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Pros And Cons Of Yoga Teacher Training

in Business of Yoga, YD News, YogOpinions


by J. Brown

Yoga teachers don’t really make a living off teaching yoga classes anymore. Many rely upon conducting yoga teacher training. But contrary to popular belief, this trend may have less to do with the business or marketing inclinations of yoga teachers and more to do with the purchasing and study habits of the yoga-going public.

Among grassroots yoga professionals, the prevalent trope on the proliferation of yoga teacher training amounts to predictions of end times. That acquiescence to the fallacy of a 200-hour standard has resulted in cookie-cutter certificate factories that are quickly destroying any remnant of authentic yoga. Hordes of unqualified teachers with dubious credentials are being unleashed upon an unknowing public, causing injury and sullying the name of an ancient and sacred tradition.

Or if you read any number of mainstream media outlets, you might think that yoga teacher training is a plausible way out of your terrible office job. A way to become your own boss and make a living off the healthy lifestyle that we all crave. All you need to do is complete your yoga teacher training, nail some impressive poses on Instagram, and you’re good to go.

Important to note that only sixty years or so ago, there were no group yoga classes.

An overwhelming majority of people who currently practice yoga have come to it by way of a drop-in group yoga class. But what many don’t realize is that this is an entirely modern format for yoga. In the not so distant past, there was no such thing. And if you wanted to learn yoga then you had to seek out a teacher and convince them that you were a worthy student. Not everyone was welcomed in. You had to prove that you were serious about wanting to learn.

As the mountain has come to the marketplace, so the teacher/student dynamic and context for yoga practice has greatly changed. Folks don’t consider going to yoga class as a learning experience necessarily. They go to “get their yoga on.” Not any different from going to the gym to exercise or a dance club to get your groove on, except sometimes there is like some meditation stuff thrown in. But you can find classes without that if you’re not into it.

Nowadays, yoga teacher training is where people are going when they want to actually learn yoga.

When I first came to yoga in the early 90’s, the people who became yoga teachers were the ones who showed up to class more than anyone else. After about two years, your teacher would turn to you and say: “You are ready to teach. Next week, you will cover my classes.” And you were a yoga teacher. And you were ready because you had invested your time and energy with consistency and shown yourself to have a grasp of the practice that you were passing on.

Things have changed since the requisites for being a yoga teacher were diligence and commitment over time. That is why so many old-school practitioners scoff at the idea of 200 hours. But I wonder if it’s really possible to learn yoga in the same way when the groups are so much larger, the music is so much louder, and the practice caters so much more to market forces.

Fact is, people are more inclined to throw down thousands of dollars for a yoga teacher training course than they are to simply show up to class on a regular basis.

There is no doubt that the advent of a 200-hour standard for yoga teacher training has diminished the process by which someone comes to assume the role of being a yoga teacher. No longer does one have to demonstrate the same sort of self-determination and fortitude to make it happen over time, while meeting the demands of daily life and without any clear hoops to jump through. Consequently, the title of yoga teacher does not carry the same weight or mean the same thing.

At the same time, for those earnest students who wish for a more in-depth understanding of yoga than those drop-in group yoga classes are providing, yoga teacher training is where the real learning about yoga is happening. Where people decide to take it more seriously. And, for better or worse, the time and money investment is often what makes it seem real for people. Of course, there are any number of ways that 200 hours can play out. Some programs are more credible than others. But I don’t think there is any way we can roll back the clock. Accountability rests entirely with those whose signatures are on the certificates.

There is a larger question about what is happening in all these group yoga classes. If you run the numbers, two years of unlimited yoga classes costs less than most yoga teacher training programs. This assumes that attending classes will actually facilitate someone learning the skills of practice and coming to understand their purpose. It is not uncommon for someone to attend classes regularly for years, or complete yoga teacher training for that matter, and still feel ill-equipped. For all the money and effort people spend on yoga, we ought to expect more.


J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere.  Visit his website at jbrownyoga.com



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37 comments… add one
  • Jessica

    As a yoga teacher I sadly agree with many of things written in this post. For those of us who 1. Teach Yoga and not simply asana and 2. For those of us who run credible yoga teacher training programs that are comprehensive and well thought out and reach all aspects of yoga, the direction that yoga has gone leads me to a place that I feel like I can only hang my head. 200 Hours does not a yoga teacher make and instagram and facebook do nothing but perpetuate the trend of half naked people throwing about tricky asana (often times with scary form that I would never allow a student to do) to become famous. I try very hard to teach my students the truths about yoga, to teach anatomy and proper alignment and the deeper aspects of the practice. But, I do have to say that if you find a great teacher program it is worth every penny. It is a life changing thing that teaches you to get deeper into your practice and it teaches you to discover your own truth- that should not be diminished. It is a way, as an adult, to find like minded people and become part of a beautiful community. The Kulas that form during YTT are beautiful and lifelong. People with yoga certifications can absolutely make a living if they are willing to try very hard (as I have done) and it can be great supplemental income for many. So yes regular practice is key, but a good teacher program can be a great step for people as well.

    • Kadri Talmet

      Hey Jessica!

      I read your comment and figured I’ll try my luck and ask if you know any places that do great yoga teacher training programs in India that you could suggest?

      Thank you in advance!!

  • Dwayne

    “…sullying the name [Yoga] of an ancient and sacred tradition.”
    Having read Mark Singleton and others, and also having read source texts (Patanjali, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita, etc.), it’s far from clear to me that asana is part of the “ancient and sacred tradition”, apart from furnishing a comfortable and stable meditation posture. The sceptic in me is inclined to think that the systems of “Modern Postural Yoga” embedding most teaching programs have little to do with said tradition. So neither is it clear to me that “yoga teacher training is where the real learning about yoga is happening.” Maybe the scriptural/philosophical portion of YTT, but what percentage of total training does that constitute?

    • 20 hours.

      see the absurdity of it all “here”

      looking for a definition of “lead trainer” and what that is “supposed” to look like – if anyone knows, I’d like to know – please share. Dear Yoga Alliance – what credentials are expected of lead trainer? (does that just mean “studio owner”?) sigh.

    • Cristobal De Licia

      Your asking the right questions, Dwayne, but I’m not clear what your conclusions are. Mine is that TEACHING ASANAS AS A PURELY PHYSICAL EXERCISE IS OKAY!!! And the 200 and 500 hour standards are steps in the right direction for teaching the vast majority of Americans who just want gym yoga. They usually have their Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist, or whatever faiths to guide them in their spiritual lives. I do not want to be converted to a sect of Hinduism, and I think a lot of these “traditionalists” are insisting that this is the only way. Fundamentalist Yogis, please stop evangelizing your religion and insisting it is the only true way.

      • Over the years Yoga has regressed to just a physical culture . That cannot take away the original objective which was to apply the tools of Yoga to rein the monkey mind. NOWHERE in all the ancient text is ‘religion’ or Hindu mentioned. Chanting OM or a few mantras just because they are in Sanskrit from a country that once spoke this language and from where Yoga originated ,doesn’t make one a Hindu just as speaking French or Japanese doesn’t make one a Christian or Buddhist. Its original purpose and meaning has, somewhere along the way of pleasing the whims of masses, been lost in unfortunate and distorted translations thus limiting the scope of its benefits to any teacher or yoga practitioner. Whether it is a Yoga class or a 200 hour Yoga TTc the onus lies on the teacher to convey the message and true spirit of Yoga .

  • Chris Byron

    Yoga studios need to learn from martial art clubs. A 200 hour training course is a quick influx of cash, but is short term planning. To get a black belt takes years of training and investment in a single club – by far a better business plan.

    • Cristobal De Licia

      The legend is that Boddhidharma taught the Buddhists monks martial arts so that they could meditate longer and stay healthier. That is the supposed origin of all that we now call modern “martial arts.” How many martial arts studios insist on teaching Buddhism, much less rules of monastic life?

  • S.

    The real elephant in the room is what a scam the Yoga Alliance has turned out to be. They use all that money to lobby for less restrictions and oversight on the state level. Now that everyone’s got a cash cow TT program, nobody is making a fuss. But as Jay mentioned, we have indeed hit critical mass where there are no more students because everybody’s a teacher. I can see the fear of those who run marginal programs, because the well is drying up fast. Please think twice about signing up for that “advanced” teacher training. You are just paying the rent for studio owner.

  • Carole Donner

    It is hilarious to think that the commercialization of yoga has come to this. Yoga was invented by Yogi’s, who used it to benefit their Spiritual Practice. Being renunciate’s, they weren’t ever thinking of monetary gain. Put Spirituality back and forget about exploiting yoga for monetary gain.

  • LSS

    I’m on Abhyasa’s email list, and thought it was strange that they emailed us this piece .. in the very same email that advertised their own teacher training program.

    • The AYC Yoga Teacher Training program takes a minimum of 6 months to complete. And while it is conforming to a 200hr model (at a certain a point it just felt stupid to fight it), the program is not based on hours but competency. Only about 30% of participants actually bring the training to full fruition and receive a certificate. Because in order to do so you have to demonstrate the kind of diligence and commitment that I speak of in this post. I stand by what we are doing and invite scrutiny: http://www.abhyasayogacenter.com/yoga-teacher-training

  • Colleen

    The only reason I took a 200 hr TT after 15 years of teaching yoga is because I wanted some “credentialing” to go into the field of yoga therapy, and I knew I needed that dubious “credential” to get into another training program. I have seen some of the courses for what is laughably called “advanced teacher training” and…..do we really need three months focus on SUP Yoga?? Seriously? If you have killer backbends and good balance you can do SUP Yoga, no training required. The whole bastardization of the yoga “industry”–indeed even to call it an industry”–is making me sick at heart.

  • I agree with the view of the author. Yoga has become a big business today. There is thousands of Yoga Training Institutes, but most of them don’t provide the authentic knowledge of Yoga. They are treating it as a form of exercise only. Luckily we have few authoritative schools http://turiyayoga.com/about-us.html

  • I live in the UK and am currently nearing the end of the second year of a 3-year teacher training course with the British Wheel of Yoga. It is challenging, hard work, thought provoking and amazing in equal measure. We study asana, meditation, pranayama, relaxation, ancient texts, how to run a yoga business, health and safety, anatomy and physiology and so on. The course is in-depth and fully prepares you for teaching in the real world. It’s full-on and takes up lots of time and money but it’s worth every second and every penny. I looked at lots of courses before deciding which to do and this was by far the best. My two tutors are experienced, professional and supportive and my fellow students are fantastic. If you are lucky enough to have access to a BWY-accredited course I cannot recommend it enough but it is really demanding so you have to be sure it’s what you want to do. There is lots of teaching practice and the emphasis is on being the best teacher you can, inspired by your personality, with physical safety a priority. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity and I urge anyone who is thinking of becoming a teacher to do your homework and don’t be persuaded by a 2-week course in a fabulous location – look at course content, tutors, the end qualifications and course hours. Good luck and Namaste

  • KH

    Well said.

  • Norma Desmond

    Then you could complete the 200 hours of teacher training, complete the additional tasks but the studio owner did not file the paperwork with Yoga Alliance. The end of the story is that there is no recourse.

    Not that I would teach in any case. After two decades of practice and the “training” I still felt ill equipped.

    I do know more than the teacher I had today. Never saw before. He came 5 min after class start time. Within ten minutes initiated an adjustment on my spine. Came out of pose and instructed him not to adjust me, I have recently had spine surgery. He seemed taken aback. “Oh, I didn’t know.” Me: “I know, you were not here for me to tell you.”

    Somehow safety gets lots in the quest to do handstand.

  • I trained for 5 years to become a certified Iyengar teacher. That was after being a student for over 12 years. The iyengar system pretty much does the weeding out, before you are even considered a candidate, by requiring you to work with a senior teacher before you can join their program. Then once you’re ready you need to go for assessment, and it does not mean you’ll pass. So you need to have done the work fully. A lot of people don’t pass. And are ok with that. The ones that do you can rest assured they know their stuff.

  • At Jeevmoksha Yoga Gurukul rishikesh, our TTC program will allow you to dive deeper into your practice, its understanding and implementation, doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner or an advanced yogi. The course will prove to be a transformational experience in terms of your grounding into the traditional and authentic definitions and discipline of Yoga.
    Daily practice will include yoga, pranayama, and meditation, Pranayama (breathing exercises), sun salutations, asana, mudra, bandha, meditation & practical philosophy and Mindfulness Meditation. for more info visit http://jeevmokshayoga.com/

  • Hannah

    I was one of those students you mentioned who showed up so regularly to class I was asked to stand in, but being part of a generation who has been spoon fed the need to attend a ttc I didn’t have the confidence to take over the class. I did however join a ttc, not just one but 2 and I can whole heartedly agree with your article. My first ttc (shivashakti, agonda, Goa) was an immense experience. I was lucky enough to have to incredibly experienced and passionate Indian teachers and it was amazing, I learnt so much I thought my head would explode and left excited to deepen my practice and share my knowledge. It didn’t make me feel like a fully fledged teacher it just helped me start on the path to teaching by showing me how to access the wealth of knowledge and practice within yoga. The second ttc (a supposedly in depth 500 hrs spiritual course including many more mantras, in depth examination of texts, pranayamas, shatkarmas etc) has not lived up to any expectations. The course has not even attempted to cover a tenth of what was covered on the 200 hrs and we are a month in, I have found that I am in fact teaching certain practices, adjustment and alignment etc to the other students because I seem to have more knowledge than the teacher (and I know that I have in fact very little). One girl is leaving the course a month early but has been told she can still have the certification due to her disappointment with the course and a lack of a refund. Ridiculous. If I had known I’d have emailed the owner and asked for the certificate without attending, I could be doing more valuable self practice than a month’s worth of pawanmuktasana series 1, badly taught pranayama and no philosophy or anatomy.

  • Maria

    Any authentic teacher training you recommend , preferably out of the country . Thx

  • Great write up. I do agree that enrolling in a YTT program is one of the best ways to learn more about the practice… but now we are running into finding the “right” one. With so many studios looking to break even and make money off programs, YTT courses are being thrown together and some can be sub par at best. Do your research, find what resonates and go there. http://www.theyoganomads.com/body-wisdom-yoga-school-teacher-training-review/

  • Yes this is best blog for taking deep knowledge about yoga. But if you join any certified yoga institution there will be prepare you according to your body. They always keep attention on you about any cons.

  • Amy

    This is the blog where I always get knowledge about yoga. Thank you for shirring this post and keep sharing knowledgeable posts.
    Last year I have done my 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India (the world capital of yoga) with Akshi Yogashala. I was very happy that I chose that school for my course, It was amazing experience for me. When I was searching the school in Rishikesh, then I was so confuse that which school should i chose and at the end I chose Akshi Yogashala. Now I want to recommend this school to everyone.
    Check here for more info: https://www.akshiyogashala.org

  • Hey , Nice poses, Thanks for sharing the lovely poses. These poses are really so beneficial for boost the energy. I learn all these poses during my yoga training which i was taking from Hari Om Yoga Vidya school in Rishikesh. Thanks again for sharing the information.

  • Thanks for sharing your wonderful article . I am also visit India to join the yoga training with sattyayoga in Rishikesh. and Hope i also get a good experience with this center and also this place.

  • Glad to hear someone talking about this.

  • Great read.

  • Thanks for sharing this nice blog with valuable information.

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