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Who is Responsible for Yoga Teaching & Training Competency? What Standards Must Be Met? + Widely Recognized & Influential Teachers Not Registered with YA

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Overview

The level of competency that an individual yoga teacher achieves after a training is the responsibility of the trainer and the trainee only. There are no minimum competency standards specified or upheld by Yoga Alliance or any other industry-wide organization.

  1. Yoga is not a government-regulated occupation. Yoga is a self-regulated field. For more information, see Frequently Asked Questions here.
  2. There’s a widespread misperception that Yoga Alliance contributes to the field’s self-regulation by upholding competency standards. In fact, Yoga Alliance does not propose, assess, certify or enforce competency standards, nor does it provide meaningful resources to encourage greater competency. This does not change with the new requirements scheduled to take effect February 2020.
  3. If a trainee is held to any competency standards at all, those standards are specified and upheld by the trainer and/or a particular certification process such as Iyengar or Ashtanga.
  4. There’s an implication that newly trained teachers who have completed a training “approved” by Yoga Alliance have achieved a particular standard level of competency. For example, a hiring manager might presume that a “graduate” of a Yoga Alliance “approved” training (RYS) has a proven ability to sequence effectively and promote student safety, to understand scope of practice, to be skilled in biomechanics and the physiology of stretching and so on. However, no such standards are required or verified by Yoga Alliance. The quality of training and level of competency achieved by a trainee are unrelated to Yoga Alliance.

Scroll down to see expansion of these points.

Discussion & Resource Summary

This resource section offers factual, verifiable information on Yoga Alliance registry and alternatives. Select from these subjects:

  1. Registration, Certification, Accreditation — Yoga Alliance Misperceptions & Why You Don’t Need to Pay the Yoga Alliance Fees
  2. Who is Responsible for Teaching Competency Standards? — What Standards Must Be Met? + Widely Recognized & Influential Teachers Not Registered with YA (you’re currently on this page)
  3. Yoga Alliance Alternatives — Research Summaries on Other Registries & Certifications + Groups Developing New Programs
  4. Insurance Providers — Insurance options for Yoga Teachers and Teacher Trainers
  5. YA Truth & Reconciliation — Teacher & Trainer Reports About Yoga Alliance

 


YA Does Not Assess Competency

YA “Approved” Studio Churning Out Teachers So Poorly Prepared That the Studio Looks Elsewhere to Hire Teachers

A few months ago a student who had gone through my teacher training called me looking for advice for an upcoming teaching “audition.” She told me of a Craigslist ad that a local studio had posted looking for qualified teachers. You might wonder why I thought it was odd to learn about this ad. It’s because this studio offers their own 200, 300 and 500-hour training programs and regularly churns out teachers like gum balls out of a machine. The point? Their program is so bad that they won’t even hire their own trainees! But the studio trainers are YA-accredited so they keep bringing in trainees who don’t know any better, taking their money and running trainings with a sub-par curriculum.  This is a big and reputable studio – I kid you not. I’ve got lots of stories that would make you go… huh, really? – Teacher Trainer

Yoga Alliance does not — and has never — assessed or certified teaching or training competency.

  1. Since launching its registry in 1999, Yoga Alliance has never assessed or certified competency of teachers or trainers (which they call “schools”).
  2. Yoga Alliance recognizes teachers and trainers based on two things: paperwork and payment of fees. In return, teachers and trainers are given “credentials” — technically “registry marks.”
  3. As of October 12, 2019, Yoga Alliance had a page on their website entitled “Spirit of the Standards July 2016” (as shown in the screenshot below). Please read it for yourself:

This is misleading and obscure:

  • Misleading – The implication from the title is that Yoga Alliance is at least advocating for teaching competency standards. What else would we expect “standards” to mean? But in fact the “Standards Guidelines” listed here are nothing more than saying the trainer needs to be registered with Yoga Alliance (which, again, means paperwork and fees) and that they submit a curriculum organized into five categories. These are not competency standards.
  • “Circular reasoning” is the “logical fallacy of assuming what it is attempting to provide” (source) and “creating a circle in reasoning where no useful information is being shared.” (source) Consider the sentence above: “All standards for a RYS are intended to be clear, implementable reflections of the above criteria.” This seems like circular reasoning as no useful information is being shared.
  • Isn’t this bulleted list supposed to define standards? So how are “all standards” and the “above criteria” different? Could it be that now they have changed the expected meaning of the word “standards” to mean a fluid definition that is created by each trainer, not Yoga Alliance? If that’s the intention, it may be saying that the TRAINER standards are “intended to be” “clear reflections” of these three bullet points. But the bullet points aren’t standards guidelines.
  • For those who have thought Yoga Alliance is the guardian of standards for yoga teachers, they will presumably find these “Standards Guidelines” to be lacking in specificity and to be strangely and obscurely written.

That Does Not Change in 2020

The new  requirements to take effect February 2020 require trainers to assess competency — of unspecified standards — on more than 50 topics while offering insignificant resources to support the new requirements.

  1. The new Yoga Alliance requirements to take effect February 2020 specify 13 “competency areas” which are simply broad subjects such as Asana, Anatomy and History. They then put bullet points beneath these subjects with such phrases as “historical context,” “sequencing,” “pace” and “environment.”
  2. “Historical context,” “pace” and “environment” are not standards. They’re topics.
  3. Thus, it’s a verifiable fact that Yoga Alliance does not propose, assess, certify or enforce standards.
  4. Rather, Yoga Alliance requires trainers to submit an application and, as of February 2020, additional documentation that attests to the fact that they, the trainers, will be assessing competency.
  5. The new requirements are deemed to have been met or not met before any trainings have been held.
  6. Thus, the changes which are widely assumed to be “standards” are not actually standards but an extensive application form that requires not only “accounting for every training hour” but also submitting the school’s intellectual property to Yoga Alliance!
Topics Are Not Standards

Trainer & Trainee Due Diligence

My feeling is that it is the responsibility of the TRAINER and their respective YTT offering to insure benchmarks are in place and the responsibility of the prospective TRAINEE to do their due diligence. I know many trainers who have only taught yoga for a few years who begin a YTT, pay their dues to YA and boom… they’re off and running and counting the money in the bank. In these cases, they give substandard trainings and then disappear a few years later, not having established credibility in the field. My priority is creating a safe, quality standalone YTT without the approval of anyone except my own board and governing body, which in my case is with the endorsement and teaching of Registered Nurses, Advanced Practice Nurses, Doctorate Nurses and other recognized expert medical professionals. – Annette Tersigni, The Yoga Nurse


Many Teachers Not Registered with YA

There are many highly recognized, influential teachers who are not registered with Yoga Alliance. This does not imply anything about the thousands of teachers registered with YA but instead demonstrates that registration is not required nor does it directly correlate with skill, experience or influence.

The following teachers, for example, were not on the registry as of the date noted. The information below was gathered using the teacher search function on the Yoga Alliance website which returned results as in this screenshot from Oct 3, 2019:

Sampling of Influential Teachers NOT Registered with Yoga Alliance

  1. Benagh, Barbara
  2. Blossom, Scott
  3. Boccio, Frank Jude
  4. Brower, Elena
  5. Cope, Stephen
  6. Dass, Ram
  7. Farhi, Donna
  8. Farmer, Angela
  9. Finger, Alan
  10. Folan, Lilias
  11. Freeman, Richard
  12. Gannon, Sharron
  13. Gates, Rolf
  14. Holleman, Dona
  15. Kaivalya, Alanna
  16. Kaminoff, Leslie
  17. Kest, Bryan
  18. Khalsa, Gurmukh Kaur
  19. LePage, Joseph
  20. Life, David
  21. McGonigal, Kelly
  22. Miller, Elise Browning
  23. Miller, Tim
  24. Mittra, Dharma
  25. Mohan, A.G.
  26. Nelson, Sonia
  27. Paul, Russill
  28. Ray, Kali
  29. Raye, Saul David
  30. Ross, Steve
  31. Schiffmann, Erich
  32. Schumacher, John
  33. Stern, Eddie
  34. Swenson, David
  35. Vernon, Rama Jyoti
  36. Walden, Patricia
  37. White, Ganga

Benagh, Barbara

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • TheYogaStudio.org Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 17 teachers in the registry noted Barbara Benagh in their bio

Blossom, Scott

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • Shunyata Yoga Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 16 teachers in the registry noted Scott Blossom in their bio

Boccio, Frank Jude

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 5 teachers in the registry noted Frank Jude Boccio in their bio

Brower, Elena

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 29 teachers in the registry noted Elena Brower in their bio

Cope, Stephen

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 12 teachers in the registry noted Stephen Cope in their bio

Dass, Ram

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 15 teachers in the registry noted Ram Dass in their bio

Farhi, Donna

  • Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 64 teachers in the registry noted Donna Farhi in their bio

Farmer, Angela

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 31 teachers in the registry noted Angela Farmer in their bio

Finger, Alan

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 43 teachers in the registry noted Alan Finger in their bio

Folan, Lilias

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 18 teachers in the registry noted Lilias Folan in their bio

Freeman, Richard

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 91 teachers in the registry noted Richard Freeman in their bio

Gannon, Sharron

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • Jivamukti Yoga Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 163 teachers in the registry noted Jivamukti Yoga in their bio
  • 65 teachers in the registry noted Sharron (or Sharon) Gannon in their bio

Gates, Rolf

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 69 teachers in the registry noted Rolf Gates in their bio

Holleman, Dona

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 9 teachers in the registry noted Dona (or Donna) Holleman in their bio

Kaivalya, Alanna

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 15 teachers in the registry noted Alanna Kaivalaya in their bio

Kaminoff, Leslie

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 100 teachers in the registry noted Leslie Kaminoff in their bio

Kest, Bryan

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 94 teachers in the registry noted Bryan Kest in their bio

Khalsa, Gurmukh Kaur

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 15 teachers in the registry noted Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa in their bio

Le Page, Joseph

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 17 teachers in the registry noted Joseph LePage in their bio

Life, David

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • Jivamukti Yoga Not Registered on Oct 3, 2019
  • 163 teachers in the registry noted Jivamukti Yoga in their bio
  • 57 teachers in the registry noted David Life in their bio

McGonigal, Kelly

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 4 teachers in the registry noted Kelly McGonigal in their bio

Miller, Elise Browning

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 16 teachers in the registry noted Elise Browning Miller in their bio

Miller, Tim

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 71 teachers in the registry noted Tim Miller in their bio

Mittra, Dharma

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 161 teachers in the registry noted Dharma Mittra in their bio

Mohan, A.G.

  • NOT Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 8 teachers in the registry noted A.G. Mohan in their bio

Nelson, Sonia

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 9 teachers in the registry noted Sonia Nelson in their bio

Paul, Russill

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 4 teachers in the registry noted Russill Paul in their bio

Ray, Kali

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 13 teachers in the registry noted Kali Ray in their bio

Raye, Saul David

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 28 teachers in the registry noted Saul David Raye in their bio

Ross, Steve

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 13 teachers in the registry noted Steve Ross in their bio

Schiffmann, Erich

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 48 teachers in the registry noted Erich Schiffmann in their bio

Schumacher, John

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 12 teachers in the registry noted John Schumacher in their bio

Stern, Eddie

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 20 teachers in the registry noted Eddie Stern in their bio

Swenson, David

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 169 teachers in the registry noted David Swenson in their bio

Vernon, Rama Jyoti

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 14 teachers in the registry noted Rama Jyoti Vernon in their bio

Walden, Patricia

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 40 teachers in the registry noted Patricia Walden in their bio

White, Ganga

  • Not Registered Oct 3, 2019
  • 32 teachers in the registry noted Ganga White in their bio

Other Teachers

Of course, it’s not only widely-known teachers who decline to register with Yoga Alliance. Here are some examples of teachers replying to a Facebook post to say that they are not registered with YA either.


Increasing Bureaucratic Burdens

Yoga Alliance does not provide significant resources to support increasing competency and instead burdens trainers with bureaucracy and fees, including an unusually high application fee.

As of February 2020, Yoga Alliance will begin charging trainers with responsibility for teacher competency (of UNSPECIFIED STANDARDS) in MORE THAN 50 TOPICS. And yet Yoga Alliance offers insignificant resources to support this process.

  1. Instead, it requires a burdensome application process with demanding documentation requirements, fees and processing time. (See here for more details.)
  2. Stunningly, the new requirements demand submission of the trainer’s intellectual property (copyrighted syllabus and training curriculum plus their branded manual).
Standards vs Bureaucracy

Yoga Australia has significantly higher standards than Yoga Alliance and usually processes most applications in around 6 months, after a close supportive process with the applicant. I submitted a training application to both Yoga Australia and Yoga Alliance. Yoga Australia approved the application within 48 hours without revision. Yoga Alliance drug out my application for nearly a year. They didn’t understand the quality or delivery process of my training and in the end I dumbed it down to the point it no longer resembled my training at all and simply told them what they wanted to hear. I am also a teacher who many years prior had to redo basic training to get registered with Yoga Alliance despite already training teachers for Gregor Maehle. – Sarcha Thurston

Standards & Self-Governance

The common misperceptions described above prompt some considerations:

  • If you were previously under the impression that Yoga Alliance was a governance body or an enforcer of standards, you can take some time to consider the reality and draw conclusions from your personal perspective.
  • You might choose to help those who are misinformed to know that Yoga Alliance is not a governance body and that there is no industry-wide standard-bearer for yoga.
  • You can consider your perspective on the subject of teaching standards and how those in the field might be most effective in improving industry-wide competency. (For more resources, inspiration and contacts, see Yoga Alliance Alternatives.)

Each teacher and trainer may choose their own approach to this subject. Yoga Teacher Central takes the position that:

  • The only wise and sustainable model for virtually anything is self-responsibility as opposed to policing by an outside authority.
  • Real and true improvement is more likely to be successful with support and empowerment as opposed to bureaucracy.
  • Thus, the information highlighted here is not meant to imply advocacy for outside or industry-wide governance. Rather, this is simply an effort to make more people aware that there’s a widespread misperception that governance and standards-enforcement exists when, in fact, it does not. With our eyes open to the facts, we’re better prepared to approach the subject of standards and improving industry-wide teaching competency.

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