. I am American but have practiced all over the world mainly Asia. I have taken roughly 15 different types* of classes from 6 different yoga studios. 95% of the time the teacher didn’t even so much as do A posture, they just ran through their spiel. It was clear most of them hadn’t practiced recently and were just running through their job requirements. A savasana is not a quick 3 second resting pose before doing sit ups.
    It’s like taking a beautiful rose, spraying, freezing, dissecting, copying and making a plastic clone of it that you can keep in your home forever-without soil without sun..but the clone doesnt have a scent, it doesn’t grow, change, it has no real texture or life. It’s not a rose at all.

  16. MIchaelle Edwards December 22, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    I agree that the social credentialing of yoga schools is not an effective system of rating a yoga teacher training program. Yoga teaching is a free for all right now as there is basically no professional standards of creditability as in regulated professions like massage or physical therapy or acupuncture. I am curious if American Yoga School is still registering ( paying dues) to Yoga Alliance. I have heard from other schools that they are dropping out and not paying to register.

    People with no understanding of yoga do have the misguided assumption that Yoga Alliance is an accredited institution that regulates the yoga industry. Because Yoga Alliance is the only such organization, they have the dubious power to collect a lot of money to fill the void in an industry that lacks any kind of credible regulation.

    In the years to come, the regulation of yoga will happen as it has just gotten too big and government will step in. Yoga asana needs to be evaluated pose by pose to determine the safety and benefits according to the science of biomechanics. The numbers of yoga injuries are on the rise because of poor training and lack of
    experience but even bigger than that are some of the poses themselves. See http://www.yogainjuries.com for more information

    • Lucas Harper January 3, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

      Maybe the governement should regulate climbing trees too. …. I don’t agree with or encourage the idea of government regulating wellness practices- that clearly DOES NOT work.

  17. Casandra December 9, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It’s an unfortunate reality of how Yoga has become a business. I have practiced at many studios where they did as you wrote about, teachers adding in a head or hand stand at the end of a class..without being able to spot or guide students through it causing injury. I decided as I became an instructor myself, that I would only teach safely..that the time we take during Yoga is also a time to just be where we are..not to rush into or out of postures. Listening to our bodies is paramount..& as teachers its our responsibility to allow or gently remind our students to be okay with where they are in thier own journey.

    Again Thank you..very thoughtfully written article♡

  18. Richard December 9, 2015 at 5:41 am #

    “If we want to make a change, it’s going to take us standing up and saying”…. ‘YES, how can I contribute’.

    I can understand your frustrations but by shooting at the Yoga Alliance like this, you show little respect for many great teacher training programs and many great, loving and caring yoga teachers operating under the flag of the Yoga Alliance.

    Manage your pitta, praise others, shine your light, be positive and more and more students will come to your teacher training.

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown December 9, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      More people in my teacher training is not my goal here. Thank you for that dosha analysis that you did based on reading one article that I’ve written. Did you learn ayurveda in your yoga alliance teacher training? Because that’s not how it’s done.

  19. Janet December 1, 2015 at 5:41 am #

    I feel extremely fortunate to have studied for my RYT200 certification with Gina Caputo and her staff at Colorado School of Yoga in Boulder, Colorado. I had the BEST experience and highly recommend this school – my teachers emphasized over and over that yoga is not about looking good in tights, to never stop learning and growing (teachers are yoga students, too) and to always have compassion and professionalism I was given the perfect jumping off point for my teaching career.

  20. J. Brown November 28, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    I like to keep tabs on this post and thread because I’m interested in what people are thinking and suggesting when it comes to the regulation of yoga. I think we make a mistake when we frame the issue in a way that says YA needs to regulate us. I don’t think that the organization, or any, is really in a position to do that without diminishing the good work that folks are doing. Yes, there are many bad teachers out there. But I don’t think we can blame that on YA. Don’t get me wrong, I think the YA is largely bogus, especially when it comes to any idea of “standards.” I just don’t think its as simple as saying we should increase the amount of hours on the “standards.” And, even if you did increase hours, it’s not clear how you could even enforce it. Here is an interesting post from a lawyer who worked in regulating other similar industries: http://www.michaelpalermo.com/against-government-regulation-of-yoga-100/

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown December 10, 2015 at 1:39 am #

      My article in no way states that I think that the solution to this is to increase hours. The article makes the point that Yoga Alliance standards are bogus. I’m glad to see that you agree with that. The whole hours thing is total bullshit also.

  21. Andrew November 26, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    This is brilliant, and in complete accord with my own experiences of yoga teachers I know. They’re too busy ‘blissing out’ on a body high to engage with the spiritual aspects. And honestly, my experience is that the people who seek yoga, currently, they are the ones who really really need the mindfulness, and every class I have tried has been full of some not very deep and rather very judgemental people who were only barely able to contain their feelings of superiority. And I don’t think I am projecting or exxagerating. I was lucky in the 80s to have met a very old yogi who showed me a few useful things. Mostly about mindfulness.

    American Yoga really is just stretching. I am so sad that your profession has such a bad name, because it can be such a wonderful practice. Odds are currently not in our favor any longer that any of us would find a non dangerous teacher, and I am so glad to see someone on the inside saying so. Actually removes a layer of my cynicism over you profession.

    You could be the change you seek. Some smart yogi said something wise a bit like that, a while ago. He got it. 🙂

    • Lara January 25, 2016 at 5:10 pm #

      I so understand what you are saying and know it for a fact. That is why I practice in my home and don’t go to a studio anymore. Also why I don’t teach at one other than I was not asked to because I’m an outsider and am not one of them. It’s been very difficult for me especially when I have such a deep passion for my practice but I don’t need a fancy studio to practice I volunteer teach at the high school then after school three days a week for my co- teachers and it’s the greatest feeling ever. No judgements. It’s sad what people think yoga is.

  22. Bella November 18, 2015 at 8:27 am #

    James, can you make a suggestion on YTT programs in the US that go beyond the poorly set standards of Yoga Alliance? I have been wanting to get my training for a year now, but have no idea where to go. Or do you have other suggestions on how a beginner yoga instructor should properly educate herself? I’m at a loss, and would love your input!

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown November 21, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

      We teach teacher training! Send us an email. If our program isn’t right for you, we can probably steer you in the right direction.

  23. krista November 9, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    My YTT was at what I now see as one of those yoga teacher factories – and it occurred to me at the time something was off, but always thought next weekend/session would be better – it never was. Then when it was finished I looked at the hour breakdown and we were not even close to covering 30 hours of philosophy and ethics (unless you count banging a drum and seeking your spirit animal, and discussing new age self help books) – and all we did was practice teach the same sequence over and over – my many complaints to the YA were ignored…I spend a lot of time and money playing ‘catch up’ to learn what was missed in YTT – the YA stamp of approval means nothing

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown November 24, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

      I have re-read this a few times since you submitted it and it gets me motivated to keep at this every time I read it. Thank you for that. I am really sorry to hear about your experience. I posted an analogy this week on Facebook. our teacher training : most teacher trainings :: college : recess and got scolded for being mean. The analogy is an exaggeration and I was trying to be funny but I have heard so many stories like yours. Argh.

      • RB January 17, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

        I feel your pain Krista, I participated in a 300 hour tt about 2 years ago. I should preface it by saying that I was going through a very difficult time personally and not taking the best care of myself – so I really had no business taking the class. I lived almost 2 hours away so I had to couch surf during the training. I tried to get out of it but the instructor would not let me. I guess they really wanted my money. It was one of the unhappiest periods of my life.

        The instructor spent ridiculous amounts of time teaching about philosophy and things that I don’t necessarily believe in (good things to know, but do you really need to spend half the class discussing it?) and it felt like we rarely spent as much time actually teaching. When we did practice teaching, it was so unpleasant and it was like learning from a dictator who was condescending. He once completely humiliated me in class (I was in tears as he made me demonstrate a pose) because I expressed concern about my knees and if I could get into the pose (he thought I was saying I wouldn’t/couldn’t try). We never learned how to truly create any sequences either, only to memorize what they made for us. When it was time to take my practical (it was actually a 100 hour + 200 hour class) for the 200 hour portion I completely choked and failed it. At age 38, and after practicing yoga off and on for 15 years, practicing religiously for the year prior to the training, and being a Licensed Massage Therapist for over a decade at the time, and a military veteran (I’m trying to illustrate that it wasn’t like I came green and/or have no discipline at all) I was so TRAUMATIZED that it affected everything about the way I saw myself as a professional and a body worker. For a while, I wanted to give up yoga completely but I fought through that (thank goodness).

        I passed the 100 hour portion of this teacher training, but it’s completely useless because to get into any yoga therapy courses – which is what I want to do – I need 200 hours minimum and experience teaching. I have no desire to teach a class of 20 students, just to help people in pain and/or to perform better. The instructor said I could come back any time and retake the practical but it has been so long that I am in an even worse position as far as the memorization part goes. Plus, the idea of going back there literally makes me feel ill. I’m stuck. I just don’t even know what to do next. I have clients ask me about learning yoga often. Sometimes they tell me they tried a class but were too intimidated or got hurt so they stopped going. I really want to help them but I have the most unreal psychological block and I don’t know how to move past it short of shelling out another 3 grand or so to learn somewhere else.

        Sorry for the TMI (writing this i making me cry and maybe it’s just more cathartic than I realized) I guess my point is that maybe it looks like some great curriculum on paper. Just because they offer some minimum curriculum that RYT created doesn’t make it a good program. I guess you really have to research a program. I didn’t. I just loved practicing at the studio.

  24. Tony Noble September 20, 2015 at 4:49 am #


    “If you see Buddha on the road, kill him”….. I understand that this is a metaphor to illustrate the idea that what we are all looking for is to be found within. Dunno, Am still thinking about it., but I do think that the participants in this conversation are being a bit literal 🙂

    • Pyislove September 28, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

      James Brown ; thanks for your essay;
      This is a problem with humans, not matter what they touch, if money and ego are involved things will go awry.

      Consider the source! People do not seem to want to check or understand who is a really
      qualified teacher. To imagine that a certificate qualifies one is careless.

      How much did that student really understand, where is his/her heart?
      This is what is important to me.
      Enforcing standards is a slippery slope as well, who will police all this stuff?

      • Andrew November 26, 2015 at 1:08 am #

        ” To imagine that a certificate qualifies one is careless.”

        Victim blaming is usually not intentional, it is a mindless ego defense mechanism. That’s my opinion.

        Where is -your- heart?

  25. Ubiratan Gonzaga September 8, 2015 at 8:02 am #

    and so….the author of this article is creating his own Yoga Alliance with a different name and philosophy, the true one, selling for a fair price his own diploma and credencial of Yoga teacher in Las Vegas, but now is the right one.

    Dear author, your work is very good, but the question is another. I am afraid you are doing the same mistake. There is no “teaching credential” given in Las vegas or the Philippines or anywhere to make someone a teacher. Not even your diploma.

    Get out of this trap dear brother. Your “Yoga Teacher Credential ” is also a joke. I can create my own “credential” and prove that yours is “not good”, and who are you to say that I am wrong? Get out of this trap dear brother.

    In the Light of Yoga,

    Bira.

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown September 8, 2015 at 11:20 am #

      Hi, Bira,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion, as I always welcome feedback.

      I am curious to know your background and credentials in yoga to form such an opinion about what AYS is offering, and what about the AYS teaching credentials programs would make you think we are creating our own Yoga Alliance. We are not.

      James

      • Ubiratan Gonzaga September 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

        Hi dear James,

        I’ve learned to be a Yoga student with monks in the Himalayas for free. Actually, they feed me and gave me money. I gave my first class after 13 years of practice and the realization of the meaning of my own life. This I did. My credential in Yoga is my life and every word I say. The only way to know my qualification is to come to my class in a state of humility and listen.

        For me, the biggest problem with Yoga today is to sell the idea that is possible to be a teacher before being a student. This is a lie. To be a good student takes time. A person cannot learn to teach without learning to learn, what actually means to REALIZE the teachings you pretend to teach one day.

        Then, you ARE the teaching and whatever you say IS Yoga, and there is no human being or organization in the world qualified to evaluate you.

        For me this is the problem. All Yoga Teacher Trainnings are lies, all of them, unless you change the name of your course to Yoga Student Trainning. No diploma. No paper, I am sorry. Yoga is not something to be proven by a document and regulated by an organization.

        Teach the studdent to BE the credential in every breath, to REALIZE it first, and if he is in a hurry to get the diploma to get a job, tell him that Yoga is not a job. He is a terrible student and let him go to the liers and get what he wants. The paper.

        Of course they become terrible teachers, there is no surprise.

        For me this is the root of all problem. You cannot teach a person to be a teacher. A person who wants to learn to teach without willing to take the time to learn and realize the teaching, deserves to be cheated, and this is what is happening.

        Dear James please forgive me, I do not know anything about you or your work. Your article came to me today by chance and I was very happy to read it, until I saw that you too are selling Yoga Teacher Trainnings, and in my mind, this makes you one of them. Maybe you are not. I do not know you.

        I have deep faith and confidence that the real Self-Realized Teachers of our School of Eternal Yoga are very aware of this situation, and they will always keep, forever, the True Light of Yoga shinning alive and strong in the heart of the true student.

        Yours,
        Bira.

        • Carla October 19, 2015 at 12:56 pm #

          Bira,
          I thank you for your words. They truly speak to me. I have practiced many branches of yoga over the past 17 years, in my own living room I have learned a lot from books, videos. I have had experienced “teacher training”, yoga intensives, workshops and attended regular classes. Even with a deep dedication to my practice and countless “hours” of formal training, I not until recently have felt I have space in my life and the qualifications to teach what I know. I was always astounded by those with minimal student experience as you call it begin teaching around me, before me. Although, I always felt slightly annoyed by their callousness to think they are ready to teach such a sacred and ancient practice with minimal student time, something in me also admired their confidence. I always had this feeling that I must continue to be a student until I have a life of practice, now I see I will be in my grave and will be of no benefit to anyone if I wait that long! My point is that you are spot on. Credibility is lost in this original post because it is a vehicle to market a new better system. There are many teaching professions that have limited means to qualify and certify, it’s too immense to police. Not all yoga teachers are good, but I take responsibility for my own actions when I am there. Many people get hurt doing many things, yes including yoga. I think a great start would be to stop calling these courses “yoga teacher training” that is a great point. The yoga world is full of Ego like everything else, so taking out the diploma is not going to win favour, it’s way too profitable, just like a new system to regulate teachers and trainings. It’s just money and Ego.

          • Profile photo of James Brown
            James Brown October 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

            Indeed I am marketing a better system. Please tell me how that merits the loss of all credibility. I would think that would be an admirable thing. I am an extremely experienced practitioner and teacher with a better system than the standard that exists in a market that Yoga Alliance created. Should I do nothing to affect the market because you think it’s unyogic? Look into my course more deeply, then criticize. It is nothing like the pathetic norm. And I am marketing it so that the world is a better place. If money was my aim, I’d not have chosen to devote my life to this endeavour. My aim is, like you alluded to, to help people learn what I learned before I die. Incredible?

        • Anastasia November 3, 2015 at 2:46 am #

          Thank you so much for these words, Bira. The real teacher is not born because of a diploma, often received as a necessity for a yoga teacher “career”.

          I’m just at the very beginning of my student journey, but have unfortunately already observed what the “teacher trainings” can lead to. I know personally someone who took part in a teacher training in India without any previous exposure to yoga, injured herself severely and came back with the hate towards yoga practice.

          I cited you on my blog (last article), I hope you don’t mind!

    • Kelly October 23, 2015 at 8:54 am #

      Amen – and well said

  26. Sandra September 7, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    So why are your register with Yoga Alliance as a School? and could you explain your logo: “Thank you India we’ll take it from here”??? what is the clear meaning of it???

  27. Karen September 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

    Totally disagree with this article!! I feel that they are at least trying to regulate the industry and are a great guide for those who don’t know where to start. They do give you guidelines on how to put together a program and they called me a few times personally to discuss my Training program…questioning certain items and would not approve my program until I met their guidelines in its entirety. There has to be a certain amount of honesty by the program directors of Teacher Trainings…they know if they are just doing sh*t and trying to pawn it off as a Training and they know if it’s more about the money for them. If you are honest about your program and really put your all into its safety and thoroughness then it will show. And as far as I am concerned there is no way a 200hr program is nearly enough to be ready and those should be eliminated. And finally an organization needs group effort to work…before everyone sasses YA…suggest an alternative. They have free webinars…working on group insurance packages…and trying to use their buying power to secure benefits for members. They are also big on re-education and so many other things and they have tried to really change their approach to this. To me it is super important that there is some governing group to regulate this industry for everyone’s safety. So why keep creating new groups and instead why not demand more input to make this one better…it just makes sense. But that’s just my opinion…

    • Andrew November 26, 2015 at 1:12 am #

      “before everyone sasses YA…suggest an alternative”

      Whatever it was that worked for the 4,000 years before YA existed seems to have worked out.

      • karen November 26, 2015 at 4:26 am #

        That’s crazy to even think that. Bodies are completely different in the East vs West…people are different from 4000 years ago. And if you do think that then i question you and your program. We are working with wayyyyy more injuries…wayyy more mental disorders, and yoga instructors have to be prepared for that. You could have probably trusted your “guru” back in the day but now we have a ton of sexual predators on the loose.

        I cannot attest for anyone else’s Training but I know that working with YA was a great help in helping me develop my program and I did my research…I added things that I knew would address common issues today.at the end of the day there has to be a certain amount of honesty on both sides. If you read a program and all it does is list drumming to the spirit in you…then you run far from that program. ..unless you are doing it out of interest. But if you know you have no teaching experience and you do this program because it’s cheap…it’s short and it says 200hr. ..then you are being dishonest for even doing that program, and regardless of whether it’s YA or your program that’s not going to change…there are dishonest people all all around.

        So having a group like YA is very helpful! What’s not helpful is for everyone to keep creating new organizations every 2 seconds. All this does is confuse people and turn people off of something that is so good for them simply because all they read is this negativity and a lack of “union” between all the parties and I find that very frustrating. Again, instead of creating new…try to make whatever is there better.

        I can’t believe any of the posts that say they were ignoresd by YA or anything, because I live in the Caribbean and they called me directly and responded to my emails within a day…sometimes same day…they were extremely helpful!

        • Profile photo of James Brown
          James Brown November 26, 2015 at 9:28 am #

          Bodies are not at all different in the east and west. That’s just one more idiotic idea passed down by uneducated teachers because it seems like it mahes sense. But human biomechanics are human biomechanics. And the human mind- the thing that yoga is really there to deal with- is also no different based on one’s culture.

          And those trainings that you mention- the ones with drumming and chanting and group sharing. All of them- every one of them- is Yoga Alliance registered.

          • karen November 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

            Alrighty then…annnnnd this is where I bid you adieu. Good luck to you and organization. Bless! K.

          • Profile photo of James Brown
            James Brown November 27, 2015 at 12:08 am #

            We’ll be here when you’re ready to learn.

  28. Meghan Gaspers June 18, 2015 at 4:40 am #

    I love this! Thank you for writing such a profound article on the issues with Yoga Alliance. I agree 1000%!!

  29. Jessi May 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    Thank goodness there is also the International Association of Yoga Therapists – they demonstrate commendable efforts to standardize training and education and define what is really meant by the labels they provide (“yoga therapist”). Keep an eye on them, perhaps moreso than YA.

    • J. Brown May 3, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

      I don’t know Jessi. The IAYT has made a commendable effort (I was part of the Council of Schools Initiative that started it back in 2009.) But the results are still questionable. The label “Yoga Therapist” is still wrought with ambiguity, regardless of the 800hr curriculum guidelines they developed. And its all still quite political. The problem is that Yoga pedagogy does not lend itself to standardization.

      Its a shame that the YA has dropped the ball that Richard Karpel started rolling. And it remains unclear why he left. But the solution is not to standardize the education. Creating more stringent curriculum’s with more hours will not ensure better quality yoga training. If the individuals who are conducting the trainings and providing certification hold themselves to higher standards and there is some vehicle for them to be held accountable for claims then I think that is the best we can hope for.

      http://www.jbrownyoga.com/blog/2014/11/what-now-yoga-alliance

      • Profile photo of James Brown
        James Brown May 3, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

        Hey, Just want to clarify that the J. Brown who wrote the comment above is not James Brown of American Yoga School. Thanks for contributing, J. Brown!

      • pamela hollander September 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

        J… I liked your article and yet i believe the issue is deeper…. I have been practicing yoga for 50 plus years, and was not “blessed” by my teacher to teach until I had been studying and practicing for 15. I believe the issue is, more than any other trade, a yoga teacher must have a solid foundation of 10 plus years of practice even to think about teaching. What I knew at 15 years of practice, and what I have to share at 25 years, 35 years, etc. is much different than what someone may have to share after only practicing a year and taking a year’s or less teacher’s training. In my mind, a yoga student should not even be considered a professional and accepted to a training or apprenticeship until they have studied at least 10 years with one teacher, and developed the foundational teacher-student relationship which is at the heart of the teachings (and disregarded as unimportant today). This would be like saying Ahimsa is not the most foundational Yama, or ethical practice of the scientific system of yoga.

        Anyway…thanks for the thoughts… let’s keep the dialog going… Many blessings. pamela

  30. Patti April 26, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    So how does a lay person interested in beginning Yoga find the right person to take class from?

  31. Param Swami April 3, 2015 at 7:07 am #

    Talk about the blind leading the blind. James is not a real teacher of any aspect of Yoga. Real Yoga is all about the Hindu religion, taught by Hindus and not for a fee!

  32. Sho Shin March 4, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

    I have been practicing yoga for over 25 years. My journey into yoga began while in high school due to a friend who was from India. His female cousin came to stay for a year as an exchange student for american studies and we became friends. I was intrigued by yoga’s nature and having an inquisitive mind started learning. Even then, I understood it as a “quiet, inner” practice, in fact there were only a handful of poses the we worked with and they were meant to strengthen ones ability to move inward. I started yoga teacher training with a school that is revered for its focus on the heart, in love and light. Its founder spent much time delving deeper into his own understandings, being taught by his guru in India and bringing this understanding to his students. This school required an investment of time, understanding, the development of inner wisdom as part of its practice before one was allowed to even attempt to apply for teacher training in addition to the traditional yoga poses. One was required to express an understanding of yoga, it’s subtleties, the knowledge that a pose gives to the student and only in this process, if your instructor felt the student was ready, was it recommended. This school is not affiliated with Yoga Alliance and does not wish to be. I then moved into a yoga practice at a Hindu Temple and through this became blessed to teach yoga. Notice, I didn’t use the word “certified” – but blessed. I started teaching yoga to those who were involved in child services, the families that are traumatized by the situations and taught mainly to teenagers and younger adults. My teachings have always been universal and were openly accepted. I taught in this manner for 5 years before I even thought of opening myself to teaching courses openly. I have been teaching now for over 12 years. As my teaching was based early on in servitude, not in how much money I could make and I am honored every class I teach, every time I am in the presence of the omnipresent and am allowing this wisdom to come forth. I was taught to first learn about the body, understanding it , allow it to express it’s inner voice, to communicate with you and this is how I teach; that inner voice of body/mind/spirit. I am frustrated when I hear stories about people who attempt things in yoga class that I clearly know they shouldn’t be doing. I find it even more laughable when I have a new student who enters my class, clearly expecting something they’ve seen in a video or a freebe class only to tell me this isn’t yoga. I ask them to stay, to sit, to listen and through this practice within many classes, it is exactly what they needed, they just didn’t realize it. I am also frustrated by the reliance on the Yoga Alliance Certification as though it is the end all be all. It is not. There are many paths to yoga and it is time that there is a place for us who clearly have a different journey for teaching yoga than what Yoga Alliance espouses.

    • Wendy April 1, 2015 at 9:21 pm #

      Sho Shin, I couldn’t agree with you more. My experience with yoga began in 1971 with meditation and philosophy and I have attended many trainings and retreats over the years, including several trips to India. I did join YA in its first year after taking a formal western style yoga training even though I had been leading meditations and asana for over twenty-five years at that point. The studios I teach in require YA membership for their instructors and I have continued to comply but with increasing misgivings. I also belong to IAYT, and thought they would bring some basic truths of the system of Yoga back into this marketing wonder it has become. But even they seem a lot more interested in pursuing certifications and legitimacy in the world of western traditional medicine so we can all get paid through our broken, bottom-line and sickness oriented insurance industry. That path is also likely to bring down upon us state certifications and the stagnation of bureaucracy. Yoga training will have the same status as technical schools or a community college certificate. At this point the word “yoga” is so ubiquitous and synonymous with asana that it may be impossible to get rid of the word as it essentially is defined in the minds of so many as the “fitness” classes that pass for “yoga.” At this point there are moments I need to really focus on all I have learned and embodied over the past four decades to be at peace within on this issue. Although, in the past year I have been increasingly seeking like-minded teachers because I couldn’t believe I was the only one feeling this way, and it appears there are quite a number of us. On FaceBook of all places, there is a group called “Not Yoga” – A pleasant surprise with some very funny postings. While part of me says we need another organization, the other side of that coin is successful organizations always grow and with that growth comes restrictions and bureaucratic weight. Going back to basics, the teachings of yoga ask us to look within, grow spiritually strong and energetically balanced, be kind, find and release our own blockages and take our light into the world of our own spheres of relationships to serve others and make a difference. Even so, I would be very grateful for the opportunity of a long silent retreat in the near future to help process “yogamania” out of my system.

      • Profile photo of James Brown
        James Brown April 2, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

        This is beautiful. So much of it is exactly what I have wanted to say but haven’t been able to articulate. Thank you.

  33. blessedlife February 24, 2015 at 7:28 pm #

    I see 2 sides to this. We could blame the big company (YA) and say they are not doing a good enough job even though they seem to be the only organization out there attempting to provide some sort of guide across the board for the many styles & paths of yoga, OR we can blame the individuals that are not being responsible to themselves or those they teach because they lack the understanding or knowledge to teach effectively and safely. I took a 200hr teaching course in Anusara and I knew coming out the class I did not get the training I wanted. It was all about the postures, very minimal breathing and philosophy. For all the money I spent on the course, I could have just went to yoga classes all day long and learned the same. Very disappointing. I waited a year after, did my own personal studies and waited till I was ready before I decided to be responsible for teaching and sharing my practice with others. Why? Well because I am a professional. Stop playing the blame game and be accountable to yourself.

    • YogaGuy215 October 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

      Not sure what Anusara training you did… But as a firmer certified Anusara teacher trainer what you describe sound like nothing we ever taught. Too bad.

  34. Thomas Koovalloor February 19, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    I was reading the article about ” Yoga Alliance is ruining Yoga”. at the beginning I thought they are helpful. Now the things have changed and there is no leadership to represent the members. It is a shame for all Yoga Alliance registered members. In that sense Yoga Alliance is really ruining Yoga. They are not doing nothing and taking membership charges. It is not fair. Protect or defend its members. Do atleast something.I learned yoga by myself. I promote yoga, and my vision is to teach yoga freely.
    Thomas Koovalloor
    Founder, Indo- American Yoga Institute, LLC.
    http://www.indoamericanyogainstitute.com

  35. Ana January 21, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

    I came across this article after spending an hour futilely going through the Yoga Alliance web site, again, shaking my head at the standards and requirements for certification. I started teaching yoga in 1984, 15 years before the Yoga Alliance even existed. I learned the old-fashioned way: by apprenticing myself to a yoga instructor and shadowing him for months of classes, slowly working my way up to soloing while he watched. I’ve studied counless yoga books on asana, pranayama, yamas, niyamas, you name it. I’ve taken more workshops over the years than I can remember. I’ve learned about muscles, joints, injuries, and prevention. I am certified in CPR, First Aid, and AED by the American Heart Association. But because I am not certified by an organization that came into existence almost two decades after I began teaching, wellness centers and gyms refuse to take a chance with me, regardless of my long teaching resume. I did not even know of the Yoga Alliance’s existence until two years ago. I focus my energy on improving my knowledge and practice, not looking for recognition, so I would never have known to even look for such an organization. What I have experienced through the Yoga Alliance is a series of mediocre to poor teachers who stand statuelike at the front of their classes and lecture from scribbled notes or spend the entire class session showing off how good their own yoga is. And these, of course, are Yoga Alliance certified. How is any of this right?

  36. Tony November 19, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Yoga teachers don’t really care about teaching. Teacher training is a business. It sells the opportunity to get the attention of a class for a low price and only 200 hours. If yoga teachers had to meet any real standards of teaching, teacher trainings would disappear and yoga studios would close.

  37. Katherine Potter February 18, 2014 at 12:46 am #

    Correction – a “found soul” says: I started Yoga in 1981. I had no teacher or class, I was led by Spirit. When I was younger, I had the opportunity to experience many sports injuries and car accidents (all no fault) I was just in the right place at the right time. I used Yoga to heal my physical body many times miraculously. There is no teacher like experience. My Spiritual training has been long and deep, yet none of my experience is documented just like the ancient teachers in India who never received RYT status. I dramatically helped countless students before I was ever certified.

    You say that, “We need a body that ensures that all yoga teachers are appropriately educated”
    yet many of the best Psychics, Artists, Musicians, Yoga teachers etc. were never educated or had the money to be educated.

    I saw a class of beginners following a RYT who had terrible posture. He was teaching them lotus pose.
    The students were forcing their bodies into this advanced pose without questioning the teacher. They were showing obvious signs of feeling a lot of pain, yet they continued. Perhaps the students and the employer should have looked at this teacher’s posture, surely to me it was a clue to his embodiment of the teachings of Yoga. His head was totally out of alignment as it jetted forward, a clear reflection of his mind. he also had a hunch in his upper back, again, a clear reflection. I waited for his class to end so I could have a private word with him but he spent a half an hour bragging about his training and how great he was. I simply ran out of my time to talk with him. Yoga is not about ego.

    I’ve witnessed RYTs who were not friendly. Yoga is Love. How is Yoga alliance going to measure this?

    Yoga, correctly translated means integration, all is one, om. How is this measured?
    Access to Spirit is cutting edge, now information that a true Yogini or Yogi receives. Surely, one doesn’t need to know volumes of old knowledge found in books and the like. How is Yoga alliance going to measure this?

    Yoga Alliance is obviously making a lot of money from people who want to teach Yoga
    but the amount of hours and money spent don’t necessarily guarantee a real Yoga teacher.

  38. another lost soul February 2, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    PS. another very sad part of this yoga boom is, the “yoginis” teaching yoga don´t pay any taxes. Why should we, yoga is all about spirituality, freedom and blah blah. No need to obey the stupid government that is not yogic anyway. Actually they think it would be more holistic, if everyone just brought them rice or some favor. Barter economy is so yogic. So if you are in media, beauty, traveling or fashion you are most welcome to their studios 😉

    • Nikki May 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

      Hi Another Lost Soul,

      I just wanted to clarify on behalf of the many “yoginis” (and “yogis”, the men of yoga) DO indeed pay taxes (at least in the U.S.)…and if we don’t, the IRS is sure to pay us a visit. Most yoga instructors are independent contractors and as so, are 1099’ed meaning that we are treated as if we run our own business (even though we teach at studios) and pay the (approx) 30% self-employed taxes (before write-offs, which are very little because after all, we’re only yoga teachers!). Now, the part that may stay under the tax radar are any private sessions that pay cash (however, a very few percentage of yoga instructors actually make a living off JUST privates because they are more difficult to get). But if you think about it, it’s like being a server in a restaurant: any credit card tips are taxed because they are usually reported in the computer, BUT cash is unreported unless the server puts it in (which is usually a false number if any). Most patrons in restaurants these days pay via CC so it’s a small percentage of cash that goes untaxed for the server. Same with yoga instructors (IF they are receiving cash on the side). If they are just not paying taxes and are being 1099’ed by studios, then they are idiot “yogi’s” and “yogini’s” and will definitely be caught at some point 😉

      Hope that helped to expand your views on this subject =) Take care!

  39. another lost soul February 2, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    In Finland there is a national Hatha yoga association (SJL) that has a serious teacher training programme, already for many years. That could probably serve as a model internationally too!? First of all it requires two years of training with a reg. teacher, before one can even apply for the teacher training. That means no astanga, Iyengar or RYT- teacher supervised yoga counts. The hatha yoga the association teaches is very good, on many levels. Asanas, anatomy, pranayama, relaxation, philosophy, vinyasa etc. The only negative with this association is they don´t recognise KPJAY or Iyengar Pune or other serious yogis, more than 200 or 500 hrs trained teachers. Simply disapproving of others is no way either. The 200 hr training is really sad because only those with extra money can take it, so at least here, there is suddenly a horde of pretty women in their thirties who have a rich partner, have or has have some good mediasexy job, or maybe parents who pay their courses. They do all kinds of asanas and have blogs or post on facebook groups their fancy pics, and some even get in other media. It´s all about looking good and showing off during teaching – yes with interesting background music in multicolor leggings! Then we like smoothies and detoxing. And when the RYT training is done we all take a beer. They market things like sail yoga or single yoga and every weekend “retreat” or RYT-course is finished with a party incl alcohol! I started astanga ten years ago, boy was it all different then! Yoga alliance is still ruining yoga in Europe 🙁 I have taken some of the RYT-teacher classes in yin and it´s after all not that bad. But the dynamic or flow I once tried was a disaster! You could not really use the word yoga… The young teacher was a former gymnast and she was mostly showing off weird asanas very quickly while the students were just trying to keep the pace or themselves finding ways to modify the whole thing..Like newbies in aerobics. There´s much talk about anatomy on the RYT-scene now but it seems to me like rip-off. Not to mention all these handstand camps, acro, surf and aerial yogas – I haven´t even tried them out. Wonder how much yoga they are… Anyway it seems the Finnish Yoga association is losing big time to the RYT now, because a 200 hr training is just so much easier to get, that is if you have some 5000 euros extra (and can afford not going to job during the course).

  40. J. Brown January 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    While I couldn’t agree more that the 200hr convention has done yoga training a profound disservice (see http://www.jbrownyoga.com/blog/2011/11/yoga-alliance-approved-my-ass), I think you are misguided to think that it is possible to create standardized curriculum across the diversity of yoga schools and traditions.

    I was involved in the initial creation of the IAYT standards and using them as a model is not a good idea. Frankly, there are all kinds of problems with what the IAYT is doing and many people don’t believe that the new standards are really going to raise the quality of training so much as ingratiate yoga to the medical word and open up the possibility of third party reimbursement. Do you really want to establish a yoga police? And who gets to pass judgement on others? That the YA is attempting to do something that might encourage the yoga community to take more responsibility for itself is better than nothing at all (see http://www.jbrownyoga.com/blog/2013/04/giving-yoga-alliance-a-chance.)

    Of course, the real issue is that we have linked training to hours instead of competency. We need to stop structuring trainings based on 200 hours of attendance and instead create mentorship programs where the time for completion is based on the students learning and understanding.

    Yoga Alliance is not ruining yoga. The organization used to be a sham but now its trying to make the best of a bad situation. I agree with one of the commentors above. If we are unhappy with it then its on us to do something about it. You want to create a new organization to do what you think the YA is not? Hey, let me know. I’d like to be in on that discussion.

    • yogibattle January 23, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

      There is such an organization…it’s called IYNAUS.

    • Susan Siegenthaler April 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

      This very strong and scathing public discussion about Yoga Alliance makes me wonder what has happened in the US Yoga community.
      I am a Yoga Teacher in Australia and we have similar problems arising here with regards to inadequately trained Yoga Teachers. Here, there seems to be a general consensus that this has been, to a large extent, due to the commercialisation of Yoga (its departure from the traditional way it has been taught). Private and state run training organisations have seen the money-making potential of including ‘yoga’ in their fitness & personal trainer courses and this has resulted in a plethora of people teaching yoga postures (poorly) but not teaching Yoga. Yoga is life-long experiential learning, it is not only about Asana (which comprises 1/8th of Yoga).
      In Australia, we have several Yoga teacher Accrediting bodies, including Yoga Alliance. I am a member of Yoga Australia and recently joined Yoga Alliance because I appreciate their tolerant approach & global presence. I also agree that Yoga Teacher Training should be rigorous and extend to years rather than hours, weeks or months. Having said that, the horse has bolted and we have to find a way to encourage it back to the stable. Do we really want Yoga to be government regulated??? Can I suggest that those who may not have been practising Yoga in the 1960’s and 1970’s have a look at the history of Yoga in India when it became a politicised there.
      Let us think carefully about how we bring Yoga back into good repute – being mindful of the 10 precepts that underlie ethically behaviour for Yogis. Let us not tear each other to pieces.
      Namaste

  41. Amarjyothi January 23, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Thank you for this article. I am happy to read these posts and am inspired to think there may be a better solution out there. I like the idea of a competing entity. I have the greatest respect for the IAYT and believe following in their footsteps is also a wonderful idea. I understand that the YA’s self imposed job is a difficult one. However, based on the content of the publication they send out, Yoga Journal (“10 poses to a better life”, “5 poses for a sexier you”, etc) we shouldn’t expect that the organizations concept of what makes a yoga teacher to be much different. Just reading the IAYT’s publication can make a person a better, more informed teacher! How is the YA supporting their teachers who support them with ridiculously high yearly fees by sending out such a publication? The emails I am getting from them are even worse. But at least they alerted me to this blog, so I send my gratitude out for that.

    • Yoga Alliance January 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

      I just wanted to clarify that Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal are not affiliated in any way.

  42. This Soul January 14, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

    Thank you YA for your reply. Unfortunately everything you speak of is accurate from your perspective.

    Unfortunately for me.

    I have been a studio owner for many years now and honestly did not require or see value in registering with YA as I felt very comfortable, authentic, and well qualified in my yoga experience, as well as in the teachers that I hired. I am confident that the 20 000 people in our data base can well attest to this. The idea of alpha numeric credentials only became an issue when it became apparent that your logo next to mine added a perceived value to my teacher training. I say perceived because it is clear- brazenly clear- that the logo itself does nothing to ensure the program produces strong, knowledgable, compassionate teachers. That lies squarely on the shoulders of those of us doing the teaching.

    And yes, I missed the cut off.

    So here is what I say to new teachers when asked about registering with YA : ” I’m not sure it even matters ”

    Sadly the new teachers and those in pursuit of a teaching certification are under the misguided impression that EYRT 200 will guarantee them a prime teaching slot and the illusion of prestige.

    If you are looking for some help in developing your ” Alternative Pathways ” may I politely suggest you revisit the Yamas and Niyamas and carefully examine what your intentions are and determine if your actions match those intentions.

    This has gotten out of control and I do believe that somewhere along the line the almighty dollar surpassed the truth.

    Just this evening, I had a young woman bring her mother to class. The class is comprised of a strong flow followed by a nidra practice.The young woman proudly informed me that she was an Anusara Inspired Teacher ( I’m not even going to touch that one) and that her mother had never practiced before. What an interesting combination. I taught. I watched. I helped and served. At the end of the day what interested me most was this: One young, fit woman jumping and extending and bending. All very fancy to the untrained eye. However….Lacking entirely in bandha. Lacking entirely in breath. Trying desperately to anticipate every cue. Mind going 100 miles an hour. Endearingly young. In some ways right where one would expect her to be and nothing wrong with that.

    Except that she is supposedly a teacher ?

    On the other hand… Her mom… Unexperienced. Lacking in flexibility. Tentative. However….Completely aware of her breath. Willing to learn. I was more concerned about the young teacher. It honestly felt ridiculous to me. And I do not mean to suggest that the young woman is ridiculous, she is just unfortunately representative of what is an all too common sight in the yoga classes of today.

    I have so much to say. So much to share. I will continue to teach because it is the truth of who I am.

    Respectfully,

    This Uncertified Soul

    • Jivamuktananda February 13, 2015 at 9:24 am #

      The Truth lies… in the agreement.

  43. This Soul January 13, 2014 at 7:16 pm #

    Alright Yoga Alliance. I appreciate your lengthy response and indeed there is merit to some of what you speak. Here is the burning question for me. I currently operate three studios and employ 40 plus teachers on a full and part time basis. My qualifications according to you are not valid in spite of a 20 year history with yoga and literally thousands of hours of teaching. I have personally overseen several teacher trainings and continue to mentor new teachers daily. I have a registered yoga school with you but I can not sign certificates and have had to hire teachers who qualify under your guidelines to ” run my program” so that I can compete with the market standards you claim are an essential component of becoming a teacher. In truth I would be hugely remiss in my standards as a senior teacher to allow the program to be instructed by teachers who themselves have been practicing for less than 5 years. But hey..they are qualified according to you. Several years ago…when you were still accepting phone calls…one of your staff suggested I attend my own yoga school and have my staff certify me. Once I had completed my own 200 hour program I could then start logging hours- but only then- and work towards my next level of an EYRT 200. I am dead serious.

    How can this possibly make sense to you ?

    Your actions negate the very important quality of experience. I have seen what comes out of 200 hours and no life experience and I readily tell young teachers …”not yet”. Teacher training for me is about teaching people who will be able to pass on the knowledge and bring depth and quality to the classes being offered in my studios and also in other studios in our community. I am deeply saddened at the tremendous ego that has emerged under the auspices of certification. Yes headstands being taught at random are a concern. Yes anatomy is important. Yes to flow-or not to flow…. But what, dear friends of the Yoga ? Have we forgotten that this is an eight limbed path? What about Truth ? Where is the humility and grace that is so inherent in the very fabric of yoga? And who are you Yoga Alliance to measure it?

    In Truth and with Kindness,
    This Soul

    • Yoga Alliance January 14, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      Hi This Soul – Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think the scenario that you are describing with your own difficulty registering with us is illustrative of the complexities involved when trying to standardize something as complex as yoga. Unfortunately when a certain standard is set, it means that some people are going to fall outside the criteria or standard as seems to be the case in your situation.

      From 1999-2011, Yoga Alliance accepted applications from non-registered schools and “grandparented” applications from teachers who had extensive experience before the standards were adopted. In a credentialing system, It is customary to accept these types of applications for a certain period of time and when the new policy was adopted, the view was that there had been more than 12-years for qualified teachers to seek the designation under the non-registered school or grandparenting application and that was a sufficient amount of time for adoption of the new standard.

      Mr. Brown’s article calls for more specific and rigorous standards around curriculum, but how do we administer and verify training that was never verified through our curriculum review process in the first place? It is not insurmountable, just very time intensive and complicated to review each of these situations on a case by case basis and still maintain fairness and integrity. How do we set a “line” for who is qualified to earn a credential or not earn a credential in a meaningful way, without diluting the entire system altogether? That said, our standards committee has already begun work on an “alternative pathways” application. This is one of the many items that we are currently working towards in 2014.

      I can’t promise that the new application will resolve your particular situation, but did want you to know that it is part of the Standard’s process we are going through.

    • Bodhi March 30, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

      AMEN.

  44. yogibattle January 13, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    In Iyengar yoga, practitioners have to pass two rigorous assessments. If they are on the “fast track” it takes about 3 years to get certified from the start of teacher training. There are no shortcuts to this method. I believe the Iyengar method will outlive most of the other flash in the pan yogas out there. Once yoga ceases to be a fad, all these 200 RYTs will go on to the next hot trend. That may be sooner than you think, Lululemon’s stock dropped 10 points today.

  45. Lauren Blackham January 12, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

    Thank you James Brown for your article. I am also disappointed by how minimal the requirements are to become a registered yoga teacher through Yoga Alliance. The current state of the yoga world being so unregulated is one reason why I am studying to become a certified Iyengar yoga teacher. I want to be held to a high standard and prove to myself as well as to my students that I am a capable and well trained professional yoga instructor.

  46. Yoga Alliance January 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    Yoga Alliance is far from perfect. We have acknowledged repeatedly that we have much work to do to add rigor and credibility to our credentialing system. But James Brown’s blog post, claiming that “Yoga Alliance is ruining yoga” is misinformed about our role and the real challenges we face; makes broad assertions about sweeping trends in yoga, and provides nothing more than anecdotes to support them; and mischaracterizes the changes that we are presently making to add rigor to our credentialing system.

    It is especially surprising to read such harsh criticism from an individual whose RYS 200 school has been registered with us since 2009 and also recently completed our process to register a 300-hour teacher-training program.

    Mr. Brown notes that Pam Weber, our director of standards, told him that we would not review our current standards until “next year.” What he fails to mention is that the interview was conducted in September 2013. It is now “next year.” In 2014, our Standards Committee will develop more robust ethics standards and will begin the process of revamping our continuing education program and undertaking a thorough review of our current training standards. As part of that review, the committee may decide to consider a certification program for yoga teachers, as Mr. Brown recommends.

    But our first objective, which we have been working towards for the last 18 months, was to ensure that there is meaningful oversight of our current standards. That’s what our new social credentialing system, which was just instituted last month, is designed to do.

    Oversight is critically important for the credibility of our system, because until now we have had no meaningful way to monitor the actions of Registered Yoga Schools. Just as traditional yoga was passed from guru to student, the Yoga Alliance system entrusts the lead trainers of our registered schools to be responsible for delivering a quality program. (Mr. Brown neglects to mention that in addition to the training standards, our credentialing system establishes minimum requirements for training and experience for the teachers at our Registered Yoga Schools.) In the past, there has been no way for us to respond to complaints from students of teacher-training programs that are registered with us, even if the information we received was troubling.

    Let us share with you an example of an RYS that we have received multiple complaints about over the last several years. In the span of three weeks, we received three separate complaints after the school’s most recent training this fall.

    [Editor note: When initially published, this article contained three examples of complaints we received about an unidentified RYS.]

    While these three complaints certainly strongly suggest that the RYS in question falls short of Yoga Alliance standards in multiple ways, our organization does not have the staff or infrastructure to conduct the kind of expensive, time-consuming investigations necessary to verify the accuracy of these complaints. For an organization of our scale (44,000+ RYTs and 2,900+ RYSs in 76 countries) and level of resources, there was nothing we could do but grit our teeth.

    Under Yoga Alliance’s new social credentialing program, the schools’ own trainees will be our “investigators,” providing feedback about their training experience in the form of ratings and comments. The system will provide a wealth of information to potential trainees, along with insight into the school’s culture and training experience. The system will shine a light on the schools that are delivering quality programs as well as those that are not meeting their students needs and might consider a different yogic path.

    Mr. Brown mischaracterizes our social credentialing system and says it is too little too late, but imagine how the school mentioned above would have to change their business practices if these complaints were brought to the light of day. It will take time, but our new system will provide the public and the yoga community with a much clearer picture of the quality of the teacher-training programs that are registered with us.

    “Instead of telling trainings what should be taught, “ Mr. Brown complains, “Yoga Alliance simply requires that a certain number of hours be spent covering each of five areas of study, with no specificity given on how to fill those hours.” He also complains that “no specific curriculum is required to be taught.”

    Mr. Brown is apparently unaware that most yoga teachers and schools don’t want a credentialing organization to tell them precisely how to teach yoga, or that it would be impossible to forge a consensus in the yoga community about a “specific curriculum.” In fact, one of Yoga Alliance’s guiding principles since it was founded in 1999 is protecting the rich diversity of yogic thought and style. That diversity and flexibility is precisely the reason that yoga has survived for 5,000 years and has transcended boundaries of geography, religion, language and culture and spread to every corner of the globe.

    “There are great teachers out there,” Mr. Brown notes in one of his statements that we agree with. “But they are great in spite of Yoga Alliance, not because of it.”

    It is not Yoga Alliance’s role to “create great teachers.” We were established by the yoga community to set minimum standards for yoga teacher-training programs. It is up to the schools that register with us to provide the training that enables their students to flourish, and it is the responsibility of individual Registered Yoga Teachers to practice and study their way to greatness. Perhaps it is this fundamental misunderstanding of the role of credentialing organizations that leads Mr. Brown to lay the blame for all of yoga’s perceived ills at our doorstep.

    Mr. Brown praises William Broad’s column about injuries in yoga that appeared in the New York Times Magazine and his book on the same subject, and quotes him as follows: “Yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011 — means that there is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury.”

    We disagree. We think that the explosion of popularity in yoga means that more people are interested in pursuing the practice for health and wellness and that more people than ever are eager to spread the power of yoga by teaching others about its beauty and the fulfillment and growth it can bring. Does this mean that we think there isn’t room to improve the quality of yoga teaching? As the largest support organization for yoga in the world, no group is more concerned about spreading the power of yoga in a safe, professional and competent manner than Yoga Alliance.

    Namaste.

    Note: This response was originally published on Yoga Alliance’s website on January 9.

    • Sandra Sammartino December 1, 2014 at 3:24 am #

      A MESSAGE TO YOGA ALLIANCE OF AMERICA
      The motto of American Yoga Alliance is “Many paths. One Yoga Alliance.” This is outrageous. Do you want to support this? I don’t.

      There is no hierarchy in Yoga. Yoga means “all one.” All communities are united.

      Everyone finds THEIR PLACE IN YOGA……that’s why there are so many different systems and paths.

      “One light. Many are the paths— in all things”.

      I, personally, am for inclusiveness in all things. NOT exclusiveness.

      As co-founder of Yoga Alliance of America I am disappointed in their direction and refuse to support their hierarchy. I am removing their name from all of my postings.

      (Please share my message with as many Yogis as possible.)

      If you need to discuss this with me please email sandra@sammartinoyoga.com

  47. Julie January 11, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    Thanks for writing this post. It presses buttons in many of us who practice and teach. I have been a teacher since 2002 and since joining the YA, I have managed to dodge all emails from them by sending them to spam. I have never been asked whether I am a member of the YA and it doesn’t seem to matter if I am teaching a class as an audition/subbing a class. I live in a physically competitive area of Colorado where hot yoga is the name of the game and there are teachers that are complete liabilities to the health and well being of their students. These teachers push my buttons and my hope is that no one will get hurt ‘just trying scorpion to be brave’. It is dangerous out there in a yoga class in America. The YA sets sub-standards, yes this is true. But who can really make a true living as a yoga teacher only – very few – studios pay $2 per student or $35 per class without paying for gas money or offering any benefits at all except free tissues. The star celebrity teachers who go to Manila, Singapore, Mexico, Bali – are just that – celebrities, wealthy and beautifully photoshopped. They have headshots, great websites, fantastic commitments to posting tweets and facebook posts about themselves and those that love them. It’s a game we all play, let’s be honest. It is the everyday balance of yoga between detecting your own bullshit and practicing yoga to clear the bullshit so that you can live with yourself and then serve others. Quote as many sanskrit sutras as you want. Don’t play uplifting music in your class. Have a bad personality. But go ahead teach Iyengar style alignment infused with Ezraty, Marino, Ashtanga- whatever. Oh yeah, and believe your way is the only way even though you are open to all types of yoga. Here is your bullshit detector. Your ego running wild. Your credentials. The letters RYT, ERYT, Ph.D that will hold you hostage. How is this serving a higher self right now? It is not because there is no acceptance of the lack of professionalism in Modern Yoga and the YA. Maybe the way it is right now is just perfect because we are all learning and learning sometimes means change can take a lot of time. Maybe practicing for 18 years is nothing but a drop in the pan. But maybe just maybe after each class I am blessed to teach (and no I don’t teach headstand on a whim – EVER), my american students get to lay down in savasana and experience a moment of peace that will bring them joy from the everyday stress of american life.

  48. Ryn Muat January 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    I fully agree with the core of this post. But I do wonder what the author (and others in the community) think about this language for optional headstand (see below). It’s what I’ve absorbed from the community of teachers I’m a part of and I feel like it frames the pose as something that shouldn’t necessarily be jumped into in a first class.

    “If headstand is a part of your practice, you have time to move into it now. If you’d like a spot wave me over.”

    Or – do you think any time a challenging, risky pose is mentioned, alignment and set up should be fully talked through?

    Thank you for putting this message out there about the Yoga Alliance.

    • Claudia January 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

      Hi Ryn,
      Just a quick line to address your question about the phrasing:
      “If headstand is a part of your practice, you have time to move into it now. If you’d like a spot wave me over.”
      I think there are definitely some people who (usually because of ego) would try a headstand even if they were not prepared and had never been instructed into the asana before. There are plenty of times when yogis look at what others are doing and give it a shot. They may not realize how risky that posture is.

  49. matthew remski January 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    James, it seems to me that the market forces driving YA programming/standards decisions are equally discouraging to independently-minded teachers who might want to form alternative credentialing options.

    About four years ago, as co-director of Yoga Community Toronto, I helped to convene a little symposium for yoga studio owners to discuss the state of the industry. Two results were clear. 1. Everyone was unhappy to the point of embarrassment over the YA standard slump and accountability vacuum. 2. Nobody was interested in really beginning the uncomfortable discussion of what self-regulation would mean. I.e., nobody wanted to submit their programming to peer review. It was a weird meeting, beginning with enthusiasm, and ending with a distinct lack of trust.

    This difficulty is less a moral failing I believe than a product of the capitalist entrepreneurial model of studio ownership, and the proprietary attitudes that evolve from the marketplace. I think that top-down reorganization is a hopeless idea, because the yoga industry has completely abdicated authority to the consumer model. I don’t see how this will change.

    The only thing I can think of that uses the consumerism problem against itself could make use of the substantial infrastructure that YA has in place already and might look like this. Continue to engage YA in discussions of the need for higher standards. As state regulators continue to move in, it will naturally bump ahead in the agenda. But then, allow those improvements to be generated from the results of a survey that YA members would have to complete to recertify for the year. It would ask a few simple questions, such as: 1. Which aspects of your YTT should be improved? 2. How many more hours do you think would be necessary to add to your YTT programme to fulfill those improvements? 3. What injuries have you sustained through yoga? 4. What injuries have you witnessed most often in your students? And so on. The results would be analyzed by an interdisciplinary panel, tasked to come up with binding recommendations to serve breadth and safety. This would be consumer data, usable to frame better service. YA-affiliated studios would have far less ground to resist on, if raised standards are presented as a public demand.

  50. Sasha Stone January 10, 2014 at 9:57 am #

    I’ve been mulling this over more and actually feel that the bulk of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the teachers and studios that are churning out “grads” like a yoga factory. My teacher (Dr. Linda Lack, Thinking Body-Feeling Mind) has a very long and involved process for her certification program that she has established based on her own set of standards, completely removed from what Yoga Alliance dictates. Though I am certified with YA and have countless hours of teaching experience, I am not yet certified in her technique. I have the utmost respect for her approach as it is all about quality rather than quantity. We have a small and intimate group of teacher trainees who are fully dedicated to this practice, technique, and teaching it to the best of our abilities.

  51. myrna composto January 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    So many good comments here, I am one of those older teachers who has been teaching 40 years. I lived in an ashram for 3 months and did yoga with Swami Vishnudevananda and teacher training there. We learned no anatomy at all. Everyone just did the postures. Of course, we had the Hindu influence, with japa, meditation, and daily lectures with Swamiji. Where I am living now (Bible belt) I am not allowed to use any Sanskirt words or introduce any spiritual philosophy, because it may interfere with the teachings of Christ. I eventually became an Ashtanga practitioner, and now teach some vinyasa. I used to teach headstand and shoulderstand in every class but never teach headstand and rarely teach shoulderstand because the majority of people that come to classes nowadays, just aren’t ready for these asanas, due to weak, tight shoulders. Anyway, I don’t think Yoga Alliance is at fault, I think they could do a better job. Perhaps, they should hire some of the senior teachers as advisors. In the 1970’s those of us who practiced yoga were considered hippies. I think the mainstream popularity of yoga is part of the problem. Of course, that is a good thing, but it does bring all these modern problems.

  52. Kristi January 9, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    This article really struck a chord with me. One thing I’ve found in my teaching is the reception of the clientele. I feel certain classes that I teach from my own heart, filled with the fundamentals and principles that are inherent in yoga are sometimes seen as “religious” or “that hippie stuff” or even just plain “weird”. I think this may be true for many and as a result, we as teachers become more afraid of what we teach and slowly, the quality of yoga dissipates. I have fought through and I know many that do in order to keep the integrity of yoga and our training and I agree that something has been lost recently. I don’t know if the American reaction is part of it, but it is something that I have felt strongly and thought I would share.

  53. Leigh January 9, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    I came to yoga after a lifetime of lifting weights, playing competitive sports, and being concerned about my physical appearance. I had a large ego! My first experience in a yoga class included a 60 minutes heated class with weights and bursts of cardio. I now have a regular yoga practice that includes mindful breath, meditation, anatomy and a deep understanding of the postures and yoga philosophy. My point is that everyone finds yoga in a different way and the important thing is that we as teachers ease them in to the practice, and give them the best opportunity to experience yoga for themselves. I’ve seen just as many first time yoga students decide yoga is not for them too quickly after they come in from their hectic fast paced lives to a room full of chanting, meditation, and too many corrections from their very knowledgeable instructor. This article talks about this great percentage of people that can’t touch their toes or balance on one foot and how we need to safely introduce them to the practice of yoga. So maybe a new instructor wouldn’t be able to do that effectively. Maybe they would. There are also very capable beginning students that don’t yet have the capacity to stick with the level 1 variation when everyone else is moving on. I may never have found or been open to the teachings of the experienced instructors I practice with today if it weren’t for the transition provided to me by a fast paced aerobic type of yoga class that helped me begin to see the benefits of yoga. We can complain that yoga is getting too big and out of control, but our mission as teachers is to spread our yoga teachings far and wide, instead of regulating who has the right to do that, and some of these new techniques and inexperienced instructors are just helping to spread the love of yoga to as many people as possible.

  54. David Schilter January 9, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    Interesting read! I think that yoga schools, in order to collect rather exorbitant tuition fees, have really focussed on pumping out as many graduates as they can. In most cases, the requirements for passing are a joke. They must be stricter. Simply put, a higher fraction of people have to fail these courses. No kidding!

    Cutting costs, and teaching just what is barely necessary to pass YA standards (which are already quite lean already) is what happens. YogaWorks, founded by Ezraty, is no different. I’ve had horrible teachers trained by YogaWorks. But, this article hits the nail on the head – the ultimate cause for this is YAs low standards.

    It all boils down to:

    more trainings approved = more teachers approved = more memberships = more money for YA

  55. Todd Rengel January 9, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    Good article, though it’s incomplete and only part of the story.

    I know after I got done with my 200 hour certification I felt woefully unprepared (and I think I got an amazingly good 200 hour TT in comparison to other programs I’ve heard about). After a 120 hour mentorship, many weekend workshops, another 100 hour continuing education program and 2 years of teaching weekly I now feel somewhat qualified (and my journey as a teacher has really just begun).

    Though I agree 100% that yoga teachers need to be better qualified (I’ve been to some really bad classes), one of the really big problems is the lack of ability to recoup the additional educational cost. How do you require anything that comes close to what’s needed (1,000+ hours?) when the average yoga teacher makes $20-50 per class and pretty much max out at 10-12 classes a week without either burning out or becoming fatigued and not able to deliver a quality experience. That’s $10,400 on the low side and $31,200+ on the high side teaching yoga full time. Most full-time teachers I know don’t come close to 10 classes a week.

    I guess the upshot is that the economics need to fundamentally change if standards are to increase otherwise there’s little incentive (other than an internal desire to be better) for most teachers to get the education required.

    How exactly does that happen? Any thoughts?

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown January 9, 2014 at 8:03 am #

      Although more hours would be good, the point I’m making is that there aren’t even any existing content standards for the 200 hours required currently.

      • Diana January 9, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

        There are so many valid points being made in not only the article but in the comments as well. To stick directly to the point I have often wondered what in the HELL am I paying for if I register with YA as a yoga teacher? It seems like a big scam to me. Where does ALL that money go? I have yet to have a studio owner ask me if I’m registered with YA before they hire me to teach.
        My teacher training was a 1000 hour program at a school registered with YA. After all those hours of training (and additional workshops since) I do not feel qualified to teach most advanced poses, I barely feel qualified to cue the basics.
        It blows my mind that there are teachers commenting here with over 30 yrs experience that are being told they are unqualified to teach by YA. Why? Because they haven’t sent in their check.

  56. S January 9, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    PLEASE talk about a hypocritical bunch of nonsense …. the only thing i could see as a “forward thinking pioneers” it how they have made a business of screwing people out of their money by acting all spiritually superior to others … Yogaworks, talk about a greedy company, pays their teaches a flat fee crap wage for what they do and charges the “yogi’s” an arm and leg to have for each class … plus they have a policy for everything … bet they have one as how they want you to crap in the company bathroom. please this author needs to look at her “teacher” and what a corrupt P.O.S. money hungry company Yogaworks is … PURE HYPOCRITICAL!

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown January 9, 2014 at 7:09 am #

      Hi. The author is a he. My teacher sold YogaWorks ten years ago, when it was two studios in Santa Monica and before it became the company it is now. Did you read past the first sentence?

  57. Sam January 8, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

    I think what is happening may repair itself in time with the public not being as fascinated with some of the more extreme but fun styles of yoga and the temptation these style offer of extreme challenge and of course the ego likes that. Not everyone can do yoga in 40C rooms and not everyone is meant to do a one armed handstand or a put their leg behind their head . When the public starts exploring styles like Iyengar and Yin and Kripula and Integral and mindful yoga I think it will catch on fire that it is cooler to stretch inside then out.
    The problem was not only started by Yoga Alliance but by the fact that the first time a 2 week or 6 week teacher training was allowed to manipulate the calculation of hours as fulfilling the 200 or 500 hour magic mark. These short courses are great and fun and good education. Sadly they in no way really prepare a teacher to actually teach yoga. It has become the modern day pyramid scheme we saw in the 80’s only now you invest a few thousand or 10,000 in a short course and start teaching yoga and you find out wow I cant make a living this way so your answer is of course i will run a teacher training to make more money and share yoga.
    From the onset we all should of said hold on now no way can you gain enough experience or see enough bodies or of done enough yoga yourself in just 6 weeks or even 6 months. Now it has become a standard almost a tidal wave of these trainings and yes Yoga Alliance now perpetuates the issue by almost encouraging this type of training.
    I started yoga at 14 years of age at 16 I signed up to do a teacher training . It was 3 years long. I sat behind the desk. I assisted my teacher . I attended meditations. I cleaned the yoga hall. I went to India and studied with BKS Iyengar for years and years. Then I taught a yoga class. I also completed a degree in Sports science and read about not only yoga but spirituality and self development. I did rebirthing and any other related training i could . From Deep tissue massage to Dance and many other things.It was a true mentorship. I taught individuals and group classes for about 14 years and then I opened my own yoga school and trained my first teacher to help me . I had them follow much the same route as I had. I now realise that I never really studied yoga to become a teacher but to actually become a true student of yoga who loves to share his little bits of insights of yoga with students. I have been teaching now for almost 40 years. At each class I ask every student how they were and any problems i already know about that they have I continually ask them how it feels is it ok in this pose. When a new person comes to a class right there in front of the class i ask them all about there body and health and i emphasise no goals and only go to your edge. I was taught from word go how important this is. Im always hearing from my students how they went to another school and no one even asked them there name let alone about the body. To me that is a bit scary.
    Here is the shame of it. I don’t qualify for Yoga Alliance. I never did a 200 hour yoga course and in the days I was mentored in certificates were not handed out your teachers just said it was time to teach. Of course my teachers BKS Iyengar also do not have certificates from there teachers and currently Yoga Alliance no longer recognises mentorship or teachers that have been teaching for many years outside of the modern day 6 week 200 hour courses.
    Do I get a bit upset when I see huge claims by teachers who actually have not even been practicing yoga for more than a year or two. Well I must admit it gets me a bit when I see these young teachers teaching Master classes and advanced yoga claiming they are a senior teacher when they actually only came to there first class a few years ago. But I take a breath do a forward bend and send them love. It does however concern me .
    I think the first thing is that any training under one year should not be recognised as valid and this should be retroactive for anyone already claiming 200 hours. They just need a bit more training. Second the training should include at least a year of assisting and mentoring with an established yoga teacher. I think that might help a bit. I also think we should all explain to our students that yoga is like a magnet if you have an old injury or unknown problem in you body yoga will pull it out and expose it. The student should see that this can be good as its is better out and worked on than it coming out later when you are much older and not able to deal with the injury as well as when you were 30. I think the concept of only go to your edge should be stronger in our yoga community. I also feel people need to slow down. When I teach the headstand I only allow people to learn it when they area really really ready. Then I use blankets and Iyengar style props and a wall . I lift them up the first time and ask that if anything hurts or strains in the neck to immediately come down and then I check there neck out and give it a good rub and put some tiger balm on it. I also tell people what is the big deal if they can’t do the headstand because it is not good for the way they use their neck .It is just not that important nor is any other pose to risk an injury. We do what we can do and we all need to slow down and watch the flowers grow.
    I could go on and on as it has been 40 years of teaching and well over 40 years of practice but then Im not a qualified 200 hour 6 week teacher training qualified teacher .So who am I to talk. . i say speak up and get your truth out
    Lots of love and support from an old time yoga teacher. By the way Im almost 58 years old and love teaching yoga
    Sam

  58. Lotus January 8, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    ASANA. ASANA. ASANA…. where is the Yoga ? I have also felt frustrated and disillusioned by the YA and the continuos stream of young teachers posting pictures of themselves in handstands with EYRT 500 tagging along beside their names like a university degree. The fact is, if you have the time and money you too can achieve this excellent standing in a relatively short amount of time. Case in point, a student of mine who began his practice with me two years ago is now technically able to instruct a 500 hour training. I ,on the other hand , having studied in India and practiced for over 20 years am apparently not qualified to even obtain the 200 hr RYT. The ashram and school that were my certifying body are not members of the Yoga Alliance. Being a studio owner I never felt the need to obtain the YA stamp of approval , until it became apparent that it was a market demand. When I applied I was informed that I had passed the deadline for “grandfathering senior teachers”. Imagine my surprise to find out I wasn’t a yoga teacher yet ! In spite of this I continue to teach over a thousand hours annually and have opened three yoga studios over the last decade. I hire teachers all the time and their qualifications can be found in the truth they express not the numbers and letters beside their name. Humility is becoming a lost art. Just recently a lovely young woman of 23 years on this planet advertised that she was delivering Satsang every Sunday. She has only been certified for 3 years after leaving her job at Lululemon to pursue yoga, and already she has a written a commentary on the Sutras. Wow. I hear teacher training is next on her radar.
    Great job YA.

  59. B January 8, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

    AS someone who grew up and was trained in the Iyengar system , known for their “rigorous”standards I think this attack is entirely missing the point not to mention the absurdity of blaming Yoga Alliance and not our own Godless cultural milieu that we all live in. Kali Yuga anyone? While I appreciate the Iyengar method on some levels, what they are teaching is a mere introduction to the subject. That even goes for all these so called “senior” teachers. They are practicing more of a form of psychical therapy than they are approaching the depths of a yoga practice steeped in mantra, meditation, japa, spiritual sadhana, and the real higher limbs of yoga that can only be done under a diksha guru which Iynegar is not is anyone who is making their living teaching in a yoga studio. Sorry to say but, yoga in this country hardly even exists. Most of us are mere neophytes with extremely bloated egos because we read the yoga sutras, maybe even started chanting it, or went through whatever many years of public classes or all the other garbage we put on our bios to make us look “experienced”. This stuff takes lifetimes, LIFETIMES! But then again we in the west tend to throw reincarnation out the window as a “nice idea” or philosophy and completely miss the whole point of yoga in the first place….

  60. Richard January 8, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    I’m sure the story is greater than what’s written and the comments attest to that. I read the story – not the comments. I used to manage the Group Fitness department at a popular club in town and I hired yoga teachers with little training. 200 hours seemed like a big deal and some folks made it seem as much. I regret those hires, not because they weren’t the right people but because I felt the need based on internal pressures at the club. I used to practice yoga a lot and after a few years stopped. I didn’t feel it and it seemed the more I went the more I felt many folks either couldn’t do it well or it was elitist. Granted, my feelings and emotions most likely got in the way but I struggled. Even my so called great teacher, who traveled to India every year was all wound up. She was this guru of a sort to many and I thought she was sweet but not a sage by any means. I attended a yoga class a few days ago. Is been at least 5 years since in a yoga class. It was pretty good and I’d like to continue but I want it short and peaceful. No more than maybe 20-30 minutes. I want to feel like it’s yoga and have it in my heart.

    I want a teacher who studied what it was like to be a yogi and not a business person per say. Someone who respects its roots.

    I wouldn’t open a Japanese restaurant because I’m not Japanese. I honor the culture and step aside to those who are the essence of the culture.

    Yoga seems the same for me. I want a teacher who is the essence of the culture, not a health club group fitness instructor AKA yoga teacher.

    I don’t know how the industry got to where it is today. It seems there are many bodies but few minds.

    I don’t know what I want or how to find it but it seems I sense yoga has become like diet pills – easy to buy and most having little or lasting beneficial impact.

  61. Gordon January 8, 2014 at 8:48 pm #

    I cannot disagree with the points raised in your article. It is clear, well thought out, and has merit on many fronts.

    However I would add something. And that addition is the principle of taking full responsibility for one’s living. It is only when I fully accept that I have brought myself to “here” that I can be completely empowered and know that I may take myself from “here” to “there”.

    How does this relate to the topic at hand? The responsibility for being fully and properly trained has to be owned by me. It is not up to the government. It is not up to my peers. It is not up to my school. It is not up to a registry – though they may be helpful and play a role (or not). I have to value being a professional. I have to understand the commitment and gravity of my choices.

    So for me, while I am registered with Yoga Alliance, IT is not the marker I use to convey to others that I am serious, well-trained, and qualified – nor should it be.

    For whatever it’s worth, Yelp actually carries more consumer shopping weight than a YA registration.

    • amphibi1yogini April 12, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      Absolutely, about Yelp!

      So is commenting RELENTLESSLY to the ubiquitous global yoga blogs that will mention pushing the student into certain inversions such as headstand or handstand, whether via a classroom or a virtual classroom. Unless the student is strong, healthy, athletic and/or preternaturally talented they have no business being coached whether in a class or via virtual means into these … in so doing I anonymously call out any and all teachers who did me wrong. To a global audience.

      Even if it never gets back to the original teacher (and they actually go their merry way) … the seeds have been planted in the source of their dollar-votes. Some who could have gone far, have left off primarily teaching yoga … word does get around, without anybody getting sued.

      And Yelp goes very, very far at the local level. A certain yoga studio I went to had to retrain ALL of its teachers in a more alignment-oriented style from the fairly aerobic hatha-vinyasa (with martial arts influences) supposedly 8-limbs-oriented style they’d had before. Yes! Partially because I’D practiced there*, lived to Yelp about the tale; got a mild injury two different places elsewhere (but the injuries were physical and NOT psychic–which can be worse!!!).

      *(They are part of a small chain of studios. OTHERS in the chain did not such thing, to my knowledge.)

      • amphibi1yogini April 12, 2014 at 10:31 am #

        I meant to say, “coached AND prodded silently from behind into these poses before they exhibit the energy and control (as well as the necessary foundational alignment) to be able to easily assume and stay in the pose – because they DO let go, and they DID in my case despite my protestations – have me stay in it for 30 seconds which felt like 10 minutes to ME, and my muscles had been in SEARING pain …”

  62. Marcia January 8, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    I appreciate this article.. I am a 500 hour Kripalu Educator and I was mentored. I am not a member of the Yoga Alliance
    I loved my 200 YTT and I loved all the hours and years I spent at Kripalu learning from great teachers. I teach mostly beginners, gentle, and restorative yoga.. My students do not get hurt and I am grateful for that
    No one ought to get hurt in Yoga….yet I know it happens. Listening to your body is the most important aspect of my yoga and what I remind my students each time I teach

  63. Kristen January 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    I agree with your initial statements that we are furthering the neurosis in this country. I also agree with the fact that teachers are not being taught correctly. I attended one of the premier YTT programs in my area. They stressed the importance of not injuring and being mindful of your students limitations. However, I come from a 20 year medical background in orthopedics and physical therapy. (And have seen an increase in patients with yoga injuries) I already had solid knowledge to work with. Given that many teachers come from varied backgrounds, they are only being taught the surface of anatomy and physiology, which sometimes, as in my program, is not always completely accurate. In a few months of schooling, it is impossible to learn and understand all that is necessary. Teachers should be educating themselves continuously and specifically to their student population. I specialize in injury prevention and rehab yoga and am not very marketable to studios because my focus is safety, alignment and answering students questions. I limit the classes I teach to 15 max. so that I can devote attention to each student. Not a week goes by that I don’t research some anatomy and how certain poses could benefit my student with the ankle instability, or the excessively tight hip and low back. Many of my students have tried studios or gym’s and come in telling me how fast the sequence was and how intimidating it was to just have to try and keep up. I myself have been disappointed with some classes that I have attended for the lack of anatomical awareness and the need to make the class as difficult as possible. I am not a RYT with Yoga Alliance because of everything you have mentioned. I’m not sure what their purpose is and I’m not going to send them money for a letter. As yoga professionals we are there to nurture, teach and include. Our focus need not be on our credentials or how great our class looks, but on the actual outcome of how we honor the yoga tradition and allow people to learn about themselves and their bodies and leave feeling better than when the came in, both mentally and physically.

  64. David Scott Lynn January 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    I agree that there are a lot of teachers out there who are not “qualified” to teach yoga safely and effectively. I also agree that proper education of yoga teachers, and MUCH higher standards of competency, would be a big help. … I also believe Yoga Alliance is perpetuating the myth that such a thing can even be done by some sort of institution or agency that is much removed from where the Real Action happens, in the actual yoga studio..

    As long as it stays at the truly local, private level, at the level of the teachers & students, of the studios, it stays real & relevant. And if it’s a large network of studios, keep it at the level of peaceful free-enterprise competition & cooperation. Resist the temptations to *lock in* their status and profitability by pushing for some sort of protection (which is really a politicized, economic monopoly) by The State.

    Yes, there will be mistakes and injuries. … The Solution is to encourage an Open Environment of Communication & Feedback between students, teachers, & administration. The well-being of the student must always come first, and the students need to truly KNOW that. Otherwise, if they get hurt, they are likely to leave, never to be heard from again, and you won’t know why.

    Then, with your new-found competencies, you use smart MARKETING & PR to get the word out. THAT is what best elevates the profession.

    I would be very careful about ANY attempts to “standardize” or “regulate” any of this on any collectivist, national or legislative basis. These have their own, counter-intuitive dangers potentially leading to even bigger problems. And they seldom do much, if anything, to Protect The Public. That’s one of the Great Myths of The State, that somehow they can protect The People from bad practitioners.

    These ideas of *higher standards* have appealed to would-be *social engineers* all through history. People want to believe they, or someone they respect, are the solution to such issues. The Cult of the Expert, so carefully cultivated by the so-called Experts in this country and others, has dominated the 20th Century, and now the beginning of the 21st, with often terrible results.

    Yet, all we have to do is look at what the medical journals say about the field of medicine, which is arguably one of THE most high-educated, standardized & regulated professions there is, with the Police Power (fines, jails & guns) to back it up:

    *Iatrogenic* means doctor or treatment induced deaths or harm to the patient. … Iatrogenic harm is among THE leading causes of death in the United States. (In 2000, it was already the 3rd leading cause. And that is just the deaths, not the other severe mishaps.) And these statistics come not from fringe publications, but from the Journal of American Medicine itself.

    For an overview:

    http://www.yourmedicaldetective.com/public/335.cfm

    Here is the source article (referred to in above link) from the AMA and JAMA:

    http://www.avaresearch.com/ava-main-website/files/20100401061256.pdf?page=files/20100401061256.pdf

    So, if standardization of education & regulation of a profession or trade is a guarantee of competence by practitioners and safety to the public, why is iatrogenic disease so prevalent? If all the money & resources thrown at *modern* medicine can’t get it right, how can yoga or Yoga Alliance? … If they cannot do it, even with guns to enforce their standards, how can YA do it?

    ANSWER: Higher levels of education & regulation are NOT a guarantee of anything, except higher costs and an eventual downgrade of the service or product.. In fact, the legislative institutionalization of anything tends to isolate it and deprive it of its early vitality and creativity. Most studies show that the more regulation & standardization one has, the lower the quality, the lower the competence, the lower the levels of innovation, and the higher the costs. … Licensing turns out to be MUCH better for the practitioner than it is for The Public.

    Once you start studying this, you’ll see why. Stanley Gross, back in the 1980s, wrote a book titled *Of Foxes and Henhouses.* In it he described what really happens when professions become regulated by The State. The following link is to a PDF summary of his findings:

    http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa079.pdf

    We can take an example from the field of massage therapy: I argued back in the 1980s, when the industry was just starting to move toward nationwide standards and regulation by The State, the profession would take a downturn as a result. And that has indeed happened. In fact, the late Robert K. King, one of the past presidents of the AMTA (American Massage Therapy Association) and a Client of mine, in the early 1990s began announcing that I had been correct, and the negative consequences were already showing up back then, 20 years ago. It has only gotten worse:

    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=14422

    http://www.massagetoday.com/mpacms/mt/article.php?id=13765

    Yes, there are a LOT more massage therapists now. The profession has, in some ways, benefited, and become more *legitimate.* Yet if you talk to the more widely knowledgeable practitioners (such as the two articles above), the quality of available therapists has trended downward, and compensation for therapists, even good ones, has begun trending downward. That, while the corporate massage business had gotten very profitable, up to a point. But even they are not doing as well, according to various recent reports.

    Then, there’s the fact that as the profession gets standardized and regulated, the profession gets co-opted by Big Business. “Standards” then increase (I intentionally did NOT say “improve”) so much that everything moves toward corporatism, and the small schools can no longer comply with the regulations. It costs too much. (This was an anti-competition tactic begun by big corporations 100 years ago in America, especially in medicine.)

    As it did long ago in medicine, the nexus of the primary relationship — between the actual provider of service and the consumer — moves increasingly away from that personal, fundamental level, and The System, especially who pays for it, becomes what’s important. As in most collectivist endeavors, eventually, individuals get sacrificed for the good of the collective. That’s happening to a lot of doctors right now.

    This is the same as when people say they like Spirituality, but not Religion. Once you start defining, organizing & codifying pretty much anything, a nearly inevitable de-humanization usually occurs as power gets centralized, and the power-hungry, the Know-It-Alls, take over. The activity begins to lose its Vital Spirit. Vast resources now go to trying to coral everyone, to organize it all, to comply.

    I believe ALL those resources should stay with the individual people, such as yoga teachers, and the actual businesses, meaning the yoga studios. It is at that fundamental human level that the best, most creative, most useful work gets done. This is in part because the focus stays close to where it belongs, in the room where the Student & Teacher actually interact. NOT where everyone is worrying about compliance issues, how to pay for the latest CEUs, or how come the national board members aren’t doing what you think they should be doing.

    Ask the average doctor now-a-days how much time he or she spends on just managing the insurance paperwork, or making sure he is in compliance with the latest regulations. … And you know that if Yoga becomes part of the *official* health care system, most of everything will be decided by someone else anyway, NOT you or your student.

    Even without all that, WHO would determine what constitutes “proper” education? There are some world-class yoga gurus out there who have hurt quite a few people — be it physically or emotionally, and their stuff & style is still being taught by others. There are graduates of YA approved schools teaching stuff *I* personally think is disastrous. (I am a one-on-one therapist who fixes many of those disasters. I use yoga therapy and yoga-based, hands-on bodywork to do so.)

    Then, there’s Physical Therapy. I’ve had countless Clients tell me stuff about what their PT tried to make them do, or they actually did. I could only shake my head in disbelief. (Such as, trying to “strengthen” a patient who already had too much tension & stress induced pain in their body from injury and/or trauma, with muscles as tight as cables. They need relaxation, lengthening & balancing, NOT more *strength.* That will come later.) But to say that PTs are necessarily better at healing people than yoga teachers is a part of the Cult of the Expert we are all supposed to believe. … Sometimes they are, sometimes not. Depends on the therapist, and the situation at hand.

    Finally, there is the Yogic Principle of Ahimsa: non-violence. … Look up “state” in any comprehensive legal encyclopedia. THE defining characteristic of a “state” is that it has a monopoly on the use of the Police Power — guys with guns, with threats of violence if you don’t pay the fine, go along peacefully, or whatever — to execute & enforce it’s activities.

    Therefore, ANY use of The State to define, standardize, legislate or control around yoga is BY DEFINITION the advocacy of violence to enforce that agenda. And if it in any way limits WHO can become a yoga teacher, then it is a violence-enforced, economic monopoly.

    Once we start going down that path, the politicization of the process becomes very difficult, maybe impossible, to stop, let alone reverse. Like Leslie Kaminoff (Yoga Anatomy) used to say, the best solution is to not start. Keep everything at the truly private, de-centralized, local, and HUMAN level, which is what societies are slowly moving toward now anyway (despite what the elitist centralists are attempting to do in retaliation against that trend).

    Go with that more Human trend, not the anti-Human trend toward violence-based centralization and authoritarian control.

    • Doug Cummings January 9, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      Well, you sure have given anyone willing to read your whole post a lot to contemplate, David.

  65. Hyoga January 8, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    good article, the only problem for me is, because I run a school my state requires us to file with the YA for “setting the standards” however many of the schools in my area are pumping out teachers who hardly qualify as teachers, I have re-trained many, and our state considers what YA says as “good enough” or “the standard”. I recently called them about teachers being required to be cpr or aed certified to gain their certificate they told me that although that is noble to require this as a school they don’t see this as necessary. Really?

  66. Aruna - Young Yoga Masters January 8, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

    I’m also a fan of the Science of Yoga book by William Broad and feel it has been overlooked by they yoga community so I was glad to see it referenced here. I had to do a lot of yoga un-learning after reading it!

    That being said, I don’t see the jump that all these injuries are the fault of Yoga Alliance. It’s a bit too easy a target to fling arrows at. Good and bad yoga teachers are both registered and NOT registered with YA. It’s not like all the bad teachers are with Yoga Alliance. While Yoga Alliance is certainly not perfect, I like that it is a non-profit and so directed by a board. There is room for improvement with this model.

    In my specialty, kids yoga, there are currently many kids yoga teacher trainings that are only one weekend long. People take them and then go out and teach yoga to children with 20 hours or less of teacher training. I’m relieved to see Yoga Alliance raise the standard for kids yoga teachers to 95 hours plus a 200 hr RYT training. Complying with these standards has actually been hard on my business in terms of registration because people still think, “why should I take such a long course?” I’m glad to have YA standards as a back up for these extra hours of training even though many kids yoga teachers don’t bother to meet that standard.

    The fact is, right now, all yoga certifications are voluntary. Which begs the question: Would you rather see Yoga regulated by Yoga Alliance or by governments?

  67. Stef January 8, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

    Some beautiful words…

    “The fixation of flowing from one thing into the next is just another neurosis. We’re furthering the neuroses of this culture.

    “The populations we are teaching, for the most part, sit in chairs all day and rarely lift anything heavier than an iPad. Then they come to a yoga class where, for an hour or more, they flow quickly through poses, bearing weight in an unfamiliar way on their wrists, spines, and knees. It’s tragic that these poses, that can do so much to benefit sedentary bodies and racing minds, are instead hurting these weak joints and deepening an already troubling familiarity with, and desire for, getting to the next thing- the exact malady that yoga was invented to help heal. In fact, teaching any of the poses well requires an understanding that comes from deep study and long-term practice.”

    But then also a lot of blame…which is not yoga. If we truly understood yoga, we would not be encouraging more restriction, we would be encouraging more freedom. We are trying to get yoga to fit into modernized western greed & it’s not going to work no matter how many regulations we put on it because the more we try to fix in this consciousness, we may eliminate one problem but create several more in the process.

    Drs. are currently paying a lot of money to learn what pharmaceuticals companies want them to know.

    The truth is we have to get the information out there and we have to stop wanting credit for it or wanting to be rewarded for our experience or wanting to make more restrictions or more schools for more money.. How does that work in a society where we live by the almighty dollar? It either does or it’s not yoga.

    If we really delve into the depths of yoga, our minds, we don’t wear $100 pants and drink our of plastic water bottles when people are suffering all over the world.

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown January 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Thank you. I am curious where you got this definition of yoga- that is is more about freedom than it is about restriction. All of my experience, and the texts, have taught me that yoga practice is about balancing the two, and that discerning harmful patterns from beneficial ones, what you call blame, is a profoundly important part of one’s path.

  68. Stef Binder January 8, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    Very disappointing as an up and coming yoga teacher. I am trying to do as much as I can to learn the practice in its most raw form and maintain the ancient practices. Yoga has been turned into a trend and in doing so has been turned into a business. When this happens the true and pure form of the practice is lost. There is a book called Yoga Inc. That explains the process of how western society has completely degraded the practice by turning it into a business.

  69. Shirley Pastore McCormack January 8, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    I loved Mr. Broad’s book, and the ongoing concerns with the morphing practice known as yoga in the US. I originally started yoga upon the recommendation of a doctor, got a lot out of the practice, and became a yoga teacher. Because of my physical history, I can’t tell you how concerned I am with the way yoga is taught. By becoming a teacher, I was hoping to bring more of the original yoga back to classes – especially for people with physical restrictions and “newbies” who try to take on too much.

    In my time as a teacher and student, I’ve met yoga teachers who have become “certified” via online courses (!!!!), met teachers who are more interested in looking at their mirror reflections than actually teaching the class, have seen classes run at such a fast pace that the (mostly inexperienced) students are unable to keep up (forget about form), and have seen teachers promote dangerous poses such as the headstand and shoulderstand without any guidance, and in a crowded room where students have fallen on one another.

    This is yoga?

    What about breath work, meditation, self-reflection? What about the teachings of Patanjali? Sorry, that won’t bring in money – time for hot vinyasa….

    The discipline, like many others, has fallen victim to capitalism with no professional oversight. Let’s face it folks, as others have said, it’s about making money and brushing egos.. Yoga apparel makers with questionable work and sales tactics selling clothes you don’t really need (unless you’re scouting for a date in class), gurus with followings, specialty yoga supplies. Studios have popped up on virtually every corner in my area of the country, all teaching the latest in “hot” and “power” classes for fit 20-30 somethings willing to spend their money, ignoring the very essence of what yoga is in order to make a buck – and ignoring the populations that could most benefit from yoga in its original form.

    My master teacher warned me and my classmates on what being an “RYT” versus a certified teacher was. Unfortunately, outsiders don’t understand that the Alliance is simply a directory, nothing more. Without the “RYT” or “RYS” designation, however, it is difficult to build perceived respect and bankability with the population at large.

  70. Patrick January 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I am very skeptical, though unfamiliar, with yoga alliance. But in no way do I believe they can be held wholly responsible. I trained with a non-alliance yoga outfit who, without ever supervising my teaching, put me out to teach 60+ classes. Without once watching me in a classroom environment to see if I was doing damage or creating risk. I wasn’t, but not due to their diligence. Yoga Alliance might be part of the problem, but the greed and lack of integrity in ourselves is closer to the true source.

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown January 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

      If Yoga Alliance’s standards were higher, the bar would have been raised, and a poorly trained teacher would not have a job.

      • siobhan mcauley January 9, 2014 at 9:19 am #

        I couldn’t agree more!

        I remember when the YA was just being formed and it’s ridiculous that in all these years they have not been held accountable for upgrading their requirements.

        Thank you for opening up a much needed discussion on this subject and being willing to put yourself in the hot seat. I’m happy to sit there with you James.

        Siobhan

  71. Lisa January 8, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    I agree that set standards would be helpful, and that there ARE teachers out there teaching beyond their skill set. I also know (as a teacher) that American egos and patience are diametrically opposed. Even with guidance and assistance, I see students ignore coaching on how to do a pose so as not to injure themselves or better yet not do it at all.

    Students have come to class that have been ‘practicing for 20 years’ and have horrendous body mechanics. Whether or not previous teachers tried to help, I don’t know. But there have been quite a few student egos that not only didn’t heed my advice, but rebuffed it and responded with attitude.

    As teachers we have a responsibility to do research and take classes to fill in the ‘anatomy training’ gaps. As students we have a responsibility to be receptive and open and truly listen to our bodies. And be willing to NOT do a pose, and experience acceptance.

    • theladyofabundance March 16, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

      Excellent point! With ANY physically demanding activity the student has to take some personal responsibility. If your doctor told you that the extreme heat in hot yoga is bad for your high blood pressure and you go anyway, how is that the teachers fault? If the doctor says your prosthetic knee should not get in the habit of flexing beyond 120 degrees on a regular basis as it wears down the part more quickly; and you put yourself in poses of extreme knee flexion- that is not the yoga teacher’s fault. It is not the Yoga teachers responsibility to know ALL of that.

      Yoga teachers or anyone for that matter can not be the singular epitome of all knowledge medical or otherwise. Thats why there are specialists and “together” we can improve people’s lives. But the student has to take sincere and honest participation in this endeavor.

  72. tiina veer January 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm #

    First, I think that blaming the Yoga Alliance for all the ills in modern western yoga is misguided. I agree with the need for the Yoga Alliance to continue to improve at being a better credentialing body, but to blame them wholesale is not fair. They may be the largest yoga registry, but most registry’s and self-regulating yoga associations have set the bar at 200hrs of training for yoga teachers. It’s (sadly) become the industry standard, Yoga Alliance or no Yoga Alliance. I agree that 200hrs is paltry (and that 20hrs of anatomy instruction is a joke) considering we are teaching people to do physical acts that they may not have done since they were a kid, if at all. Not to mention that with yoga having become so mainstream, it’s attracting all kinds of folks with all kinds of physical issues. I frequently tell yoga teachers that it’s not just the young, active, fit/uninjured and lithe that are coming to yoga anymore, and that we have to be prepared for that. Two hundred hours of training (even 500) is a good starting point, but so much more training is necessary to become a truly well-rounded teacher.

    I think something that doesn’t get spoken of enough in the yoga community is the issue of class size. I offer continuing education trainings to teachers and frequently pose the question: “if you are teaching classes of 25, 30, 50… are you really teaching yoga, or are you simply leading a group through a series of movements?” I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the latter, but I think it’s important that we be honest with ourselves about the difference. In a world where students evaluate yoga teachers (and yoga teachers evaluate themselves and other teachers) by the size of their classes, and where yoga studios have staggering rents to pay for the large footprint of space required, classes seem to be getting ever bigger. My personal belief about large yoga classes is that it’s impossible to offer any individual attention, it’s impossible for a teacher to have their eyes on everyone for safety, and it’s very difficult to offer adaptations or alternatives well or meaningfully. The truth is, teaching yoga to a group is always a compromise. Yoga of yore was always something between guru and disciple, the guru prescribing practices specific to a disciple’s unique constitution, proclivities, strengths, etc. Teaching a group will always mean we have to generalize the practice. This is not inherently a bad thing, but again I think we need to be honest with ourselves about the difference.

    My personal preference is to teach small classes. I have a dedicated classroom for my yoga program with a maximum capacity of 10 or 11 students, with students still having breathing room between their mats. I can keep my eye on everyone, I get to know my students, I can offer individual attention and adaptations and alternatives. However, because of the high rent I pay, especially being in the downtown area of a major metropolis, it is a struggle to keep my program sustainable, and further, I’ll never be able to offer my students classes at lower fees. I often say to myself that I’m glad I have a small classroom because it keeps me from being tempted to take more students per class. Many studios fill their spaces with as many students as they can because it’s what keeps them open. Teachers strive for big classes so they can take home more than a few bucks for their time and effort. And to those teachers who look down their noses at teachers who are concerned with profitability, I encourage them to check their privilege–if you’ve got the luxury to teach for free or next to it that is a huge blessing, but you clearly have another source of income to support yourself. We don’t live in a culture that values spiritual practice, none of us as teachers has anyone offering us alms to continue our teaching. We all have the right to be able to earn enough to support ourselves. It is indeed a conundrum. After having said all of that, I don’t know what the solution is, but I do think that large class size is a big issue vis-a-vis quality of experience for the student.

  73. Derek Beres January 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I certainly agree with your points on Yoga Alliance—I interviewed the new director last year and was very unimpressed with the organization’s refusal to change their anatomy requirements, especially given that over half the time allows for ‘chakras and nadis.’ That’s fine for the philosophy section, but that has nothing to do with real anatomical and physiological knowledge. I also appreciate you citing Broad when so many others have talked negatively about him. I hope you have read his entire book and not just the article, for it is an excellent read and covers much more territory than what was put forward by the Times.

    Your blanket assessment of Vinyasa is rather disturbing, however. I’m not sure if it was your intention, but you basically stated that flowing from pose to pose serves no purpose. This not only creates a dogmatic atmosphere in which you’re heralding the Yogaworks style as ‘true’ yoga, but it also serves to denounce those of us who came to yoga from other styles of movement, like dance and martial arts. While I occasionally visit Yogaworks for a class, there is plenty there that I don’t agree with from an anatomical standpoint, so I would not credit this school as the gold standard either. That is not to say I do not appreciate the rigorous anatomical training that is undertaken there. It’s just not the end-all of yoga.

    Having taught Vinyasa for ten years, I too take issues with speed being the focus of any class. I’ve been in too many classes where the ‘five breaths’ of the teacher really equaled about two before moving on (including at Yogaworks). Yet for ‘Type A’ people who come to class, consistent movement is the only way that puts them into a space where they feel comfortable meditating at the end of the practice. I’ve heard from a number of such people that slow yoga practices don’t appeal to them for they never get into their body enough to actually quiet their mind. There are two approaches you can take to this: 1. Say they’re not really practicing yoga and claim they won’t until they can slow down their asanas, or 2. Prepare their brains for slowing down through rigorous movement. The first is dogmatic and not applicable to a number of people. The second really works for some, so I would not see why we should alienate them and claim they’re not ‘really doing yoga.’ (I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. I’m only following through to one conclusion based on your ‘flowing’ statement.

    • Profile photo of James Brown
      James Brown January 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

      Sorry if I was not clear. I have been a practitioner of Ashtanga yoga for about 18 years now. And I taught vinyasa flow yoga for about 10 years. I love vinyasa. The statements in the article refer to the need to be in the next moment constantly. I don’t believe I ever said that there was anything wrong with vinyasa, a word whose meaning I am very well aware of. Vinyasa is brilliant, it’s not a list of poses. In this article, my intention was to discuss the incredibly low standards for teacher trainings, not to endorse or condemn any style of practice. I have room for all styles and respect them all.

    • bradd graves January 9, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Derek,

      Ayurveda, the south Indian forms of yoga I teach (e.g. shadow yoga), as well as my own experience indicate that there are fact many people with high levels of ingrained stress (type A’s, in your terms), who do indeed need plain old exercise before they can begin to perform yogasana or the other limbs in any effective way. Fast vinyasa asana that expends energy and takes people’s breath away has moved into the realm of plain old exercise, and is in fact not yoga, IMHO, however necessary it may be. I do tell my clients that “this thing were doing here is “vyayam,” sanskrit for exercise, and we’ll get to the yoga in the second half of session, or in a few months as the case may be, when you’re ready. I’m mentioning this NOT to start an argument but to point out an instance where imposing standards in the yoga community as a whole is unrealistic. Other thought expressed in this comments thread that indicate that nationwide standardization is a false goal:

      I reject much of the “spirituality” that is taught in YTTs, regarding it as a relatively recent Hindu imposition on Yoga and not really necessary.
      I reject Iyengar’s path of extreme asana as inefficient, undemocratic, and unnecessary to the “true goals of yoga” via patanjali, who didn’t give a hoot about asana.

      This not to assert that these other approaches are wrong for everyone — that is clearly not the case. Only that they are far from right for everyone. And again, I am stating some of “my yoga standards” only to point out that broad “standards” are well nigh close to impossible to get a consensus on, and would very likely be an imposition on a large percentage of equally qualified Yoga instructors who don’t agree with whatever these older yogis sitting around the dinner table are insisting is the true yoga.

      So what could be agreed upon? Physical therapy / anatomy education seems a likely candidate, yet there is already someone on this thread saying that won’t work. What about “correct” forms of an asana? Whoops! there are plenty of schools that do not think rigid alignment is the point of asana.

      It seems the easy solution, if you are concerned about certification, is to simply switch to the already established Yoga Therapists standard that several have mentioned here. I’ve glanced at it and though it does contain certain esoteric elements and mentions limbs of yoga other than asana, it’s main focus seems to be physical therapeutic and clinical applications of asana. Yet I have not met a client yet who gives a hoot about certifications; they have no way to evaluate credentials in any case. They are universally interested in “what works,” and nothing more.

      • theladyofabundance March 16, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

        This is such an interesting thread!

        “I reject much of the “spirituality” that is taught in YTTs.” Thank you! One person’s idea of spirituality is another person’s definition of religious dogma. I have had great yoga classes without the heavy preachy sermons- if I wanted that forced upon me I’d find a church or temple. I’m not saying we can’t benefit from a code of ethics, compassionate meditation, etc. I just think it gets really sticky when we start trying to define spirituality and what we “think” is best for our students.

        I was perusing my RYT 200 when I learned about physical therapy. After I concluded my RYT 200 I entered school to become an assistant to a Physical Therapist. A Physical Therapist now has a doctorates degree (used to be Master’s Degree). I do not think Yoga teachers need to gain a Doctorates degree or equivalent of training to teach Yoga. Physical Therapists have access to medical charts and private medical histories (that come with a doctors referral) that should not apply to Yoga teachers. Why? Because I don’t think you need them to teach Yoga SAFELY! Besides the costs of going through Physical Therapy schooling vs. the pay of a Yoga teacher is rarely going to equal out.

        For everyone concerned that they have to know anatomy to teach Yoga- well it doesn’t hurt. But I can tell you right now regardless of how many muscle origins and insertions you know, that won’t exactly make you a better Yoga teacher. Kinesiology and orthopedic dysfunctions may be better to study than in depth study of muscles. Then again, I don’t think Yoga teachers have to be doctors, physiotherapists, or physical therapists to give students the wonderful results of doing Yoga.

        Some people’s bodies/joints are not genetically made for superior flexibility; maybe its genetic or degenerative. The idea that if you practice enough you may be able to do the splits; is not applicable for everyone. Yoga teachers that demand or force poses are probably the ones that end up compromising students. Yoga teachers who don’t modify a pose for a student’s comfort or ability; are possibly compromising students.

        Students who go in thinking Yoga teachers are doctors there to diagnose and treat their problems have misleading conceptions of Yoga teachers. Yoga teachers who pretend to be doctors or physical therapists are doing their students a diservice. Not that we can’t all learn form each other but I think we need to be humble enough to confess the limits of our knowledge.

        If a student asks us,”How do I treat my back pain?” We need to say our knowledge is with Yoga only. Back pain can arise from many things and depending on the problem Yoga could make it worse. (Example herniated disk with extreme poses of flexion (forward poses)

        • amphibi1yogini April 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

          @theladyofabundance, Okay, I’m also guilty of that. I’ve had pain in both feet. And I sought help for that, with yoga. There was just so much my insurance (spotty at that time, as well) covered on these problems, at my age.

          For yoga teachers to admit they are not health professionals of a certain stripe? That requires a level of humility that some yoga teachers do not possess.

          One of them sure knew how to throw backbends with tiptoe feet at that problem (something I forgot to mention upthread).

          Can you say, “FAIL”?

          • theladyofabundance April 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

            The problems expressed here are similar to the questions and concerns that arise from the Crossfit movement. Many people are getting hurt in Crossfit. The question is, can people who go to a weekend course to be certified really be qualified to coach? When I went to a Crossfit introductory course the coach straight up told me,”I am not a professional! I am not a doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer. I know Crossfit, I know how it operates and the basics for the moves.” I think thats the sort of humility as you say, that CAN be present… there is nothing wrong with saying you don’t know everything or that you don’t have a legal right to diagnose and treat anyone.

            People go to Crossfit to be stronger or more able bodied. People go to Yoga for similar endeavors. People arrive with preexisting conditions and a history of physical problems that could be minor or very serious. I have to sign a waiver for Crossfit that pretty much states you can get hurt doing physical activities. Some people will be more prone to accident or injury just because of their preexisting conditions.

            A yoga teacher should not be burdened with the highly complicated and vast array of physiological problems that each individual presents. Now, Im all for empowered yoga teachers that know about the body and provide safer modifications/poses etc. etc. but the responsibility to have a doctorates degree to hold a Yoga class if not necessary.

            Granted seeing how healthcare is such a cause for concern and the cost of seeing a doctor is financially difficult for many people; I totally understand why we are migrating to alternative therapies or modalities. But regardless the yoga teacher is still a yoga teacher… and yoga teachers will do well to protect themselves from portraying any illusion that they can “cure” or “fix” people.

            Yoga is amazing and the people I meet in yoga are usually these fantastic, caring, and open minded folks.! But I don’t put the practice on a pedestal for ALL things.

            We live in a society that is out of touch with their bodies and we become stiff and immobile… yoga can help on some level. But Yoga is just ONE part of the spectrum to our personal goals and personal healing. 🙂

    • Doug Cummings January 9, 2014 at 9:14 am #

      Thank you, Derek, for the much needed practical perspective.

  74. Ursa January 8, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    I was really happy when I saw this article… and i have to share what is happening in our little country (2 milion people) we have a lot yoga studios and you can’t belive that 4 of playboy mates are now yogateachers..I am also sad that almost everybody can offer a ttc…teachers which have been thought for a couple of years and see that they can earn more than just with the teching..now they offer a ttc…with no right knoledge and respect to people wich will go to classes in the future…when i see playboy mates which can not strech leg properly and they are selling their names for full classes..make me sad where is yoga in out country and where is respect and focus…so what we can do is…breathe and let it go…respect our yogis and try to look pozitive..namaste!!!

  75. Charry Morris January 8, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Could it be that the most realized teachers simply abdicate themselves from this YA system by offering less expensive training (I.e. Make authentic yoga training accessible) without the alleged And marketable YA stamp of approval? Could it in fact need to start from a yogi who is able to transmit the teachings of yoga without consumerism, spiritual (or Asana sequencing) materialism sharing the wisdom tradition of yoga outside the rational mind and Ego’s illusory “governing body of yoga”? Too many innocent “students” are being taken advantage of by studio owners who make their rent on YA Teacher Trainings. Of course, we all need to research what we end up buying- so to all budding teachers, Buyer Beware!

  76. Adji January 8, 2014 at 11:27 am #

    Oh, wow! this is defenetly a good article to read and the comments ,too. Great job James Brown! I twitter it!

  77. paul chee January 8, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Wow!

    Kind of harsh and direct but spot on. I see this all of the time in my community. Teachers have been trained by teachers who were not qualified to begin with and thus begins the watering down of Yoga. And there are very few opportunities to obtain quality continuing education or any requirements for such.

    I recently had a new student who had taken her first class at another area studio and was asked to do Salamba Sirsasana (supported headstand) in her first class. In my tradition (Iyengar) we would never do that. We only introduce more advanced asanas when the student if fully ready. And we instruct how to come in and out of the asana by demonstrating and then paying close attention while the student is in the asana. While Iyengar Yoga may not be for everyone (but I suggest shopping around for a teacher that is a good fit for you) I can assure you they are well-trained. The fast track to certification is 6 years and you have to demonstrate that you can teach or you do not pass the assessment process. You cannot pay money and get certified by putting in some amount of time. Check out the rigor of the Iyengar Yoga certification process here http://iynaus.org/teach/teach and here http://iynaus.org/teach/certification-and-assessment. Once certified the teacher has to maintain levels of continuing education to keep their certification active and there are many, many levels of certification to attain to. This keeps the teachers learning and growing.

    Thank you for the article.

    Blessings,

    paul at Rushing Water Yoga

  78. Brenda January 8, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Great article, thank you. I for one was recently trained by an awesome teacher to obtain my 200hrs certificate. She knows her philosophy very well, and even her anatomy. The thing that disappointed me is I felt like I needed to be tested more to ensure I knew the anatomy well. We reviewed it in class, but that was all. She did provide good instruction on the postures to ensure getting into and out of them with good alignment and care and that I have taken and taught older women with, but I still feel I am lacking full anatomy knowledge that I am now studying on my own to get a better understanding. YA should have more requirements to schools instructing new teachers to ensure we are helping people and not harming them.

    • Lea January 31, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      Hi Brenda,
      That is a good point. I am also Teacher Trainer and the idea of a 200hr training needs to be taken as a starting point too. It takes time – years – to learn the skills of teaching and no one can be certified a “safe” teacher unless they continue to learn and to pay close attention to their student’s needs. Studying anatomy on your own, or taking another TT course where you will absorb knowledge in a different way are both very good outcomes I think. I often feel a similar way, but from the trainer’s point of view. I present anatomy or have guest teachers offer it in my Vinyasa course, which is about 250 hrs. I also ask students to do some work on their own, but there is not enough time to dig in deeper in a basic level TT. A longer training or courses that are geared toward anatomy could be a great next step for you or any newer teacher. Its all about the process, for practitioners and for teachers. Those that care the most naturally pursue knowledge and become wonderful teachers. Shanti Om.

  79. Margot January 8, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I train teachers in the Iyengar method. The training is a minimum of 3 years AFTER attending classes with a certified Iyengar teacher for 3 years – 6 years before an international exam is taken which involves a written exam, a practice called in Sanskrit which is judged by a panel of 4 senior teachers and then a teaching session also judged by a panel of senior teachers. The candidate must attain 60% in all categories to pass and be able to call themselves an Iyengar teacher. These guidelines are set by our Guru, B.K.S. Iyengar and although arduous, they turn out well trained instructors. This is by no means a “fast track” and it’s not popular with many students who feel they don’t want to commit that kind of time – our world thrives on “instant” whatever it is! Thank you for this article.

    • Maria January 9, 2014 at 6:29 pm #

      Amazing! And yet why am I even amazed — that’s how it SHOULD be… Thank you for this.

    • Lea January 31, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

      Perfect.

  80. Leslie S. January 8, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    I appreciate the sentiments expressed in this article and the comments; however, agree with Grateful and OZ — what, as senior yoga teachers, are we doing about it? If just complaining — then that’s not enough. We can work with YA or we can develop a competing organization to credential training programs.

    Without anything (i.e. Yoga Alliance), the door is wide open for anyone (skilled or otherwise) to teach teachers. At least at this time, there is a bit of standardization (albeit ineffective) offered in order for schools to claim their proficiency to teach teachers. Whether teachers want it or not, an organization to vet/evaluate training programs is needed so that yoga is not ‘ruined’ as programs run rampant.

    As a yoga teacher myself, I would be happy to help anyone who has a better idea or to communicate concerns to Yoga Alliance (they do answer my calls and they respond to e-mails).

    Maty, who I have not met but who is very well respected, has wrung the bells of concern; now what?

  81. Charlotte January 8, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    I agree with much of this article. I also think that there’s more to it than just Yoga Alliance. YA’s substandard standards have fostered the idea among people who joined yoga since the boom began that 200 hours is sufficient training for a teacher. But studios, who make lots of money from their teacher trainings, have consistently resisted any attempts for outside bodies to come up with a way to create real, rigorous standards. Every other profession requires some sort of consistent standards of competence and imposes consequences for unethical behavior. YA is a part of the problem but not the whole of it. We want to be certified and we want it now, just like everything else. Many of the teachers teaching substandard programs are just teaching what they know. They are the product of several generations of 200-hour teacher trainers. The standards for teaching are low because at this point few people know the difference. Being cute, bendy and having a great personality and playlist are enough.

    I, too, am appalled at what I see and hear about. A friend recently attended a class with a fresh-out-of-200-hour teacher who had 40+ people in his “beginner” class. He told people to go into headstand with absolutely no instruction in the middle of the room. My friend said people were falling all over each other, knocking other people down, and the teacher ordered them to go back into it if they fell.

    Also, thanks so much for your response to this article, Maureen. As a person who began practicing in 1982 and studied with Iyengar, Donna Farhi, Judith Hanson Lasater, Pujari and Abhilasha Keays, Mary Dunn and others (and when I say “studied with” I don’t mean taking one or two workshops; I’m talking about many, many workshops, retreats and one-on-ones over decades), I feel that the quality of teaching back then was far superior in the days when there were no “Registered Yoga Schools.” Back then, your teacher actually knew you and was deeply familiar with your individual strengths and deficiencies, and knew whether or not you were ready to teach. I would love to see yoga schools required to be accredited by an entity such as a state department of education.

    • Jessi Farley January 9, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      As a professional in the mental health and a professional in yoga, I see quite a dichotomy of ethics, standards, and regulating. I would like to develop a national yoga association that is as effective as the American counseling associations standards. There is another group for the counseling field CACREP, which regulates counselor educators and programs and gives or takes away credentials to university masters and phD programs and sets the standards on what needs to be taught. I am wondering why our profession of yoga has not developed in the same way. Is it because there is too much money at stake for those who have built their yoga empires on shaky ground? Is the YA getting money from sources whose best interest is in keeping yoga unregulated? Are we as yoga professionals unwilling to approach it like a true profession? Do standards become optional when you adopt a practice from a different culture and shroud it in spirituality? What are we so resistant to when it comes to regulating our profession? That is how any profession grows. It would allow us to better define our profession, have regulated education and experience needed, have ethics and standards and accountability, and increase our reputation as a profession. If you treat a client using a non evidence based theory or cause harm or have sexual relations with your client as a mental health professional, these things have consequences and can end a career, but the yoga profession has no consequences, no body for the people, to protect our students. I would love to change this and have so many ideas for this, but I am not sure how to get a platform to actually get this to happen.

  82. Zat Baraka January 8, 2014 at 8:51 am #

    Thank you got this lucid and important letter. I had lost hope years ago that the deep and authentic teachings of yoga were confined to only a few studios in America.
    Yoga Alliance needs to be put on the hot seat to style up their criteria.

  83. Sara January 8, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    As a student of yoga, having tried many different types from Hatha to Kundalini to Vinyasa and more catch-all “restorative” yoga or pre-natal classes, I’ve had similar concerns. As a student and as a physician I’ve been concerned about the increase in injuries.
    This article is very interesting to me as I knew nothing of the certification process.
    I have avoided classes where I feel the emphasis is purely on fitness. I do not like classes where I feel there is clearly competition going on.
    I currently take classes at my local YMCA. And while the spirituality aspect is not on par with some devoted yoga studios, I do feel my instructors take care to incorporate breathing, awareness, anatomy, and knowledge of limits. I am now aware that I do not in fact know what credentials they hold. I do feel they are proactive in helping their students heed their limitations, do appropriate modifications, and use props correctly. At this point my practice is limited to the “gentle yoga” classes so I believe this emphasis attracts teachers who do care about this.
    But I hear of friends going to various “hot yoga” or other more rapid flow types and I do worry about their safety.

    • Luna January 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

      I completely disagree that yoga teachers should be trained as physical therapists. Clearly you do not understand the scope of the yoga practice. If we had a set of ethics that included “do no harm” and “stay within your scope,” there would be far fewer injuries, not to mention if people your practicing more than one limb of yoga, perhaps we would see more balance in the practice.

      • theladyofabundance March 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

        Absolutely!! Yoga teachers are not meant to diagnose OR treat what they “think” is the diagnoses. Nor should any student be pressured into a pose they feel uncertain or scared to do. Prospective students should speak with a doctor prior to entering any physically challenging activity… be it training for a marathon or martial arts. The times I’ve seen people get hurt is when someone was “diagnosing” or trying to “treat” a problem or force a student to do something they didn’t want to. Yoga teachers do not have access to medical charts or medical histories and nor should they have to. Thats why we modify modify modify.

  84. Chris January 8, 2014 at 8:41 am #

    Part of every yoga training should be training in physical therapy. Physical therapists are the ones who have to deal with whatever went wrong in a yoga class.

    One of the basic poses in a beginning class is to sit cross-legged and turn the torso for a twist. Unfortunately, in our sitting culture, most people cannot even sit properly in that position. They don’t have the flexibility or strength. So instead the sit allowing their pelvis to rock back and their back to curve. So now they have their weight in their lower back and are adding more stress with the twist.

    Really beginners should be doing this on their back, taking that part out of the equation so they can actually do the twist properly.

    Until yoga studios are willing to say, “actually, no, you’re not ready for this class, you need to take this beginner one instead” or otherwise really look at their students and stop them from doing things they’re not ready for, more injuries will result.

  85. Maureen Spencer, RN, M.Ed., EYS500 January 8, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    It was with great pleasure that I read this article on what has happened to Hatha Yoga in the US. I started practicing yoga when I was 15, living in Boston, with one studio in the city. Most of those early days were learning yoga from Lilias Folan on PBS, Richard Hittleman, Rama Jyoti Vernon, Iyengar and other early pioneers of traditional Hatha Yoga..

    I was certified in 1978 in a small Ashram north of Boston in traditional Hatha Yoga. I started teaching in a hospital in 1973 as a 20 yr old nurse (although my specialty of nursing is infection prevention). I taught every year of my life in hospitals for staff until 2010 when I took a corporate job that required me to travel to 25 hospitals doing infection prevention consulting. So in 2010 I developed a Yoga School Kit to “pass the teachings on” for schools to use as a structure – with no attachments – no licensing, no royalties, just a guide to setting up a school and kits for students. It includes a 350 page structured curriculum manual with lesson plans, learning objectives, detailed outline, homework, competency skills and support materials. I modeled it after the foundation to nursing practice – how to set a foundation to be a yoga teacher (not instructor of yoga). I did have an arrangement with the Yoga Alliance that if a studio purchased this kit and agreed to adhere to the educational grid of hours and teaching methods they would be immediately approved as a RYS. I tried to sell the concept that the YA should develop a training curriculum to no avail.

    As one of the founding members in 1997 of the first committee that met at Kripalu to develop the yoga certification standards and a contributing author in the “Yoga in America” book I totally agree with your concerns of what has happened to this beautiful system of health in the US. Just the fact that yoga teachers would heat up yoga rooms – wasting natural earth resources – to do heated yoga tells you something about modern teachers concepts about the yogic lifestyle. There is no scientific evidence that doing yoga in a heated/steamed room makes you more limber. Injuries probably happen more often since it gives the false impression that you can go way beyond your “edge” and not listen to your body. We are not living in India – if you want heat go practice in India!

    What yoga teacher certification has turned into over the past years is beyond my comprehension. Guru driven yoga styles, yoga celebrities, yoga clothing, yoga products, yoga retreats, yoga websites, blah blah blah. This is a spiritual practice (or breath practice since the word “spirit” means to breath) and asana a sacred geometric communication system to God to align with sacred earth and space frequencies on a daily basis. The reason Surya Namaskar – is called “sun” is to practice upon awakening and posturing to the morning frequencies. The Moon Salutation is for settling into the evening frequencies for restful sleep. So why are yoga “instructors” doing variations of sun salutes – Series A – in the evening? If they were trained as yoga “teachers” and really understood living the yogic lifestyle and honoring Patanjali’s Sutras and teachings – not much of this Americanized power yoga would be happening today.

    And as far as injuries -the last hospital I worked at in Boston was an orthopedic specialty hospital and I often had orthopedic surgeons comment to me – sarcastically of course – how they loved this yoga craze – since it was feeding their practice with blown rotator cuffs, meniscus tears, herniated disks, whiplash neck injuries, dizziness, ruptured blood vessels in eyes from headstands, muscle tears in the hips, etc. Yes – there are many injuries that don’t get reported back to the studio since the student just disappears and don’t return.

    One of the reasons the Yoga Alliance has revamped their approval of yoga schools – and their website will not be up and accepting applications until probably February – is several states tried to have yoga “schools” licensed by the state Department of Education. This would involved submitting detailed curriculum manuals (with lesson plans, learning objectives, homework, competency skills), qualified faculty resumes, steep annual fees, application to the Attorney General to get a bond to cover the student tuitions. So far this has been halted by claiming we have the Yoga Alliance with teaching requirements and standards for practice. They are trying to enhance the credentialing process to weed out the programs with unqualified teachers and curriculum materials. We don’t know how long they can be kept at bay – it may be inevitable that states will require licensing – especially to protect the students tuitions.

    So again – thank you for writing this article. We need to educate one another more about what is happening to the practice and bring back some sense of normalcy and the foundation to why we do yoga for our health.

    • amy January 8, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      thank you for your comments on this article. I am a 20 year Iyengar student . I took a YA teacher training 5 years ago and it was a waste of money. lOts of money!!! $3.000!! experience —- a wonderful great teacher! I’ll never do that again! I wanted to teach yoga ———— Judith Lasater said, ‘you don’t need a certificate to teach yoga. you just need students.’ love mr iyengar and all he has done and continues to do—–

    • Truth January 9, 2014 at 7:03 am #

      You know Surya Namaskar comes from the British military, it’s not some sacred yoga, right?

      • Profile photo of James Brown
        James Brown January 9, 2014 at 7:10 am #

        I don’t care where it came from and that’s not what this article is about.

      • Stephan Gardner January 9, 2014 at 9:22 am #

        Where did the British Military get it? From India, Yoga.

  86. Wendy Reardon January 8, 2014 at 8:19 am #

    Replace ‘yoga’ with ‘pole dancing’ and it’s the same issue! Huge classes taught by people who started by watching Pole Dancing How-To videos or YouTube.

    My classes are no more than 5 so I make sure everyone not only LEARNS correctly and safely, but that they don’t feel like they’re in a cattle call.

    The Home pole party companies are a joke, their ‘instructors’ watch a video, install an unsafe pole in a home, and sometimes teach inverting to DRUNK people!

    Some pole studios in Boston even ALLOW ALCOHOL during ‘pole parties’ at their studio!

    They don’t get that JUST like yoga, you need more than just physical moves to teach pole dancing-you need to teach the emotion behind the moves.

    Thanks for letting me vent!

    • Luna January 8, 2014 at 7:33 pm #

      Sounds Great. I nominate you to start this new organization.

    • Kristin January 9, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      You’re completely right about pole. People are teaching with little to no training, often very little experience, and minimal understanding of safe body mechanics. Injuries are common. It’s really unfortunate. I’m at the point where I still go to the pole studio but I understand that I have to be responsible for keeping myself from being injured because the instructors don’t have the training or experience to do so.

  87. Oz January 8, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Well, if the author is convinced that this is what’s needed:

    “What we need is a lengthy set of specific objectives that a yoga teacher training needs to meet, as is the standard in almost all other vocational training.”

    What is the author doing about it? Other than calling for other folks to implement her ideas?

    Don’t get me wrong – I agree the current RYT 200 as structured yields inadequately trained teachers. But as an activist myself, I see all the time people getting outraged over this or that (and there’s an awful lot to be legitimately outraged about), and then going on a tirade about how some organization (usually, the government) needs to ‘fix’ things. Perhaps the answer here isn’t to appeal to (or shame) Yoga Alliance to do the hard work of writing the manual the author envisions – but to start an entity that actually does the hard work itself.

    If “The conversation among senior yoga teachers at dinner tables is, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ ” the maybe the answer is for those senior yoga teachers to move past befuddlement and into action. Who better than these senior teachers to create the kind of standards and skills assessment protocols this article calls for? It would surely get done a lot faster that way than by trying to force Yoga Alliance to do it. And you could even possibly then challenge Yoga Alliance on registry grounds, creating two entities that would vie with each other to deliver the best service to yoga teachers and students. Healthy competition can be quite helpful, after all. Why tolerate what is effectively a monopoly, when we know these rarely if ever serve the masses?

    • tm January 9, 2014 at 10:19 am #

      I dont believe Yoga alliance should take such a hard hit. I agree with OZ. Those senior yoga teachers should volunteer with yoga alliance to help raise standards. there are standards in most professions, medical, lawyers etc, yet you still find really great ones and some who just dont measure up.

      • DL January 9, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

        Yoga Alliance was founded by those senior yoga teachers, all but one of whom have left the organization. In my opinion, they got fed up with seeing what was happening “on the inside” and the lack of accountability. Having served on a YA board myself with other senior teachers (all of us unpaid), I saw first-hand how our hard work (for well over a year) was essentially swept under the rug…and nothing has ever come of the work we did to better the standards. Conversely, IAYT actively listens to their registered schools and directors, and has annual meetings WITH THE SCHOOL DIRECTORS to discuss what IAYT can do better. It’s wonderful, and I applaud the hard work that has been done to ensure standards are met. I agree, it seems that YA’s new president seems to genuinely care (and incidentally, he’s the only president who has lasted longer than a year or so since 2005…frightening statement about what’s going on there). Should be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next couple of years.

  88. bradd graves January 8, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    “But, it’s really not the fault of the teachers. They are only doing what they’ve been taught.”

    I sympathize with your position regarding the yoga alliance and the state of what I refer to as “Studio Yoga,” but in passing around blame for this situation, I see no reason to exempt actual teachers. They are not victims, but willing participants in this situation. Ask yourself, are YOU a member of YA? If so, you are part of the problem.

  89. dana d January 8, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    I no longer support YA. After completing 2 different TTs, one very comprehensive, the other sketchy with an often absent instructor, I began a conversation with YA regarding the lack of a compliance mechanism. Standards w/out compliance are meaningless. My point: RYT 200, RYT 500, etc. essentially signifies nothing more than the fact that YA received money from the recipient. They had no answer. As far as I can tell YA is empty of substance regarding yoga but full of $$$ from people who want/need the coveted, yet hollow, RYT label.

  90. Kimberly January 8, 2014 at 7:06 am #

    Brian Castillina of Yoganomics has been doing his best to expose YA to the community. As long as schools buy into it so will new teachers.
    http://yogabeyondtheasanas.com/blog/my-asana/ is a blog I wrote several years ago. The current president actually commented on it.

  91. Grateful January 8, 2014 at 7:00 am #

    I found this piece to be simplistic in its view of YA as the reason why people are getting injured in yoga class. I, too, am rooting for the IAYT standards to be a model for Yoga Alliance, but we’ve yet to see any results from this noble attempt to regulate our field.

    Something YA might be able to take from IAYT standards is the idea of extended mentorship. My suggestion to improving quality and accountability in our profession is to use YA to designate mentor teachers. Yoga teachers would be required to complete some hours of mentorship that includes practice, study and observation of skill. Mentors would then report to YA that their mentees were qualified to continue holding their credential- or alternatively, make recommendations for further growth and study.

    YA seems open to feedback from its members. It’s up to all of us to make it into the organization we want- one that will support both quality and diversity. Let’s participate in making YA into an organization that serves our needs, instead of blaming them for the ills of our profession. I can see the author of this article was trying to do that by calling out YA for being a do-nothing organization. But let’s take it a step further!

    • Father Nature January 8, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

      Grateful, I like your idea of adding a mentoring component to the membership. I’ve forwarded your comment to one of the YA employees. I have a sense of what is going on in the organization. YA has failed to support their members for years. They finally have a president who cares and is attempting to make things better. Right now they are totally overwhelmed with the issues with the website. Once they get that resolved they will be open to feedback on how to make things better. Give them some time. Voice your opinions on how to make things better. You will see results. Thanks for the constructive feedback.

    • Michelle Corey January 9, 2014 at 6:49 am #

      Grateful, I agree with you. While this blog brings up issues I also see, I think the emphasis on blame towards YA is too heavy. I like the idea of mentoring!

  92. antonio bazano January 8, 2014 at 3:17 am #

    looking for Yoga teacher on Lago di Garda ( 19th july / 04th August ). One or two weeks for training course….

  93. Clemens January 8, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    I absolutely agree. Thank you!

  94. Bret O'Shaughnessey January 8, 2014 at 2:43 am #

    This is an intriguing article. I agree that as yoga has become so main stream here in the US it has turned intomakes ittness fad. Tthe true heart & soul of yoga seems lost and and devoid in many of the classes I’ve attended. It seems to be veiwed as a cardio-aerobic workout with little to no focus on the self healing, breathing, meditation, or posture. It like almost everything else in the US has become a “fast food” mentality increasing numbers & profit with little to no concern for the students.
    I studied martial arts for a long time before I became a yogi and the same thing applies. The US turned something beautiful & passive into an intense, rage driven debauchery focusing & rewarding the negative aspects of marrial arts. Then we get places that teach MMA and pollute the view of martial artists to the world. Instead of focusing on the discipline, form, self reflection, and learning to calm ones anger and view situations calmly & rationally; they instead create these brawlers or fighters who just want to satisfy their dark intentions. Are we creating a similar situation in the yoga community as well?
    I teach yoga at the local YMCA where I live and love teaching, expanding, and promoting the yoga community. But the way the classes are setup, the limited time, and lack of training makes almost a joke. There’s no care or concern for the student, we focus on the mainstream media view of yoga and it’s all about music, fast flowing poses, and numbers. Even I have to admit at times I get lost in this sentiment as well, but quickly snap back and question why. I’m not here to condemn anyone or any oorganization, or to preach about what is right or wrong. I’m just here sharing my thoughts, opinions, and yearning for a deeper understanding of yoga and what it means to me.

    • Brian Klepper January 9, 2014 at 11:20 am #

      I agree with your comment very much. Thanks for your perspective.

  95. Dan January 8, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    Thank you.
    Finally an article on yoga worth reading. After 17 years of teaching yoga it is getting to the point where I am embarrassed to call myself a yoga teacher. Where is the parampara in modern yoga, its certainly not with yoga alliance. Bring back the good old days where we used to get slapped about and yelled at if the senior teacher saw we were putting ourselves in danger or lacking integrity.

  96. Corey January 7, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    With 400,000 people paying $50 to $100 in dues per year, why is it that they are currently non-functional. The new website is not operating. The phone number automatically hangs up on you after a short message. The emails go unanswered. So, my question is what Yoga Alliance?

  97. Michaelle Edwards June 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    Yoga Alliance is not to blame for the injuries in yoga but many common yoga poses are. Many yoga poses are based on compartmentalized ideas about the design of our body. I have hundreds of clients who have pulled themselves apart at the seams forcing the ligaments in their hips to loosen so they can perform yoga poses. Women get most of the hip replacements because we have more laxity in our pelvis to allow childbirth. In order to perform many yoga poses, the extreme flexion of the spine and hips creates even more laxity in the joints. Many forward bending poses are like the perfect storm. We are told to bend over from sitting or standing with our knees straight, our ankle flexed and what we create is a loosening of the sacral platform, and the posterior spinal ligaments and also serious compression forces on the hip socket. Women are tearing the labral tissue that hold the head of the femur in the acetabulum. Also people are doing so many forward flexion poses that the sacral platform is flattening in many yogis as their gluteus weakens from constant straight knee bending. Yogis get weak gluteals and tight flexors from doing these poses. Try to walk without bending your knees. What is being loosened by stretching forward without bending your knees? The ligament tension needed to keep the hip and spinal column stabilized.

    My efforts to create YogAlign, a style of yoga focusing on postural alignment rather than pose alignment, was featured in an article by William Broad concerning all of the hip surgeries to women who practice yoga.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/sunday-review/womens-flexibility-is-a-liability-in-yoga.html?_r=0
    There are huge liabilities in the glamorization of flexibility by yoga.

    I know many yogis with hip and knee replacements now and also there are famous teachers undergoing hip replacements such as NAMES DELETED BY AYS The yoga world turns a blind eye to these pathologies saying yoga did not cause it but it certainly did not prevent it either. So all the good stuff that happens is because of yoga and all the bad stuff is genetics or sports?

    We need to follow the sutras and find neutral, the middle path and stop trying to go to extreme body positions. Align, don’t contort.
    Yoga is a healing art and science and like physical therapy, it should not ever cause injury. Experts in biomechanics should to do an anatomical wake up call to the entire list of asanas or yoga asana could go the way of high impact aerobics. Certainly yoga is not just asana but for many, yoga poses are just another form of exercise. And it turns out, there are serious issues with the templates of asana because humans like all of organic nature are made of curves. But if you step back and realize that just like the earth, we are not flat, there is a huge percentage of yoga poses that engage our curves in straight lines and right angles distorting our natural shape. This is why we hate chairs and yet yoga poses like staff and plow pose put us in the same unnatural right angle.

    The human body is a continuum that is strung with tensional forces of extension, flexion and compression, and expansion. When all forces are even, the human being is upright but when the forces of flexion take over, the body goes forward and ages. So yoga classes are full of positions and poses that flex the spinal column and enlist these forces that bring the body forward and also compress and loosen the hip joint. Go figure?
    If you have been injured, please take the survey at http://www.yogainjuries.com

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