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Proposed Yoga Teaching Standards for Widespread Adoption – Minimum Knowledge Standards for Yoga Teachers

Introduction

Yoga Teacher Central offers specific Minimum Knowledge Standards for yoga teachers to:

  1. Promote and support widespread adoption of training models that adequately prepare yoga teaching professionals.
  2. Make it easy for teachers to become aware of gaps in their knowledge, and to efficiently bolster their education in foundational knowledge.

Scroll down to see a complete summary of the proposed minimum knowledge standards.

 


Notes

  1. We recognize and support Mark Whitwell’s recommended standards for yoga teachers (which we have detailed here). There you will find a comprehensive perspective of yoga teaching as a whole.
  2. There are no other widely published or accepted standards for yoga teaching professionals.*
  3. Therefore, we offer these specific minimum knowledge standards.
  4. These standards relate to the knowledge component of teaching only, as distinguished from practice, transmission and mentorship.
  5. These standards are relevant across a wide range of teaching styles, are comprehensive in scope and have been methodically devised and contextualized in a full curriculum. Each of the standards has been well-researched, is transparent and is fully supported with clear, precise and accessible lessons.
  6. For teacher trainers, we provide curriculums and a library of resources for meeting these minimum knowledge standards, plus much more in the way of advanced and specialized teaching knowledge.
  7. For those teachers who have not been educated on the following 116 foundations, we offer you this opportunity to become aware of the gaps in your knowledge, and to efficiently round out your education in the fundamentals. See the Standards & Self-Assessments Hub for free and private self-assessment quizzes.

*A common misperception is that Yoga Alliance “certifies” teachers and/or that YA recognition has a relationship to teaching competency, professionalism or legitimacy. That is not correct. See factual information here.


Organization

The standards are organized as follows:

Humanities
  • Roots of Yoga
  • Yoga Philosophy
Anatomy & Physiology
  • Anatomy & Biomechanics
  • Physiology
  • Student Safety Foundations
Ethics & Equity
  • Ethics & Equity Foundations
Teaching Methodology
  • Teaching Methodology Foundations
  • Teaching Presence
  • Alignment & Adjustments
  • Sequencing Foundations
  • Adapting for Student Needs
Personal & Professional Concerns
  • Personal Practice & Self-Care
  • Professional Development
Yoga Techniques
  • Breath & Pranayama
  • Asana Foundations
  • Poses
  • Mantras & Meditation


Roots of Yoga

Yoga History
  1. Origins & Sources of Yoga – Have a basic understanding of the roots of yoga philosophy.
  2. Branches of Yoga Be familiar with the major branches of yoga and their origins.
Sanskrit
  1. Sanskrit Introduction – Have an understanding of the origins of Sanskrit, its distinctive qualities, and the significance of it being the language of the original yoga texts.
  2. Sanskrit Study & Teaching Tips – Progressively develop the capability to use Sanskrit in teaching by practicing vowel pronunciation and learning the common Sanskrit words that form the components of pose names.

 


Yoga Philosophy

Yoga Philosophy Foundations
  1. Defining Yoga – Be aware of the profound depth and potential scope of yoga as a philosophy and practice, and consider multiple perspectives on the purpose of practice.
  2. Foundational Philosophies Understand key assumptions built into the foundational philosophies upon which various branches of yoga are based: Samkhya, Advaita Vedanta and Tantra.
  3. Bhagavad Gita Introduction Understand the Gita’s prominent role in yoga philosophy and have a foundation for exploring its teachings.
  4. Yoga Sutras Historical Context Understand the historical context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and have a foundation for exploring the teachings.
  5. Yoga Sutras Overview & Structure – Be familiar with the scope and content of The Yoga Sutras.
  6. Kleshas Introduction – Be grounded in the teachings of kleshas, a foundation of yoga philosophy.
  7. Eight Limbs Overview Have an understanding of the intention, teachings and tools of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
  8. Yamas & Niyamas Overview Be familiar with the general subject matter of yamas and niyamas as a whole and individually.

 


Anatomy & Biomechanics

Anatomy General Considerations
  1. Tips for Studying & Teaching Anatomy – Be familiar with priorities and guidelines for studying and utilizing knowledge of anatomy and physiology in teaching.
  2. Anatomy & Study for Safety and Accommodations – Be aware of an effective study pathway that begins with anatomy and moves through a series of lessons in order to methodically develop skill in adapting for students with conditions.
Musculoskeletal System
  1. Musculoskeletal System Intro – Have an understanding of the foundational anatomy of the musculoskeletal system.
  2. Connective Tissue & Fascia Understand the foundational anatomy of connective tissue, and gain an understanding of the significance of the myofascial meridian theory.
  3. Location & Movement Terminology – Know terminology that describes anatomical movements and location.
  4. Muscle Movement & Contraction Have an understanding of how muscles move and learn the related terminology.
  5. Joint Movements & Mobility – Be familiar with foundational terminology related to joint movements, learn factors that affect joint mobility, and review the normal ranges of motion for various joints.
  6. Muscle Pairs & Pose Examples – Be knowledgeable about key agonist/antagonist muscle pairs in major joint movements, and name poses that utilize them.
Spine & Back Anatomy & Posture
  1. Spinal Regions & Vertebrae – Be proficient in the anatomy of the spine including each of the five regions, the spinal curves and the vertebrae.
  2. Back Muscles Know the anatomical terminology and function of superficial, intermediate and deep back muscles.
  3. Spinal Functions – Know the functions of the spine and the attributes of a healthy spine.
  4. Spinal Movements – Be proficient in using accurate terminology related to spinal movements and how to apply knowledge of the movements to inform teaching of the various categories of asana.
  5. Healthy Posture Know terminology and considerations related to “anatomical position,” “neutral,” and the attributes and implications of healthy posture.
  6. Postural Issues & Conditions – Be knowledgeable about postural issues such as thoracic mobility issues, hyperlordosis and kyphosis, and the vast variety of potential causal factors.
  7. Spine & Back Teaching Considerations – Apply knowledge of a healthy spine and compensatory movement patterns to support effective teaching of asana.
Core Anatomy
  1. Core Form & Function – Have an understanding of the foundational anatomy of the core, including the function of the individual muscles and the core as a whole.
  2. Core Fundamental Teachings – Be proficient in choosing practices and verbalizing teachings to promote a balanced, healthy core.
  3. TA & Engaging Deeper Abs Be more deeply knowledgeable about the TA and how to effectively teach engagement of the deeper abdominals.

 


Physiology

Nervous System & Stress
  1. Nervous System Overview – Have an understanding of the foundational anatomy and physiology of the nervous system.
  2. The Vagus Nerve – Be familiar with the significance of vagal tone in the experience of stress and the effectiveness of yoga techniques.
  3. Stress & Relaxation Response – Understand the functioning of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and the workings of the Stress Response, Fight or Flight Response and Relaxation Response.
  4. Why Yoga Works – Be proficient in communicating how yoga practices impact the nervous system and why this is a critical factor in the positive results from yoga practice.
Respiratory Anatomy
  1. Respiratory Anatomy Introduction Have an understanding of the foundational physiology of the respiratory system.
  2. Accessory Muscles & More Be familiar with the nasal cycle and lungs, plus the differentiation between primary and accessory respiratory muscles and the muscles used for inspiration and for expiration.
Physiology of Flexibility & Stretching
  1. Physiology of Flexibility & Stretching Know what limits flexibility (including connective tissue and the nervous system) and gain a deeper understanding of stretching.
  2. Stretch-Related Reflexes Be knowledgeable about the Stretch Reflex, the Golgi Tendon Reflex and Reciprocal Inhibition, and explore how to apply this knowledge in teaching.
  3. Stretching Issues & Techniques Be proficient in identifying and preventing overstretching as well as practices that do and do not improve flexibility.
More Physiology
  1. How Yoga Supports Health & Physiology – Be competent in specifying the ways that yoga supports health from various perspectives.
  2. How Trauma Affects Physiology & Wellness – Understand the widespread prevalence of trauma, and its specific and profound physiological effects.

 


Student Safety Foundations

Student Safety Foundations
  1. Injuries & Conditions in Yoga – Be knowledgeable in injury prevention and ways to accommodate students who have injuries and conditions.
  2. About Sensation & Pain – Understand the complexity of pain and how to use this knowledge when teaching asana.
  3. About Contraindications & Alternatives – Be aware of the importance of knowing and utilizing contraindications and cautions, and understand how to wisely choose alternatives.
  4. When to Refer Out – Know when it’s advisable to refer students out for diagnosis or individual assessment and how to be prepared to do so.
  5. Contraindications Index – Have a quality Contraindications Index and understand the necessity of having contraindications on hand when teaching.

 


Ethics & Equity

Ethics & Equity Foundations
  1. Teacher-Student Relationships & Ethics – Be knowledgeable about ethical factors in teacher-student relationships, including the likelihood of psychological transference, and reflect on how to wisely fulfill the responsibility of a teacher.
  2. Equity in Yoga – Inclusion & Diversity – Understand the factors that impact equity and diversity in yoga and become familiar with specific ways to mindfully and proactively address these factors.
  3. Inclusive & Accepting Word Choice – Be competent in choosing words that inspire an inclusive and accepting environment in which to practice yoga.
  4. Cultural Appropriation & Cultural Exchange – Understand what cultural appropriation is and why it matters. Distinguish cultural exchange from appropriation, and how to mindfully and ethically honor this difference.
  5. Body Positivity + Larger Bodies – Be aware of perspectives and actions that can help teachers to support students in having a body-positive experience.

 


Teaching Methodology

Teaching Methodology Foundations
  1. Teaching Methodology Foundations – Be familiar with the scope and range of foundational skill sets for effective yoga teaching.
  2. Foundations – Personal Practice & Knowledge – Know the reasons why personal practice and self-study are vital for effective teaching.
  3. Space & Logistics Checklist – Be aware of logistical and timing considerations to attend to before class, during class, and after class ends, plus considerations for obtaining student feedback.
Teaching Presence
  1. Body Language, Authenticity & Presence – Be aware of elements of your teaching approach that contribute to your overall presence, so that you can be your unique self while also examining ways to maximize your effectiveness in delivering the teachings.
  2. Sonic Components of Voice – Know the sonic components of voice (cadence, tone, energy and volume) and become conscious of optimizing your voice while teaching.
  3. Wise Word Choice – Be aware and skilled in specific strategies for effectively and wisely choosing words while teaching.
 Alignment, Adjustments & Transitions
  1. Defining & Teaching Alignment – Understand the goal and priorities of teaching alignment and how to empower students to learn alignment “from the inside.”
  2. General Alignment Principles – Prioritize spinal positioning, a proper foundation and “stacking” bones, and become familiar with the concepts of moving from the core and using knowledge of muscle pairs during practice.
  3. Choosing Alignment Cues – Be clear that no alignment teaching will work for all students while exploring cues that may work in a reasonably broad set of situations plus common cues that may be particularly problematic.
  4. Adjusting & Assisting Guidelines – Have a foundation for decision-making and be proficient in techniques for assisting an individual student, whether verbally, energetically or physically.
  5. Mindful Asana Transitions – Be proficient in teaching mindful asana transitions.
 Sequencing Foundations
  1. Class Elements – Consider a multitude of yoga techniques to create comprehensive class plans.
  2. Sequencing Fundamentals & Guidelines – Have a foundation for sequencing poses to safely and effectively meet class objectives.
  3. Choosing & Arranging Poses – Know how to apply anatomy, biomechanics and knowledge of poses in order to choose and arrange poses to promote a balance of strength and flexibility, prepare for a peak pose, sequence vinyasa flow, and meet other objectives.
  4. Segmenting Your Class – Be familiar with how a class can be segmented in order to assist in effective sequencing and pacing, and how to use a segmented class framework for setting and meeting intentions.
  5. Sequencing & Pacing to Balance Energy – Know how yoga affects energy and understand the guiding principles and yogic tools for promoting energetic balance.

 


Adapting For Student Needs

Adaptation Foundations
  1. Adaptation Principles – Understand the difference between 1) generic teachings, 2) an adaptive approach, and 3) therapeutics (yoga therapy), and become aware of adaptation principles that can serve as a foundation for making in-class decisions.
  2. Trauma Informed Teaching – Be familiar with foundational considerations related to trauma-sensitive teaching, and review specific tactics for promoting emotional and psychological safety in the classroom.
  3. Working with Pain – Know how to apply knowledge of anatomy, physiology and yoga tools to work effectively with students experiencing pain, and to wisely choose tools to support them.
  4. Pregnancy & Yoga –Know how to safely accommodate pregnant students in a general class and when it’s advisable to refer students to a Prenatal Yoga Class.
  5. Yoga & Pregnancy Cautions – Be aware of pregnancy situations that cannot safely be accommodated in a drop-in class, general safety cautions, plus guidelines and suggestions for each trimester.
  6. Beginners Introduction – Know specific considerations for optimally teaching students new to Hatha Yoga.
  7. What Students Want & Need – Be prepared to balance students’ desires to be seen and included, a teacher’s need to promote safety, and the need for students to explore without feeling excessively “corrected.”
  8. Mixed Level Classes – Understand the challenges in effectively teaching a mixed-levels class and be familiar with suggestions for overcoming them.

 


Personal & Professional Concerns

Personal Practice & Self-Care
  1. Reaching Your Teaching Potential – Understand the ways that being a teacher is different from being a student and explore particular actions that can help you to meet your potential as a teacher.
  2. Personal Practice & Study – Clearly understand why personal practice is vital for teachers and how to overcome obstacles to practice.
  3. Inspiration to Teach – Explore strategies for stoking your passion and inspiration to teach, overcoming perfectionism, inspiring persistence, and framing struggle or failure.
  4. Self-Care & Burnout – Be clear about common stressors faced by yoga teachers, and specific self-care strategies for preventing and addressing burnout.
Professional Development
  1. The Business of Teaching Be familiar with business considerations related to yoga teaching including choosing a focus, applying mindfulness, and considering various career strategies.
  2. Building Business & Revenue Streams – Be familiar with the variety of ways to build teaching experience and create revenue streams via different teaching formats and opportunities.
  3. Marketing Your Yoga Business – Be familiar with ways to approach marketing of a yoga business.
  4. Insurance & Continuing Ed – Be aware of resources for insurance and professional affiliation.

 


Breath & Pranayama

 Subtle Body Foundations
  1. Energy & Subtle Body Anatomy – Have an understanding of the yogic perspective on how life force energy moves and functions within the physical, mental and emotional bodies.
  2. Koshas Overview – Know the kosha model and explore ways to apply and teach it.
  3. Chakras Introduction – Be familiar with chakras and their symbolism.
  4. Pranayama Philosophy – Know the philosophical perspective on the purpose and effects of the practice of pranayama.
 Breathing Foundations
  1. Breath Teaching Cautions – Be clear on the cautions related to practicing pranayama and best practices for teaching about the breath, including teaching to beginners.
  2. Healthy & Restricted Breathing – Be knowledgeable about the power of the breath to affect physiology and emotions, and the causes and effects of breathing issues, including reverse/paradoxical breathing and chest breathing.
  3. Natural Effortless Breathing – Be proficient in the hallmarks and benefits of natural breathing and ways to promote conditions for an effortless breath.
  4. Basic Breath Training – Understand the difference between unconscious and conscious breathing and techniques for guiding students in conscious breathing that slows their breathing rate and expands respiratory capacity.
  5. Yogic Breathing – Understand the differences between clavicular, thoracic and diaphragmatic breathing and be knowledgeable about conscious exhalation and diaphragmatic rib cage breathing.
  6. Pranayama Teaching Foundations – Understand the parts of the breath cycle, what is necessary for safely teaching kumbhaka and which practices serve different energetic purposes.
Pranayama Techniques
  1. Ujjayi – Be familiar with teaching considerations and instructions for Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as Victorious Breath.
  2. Nadi Shodhana – Be  familiar with teaching considerations and instructions for Nadi Shodhana, also known as Anuloma Viloma and Alternate Nostril Breathing.
  3. Kapalabhati & Bhastrika – Be familiar with teaching considerations and instructions for Kapalabhati, known as Skull Shining Breath, and review an introduction to Bhastrika, Bellows Breath.

 


Asana Foundations

Asana Foundations
  1. Mudras Introduction – Be familiar with the five classes of mudras (hasta, mana, kaya, bandha and adhara), their purpose and the central role they fulfill in Hatha Yoga.
  2. Bandhas Introduction – Be familiar with the purpose of bandhas and why it’s inadvisable to teach bandhas in most drop-in classes.
  3. Asana Philosophy & Theory – Memorize and understand Sutras 2.46 to 2.49 and study expert teachings regarding the purpose and benefits of asana.
  4. Pose Families Introduction – Understand the importance of function over form and how knowledge of pose categories and families informs teaching.
  5. Asana Categories Overview– Know the physical and energetic effects of all major pose categories and become proficient in using this knowledge to inform sequencing.

 


Poses

Pose Foundations

Be familiar with naming, effects, contraindications and cautions, basic form, cueing and variations of individual poses within each category of asana:

    1. Neutral Poses
    2. Standing Poses
    3. Surya Namaskar
    4. Core Strengthening Poses
    5. Balancing & Arm Balance Poses
    6. Backbending Poses
    7. Forward Bending Poses
    8. Twisting Poses
    9. Inversion Poses
    10. Restorative Yoga
    11. Yin Yoga

 


Mantras & Meditation

Mantra & Meditation Foundations
  1. Mantras & Chanting Introduction – Be aware of the central role and importance of mantras in yoga practice.
  2. Meditation & Mindfulness Introduction Have a foundational understanding of meditation from a yogic perspective.
  3. Meditation Effects Be knowledgeable about the many potential effects of meditation and become proficient in explaining yoga philosophy related to thoughts, sensations, suffering, absorption (samadhi) and meditation.
  4. Teaching Meditation – Be knowledgeable in how to apply the philosophy and knowledge of meditation to practical and effective teaching.

 


Next Steps

 

  1. Have thoughts? Email us with any feedback. The feedback form on this free page is anonymous… so if you use that form and wish to receive a reply, please include your email address.
  2. To view free, private self-assessments, go to the Standards & Self-Assessment Hub.
  3. To bolster your knowledge and be recognized as a YTC teacher, enroll in the Yoga Teacher Central Pre-Certification Study Program (details at the Standards & Self-Assessment Hub).

 


Practice vs. Knowledge

The techniques that teachers use in their growth and evolution fall into two broad categories:

    1. Practice, and
    2. Knowledge Acquisition

Here we use “practice” to mean all those things that you engage in with the mind-body in real time, including not only your personal practice (including self-study and reflection) but also practice teaching and receiving coaching and mentoring.

Both practice and knowledge are critical to teaching effectiveness.

  • Teaching is not simply spouting knowledge, and it’s not just oversight and coaching of students. Excellent teaching is a sharing of your whole self, including your accumulation of experience and a transmission of your energy.
  • A teacher lacking adequate practice will not have the level of experience and consciousness needed to transmit the depth associated with transformation, and they may sound “hollow” or superficial.
  • A teacher lacking adequate knowledge will be unprepared to utilize and adapt the broad and deep teachings that are needed to effectively meet the variety of student needs.

The primary reason for distinguishing knowledge acquisition from practice is this:

  • Many vital aspects of a yoga journey fall under the category of practice, which cannot be written down in a book or manual.
  • Knowledge, however, can be methodically studied, which is an accessible and practical way for every teacher to efficiently build an ever-more-powerful teaching toolkit.

Practice is critical to personal evolution, which happens in organic and non-linear ways. Knowledge, however, is a component of teaching that can be methodically learned at a pace that you define.


Sample Support

Each of the standards have been well-researched and are supported with transparency and context. Here we provide examples to support the inclusion and achievement of these standards.

The following sample lessons are accessible from the Free Resources Hub, and represent the quality and accessibility of the support we provide in elevating knowledge among yoga professionals.

Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Exchange

In this lesson, we differentiate cultural appropriation from cultural exchange and explain the significant reasons for honoring the roots of yoga.

  • Objective: Be aware of what cultural appropriation looks like; the historical context that explains the significance of honoring the roots of yoga; and how to mindfully and ethically do so.
  • Description: Define cultural exchange and cultural appropriation, and explain the key differentiators between them. Describe the vital significance of the roots of yoga and what appropriation of yoga looks like
  • Free Sample Lesson: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Exchange

Defining & Teaching Alignment

In this lesson, we introduce alignment and a general approach to teaching it.

  • Objective: Understand the goal and priorities of teaching alignment and how to empower students to learn alignment “from the inside.”
  • Description: Define “alignment.” Explain the goal of alignment and how alignment and prana are said to relate. Explain why no alignment teaching works for all students and provide priorities in teaching alignment. Explore the value in empowering students to learn alignment “from the inside” and how this can be accomplished.
  • Free Sample Lesson: Defining & Teaching Alignment

 


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