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Yoga Teacher Training Boom Cranked Out Almost 30,000 Grads Last Year

in Business of Yoga, YD News
YogaWorks teacher training. | image credit: PHOTO: David Walters/Wall Street Journal

YogaWorks teacher training. | image credit: PHOTO: David Walters/Wall Street Journal

The yoga teacher train is a speeding bullet! And it’s not slowing down. According to some new eye-opening statistics, more than 14,700 yoga teacher training grads registered with Yoga Alliance last year. And you can imagine how many did not – according to the Wall Street Journal it’s likely just as many. So that’s close to 30,000 yoga teachers walking around with at least 200 hours of training under their yoga pants waistbands. THIRTY THOUSAND.

There are several reasons for this. For one, yoga is getting more popular and there are a lot more yoga studios and yoga students. And some of these students decide they want to dig more into the practice so what better way to do this than immerse yourself in hours of deeper learning (for $3,500, of course). These folks probably have no intention of teaching, though they might go ahead and do so down the road for friends and family or their local church congregation. Then there are the people who feel called to teach for one reason or another, and will go through training expecting to pursue a yoga teaching career, hopefully not betting on these income numbers.

Another reason why there are soooo many teacher trainees and grads is because there are soooo many teacher trainings out there. We’d bet about 80% of studios that have been open for more than three years have some sort of yoga teacher training or immersion. Why? Because the yoga studio business model isn’t so great (read: not sustainable) and they need to make more money somehow in order to stay afloat.

Via WSJ:

As yoga studios multiply and competition increases, offering teacher-training courses has become an important source of revenue and keeps students from dropping out or defecting to another studio. The programs can bring in $2,000 to $4,000 or more per student for a 200-hour course.

“Everybody knows, if you need to make money, if you need to keep your studio afloat, you do a teacher training,” says Justin Michael Williams, co-founder with Karen Mozes of the consulting firm Business of Yoga.

Did you catch that? There’s a consulting firm called Business of Yoga, and Shiva knows those yoga business owners can use the advice. If you currently run a yoga studio, work at one or have at any point in the past, you know what we’re talking about.


Fun little graphic via WSJ. Click on the image to enlarge.

Here’s some more fun info:

The number of newly registered yoga teachers in the U.S. rose by an average of 18% a year from 2008 to 2014, according to Yoga Alliance. That is three times as fast as the 6% growth rate for yoga participation overall, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

That’s huge, the rate of growth for yoga teachers is bigger than the rate of growth for yoga practitioners. And yet the 30,000 we were talking about still hardly makes a dent in the approximately 25 million people who practiced yoga last year, which was more than who played basketball, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Honestly, we see no issue with people wanting to sign up for yoga teacher training to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the practice, the founding philosophies and the more detailed nuts and bolts. It’s nice to know people are interested to learn more. But there might need to be a line drawn between those who want to teach and those who are just doing it for their own experience. Because we’re already seeing issues arise over yoga teachers not being qualified enough to work with a variety of practitioners (potentially resulting in more injuries) and teacher trainings pumping out these underqualified teachers with their underwhelming teacher trainings that only scratch the surface in so many hours. We can blame the studios, we can blame Yoga Alliance for their lacking standards and requirements. (Either pretty valid arguments.) Or we can all collectively decide to do things with integrity, however that fits into our situation.

As students we can pay more attention to who our teachers are and as teachers we can be more conscious of what’s involved in the trainings. And studios, well, step it up, champs! Essentially, we’re all responsible for our own actions and wellbeing. If you want to be a yoga teacher and take on the responsibility of someone else‘s wellbeing while they’re in your classroom, you should probably make sure you do all your homework. And keep doing it #everydamnday.




36 comments… add one
  • S.

    What concerns me the most is not the glut of new yoga teachers, but the role of Yoga Alliance who is cashing in on this phenomenon. By setting the bar very low, they are enabling thousands of people with little experience to teach. There are no standards, nor accountability.

    • Wondering

      Why join yoga alliance anyway? Certainly not for respect or prestige. YA seems to merely convey a false sense of authority. Ya certified or ert200, 500 etc. signifies nothing meaningful. Undoubtably there are worthwhile teacher trainings, but being “certified” by YA means so little.

      • Bain

        Yoga Alliance does not issue certifications. No one is “certified” by Yoga Alliance. Instead, they are merely “registered” with Yoga Alliance.

        Before you complain, it’s not just semantics. Certification implies one or more exams that the person pursuing the certification must pass. This is why most personal trainer jobs require a certification (ACE, NASM, etc.). “Registered” or “member” just means you paid the fee to be a part of the group (e.g. YA, IDEA) though group membership may bestow other benefits (e.g. insurance, continuing education). “Licensed” gives you permission to use specific material, curriculum, or names (e.g. Zumba, Piloxing).

        I’m surprised no one has mentioned what really creeps me out about YA right now: doterra. Doterra is an essential oil MLM–which makes it highly likely someone inside YA is making big bank off of all the yoga teachers who sign up to be independent distributors–and while that might be questionable enough, it gets worse. The FDA gave doterra the smack down after both the corporate and some individual sellers made completely unsubstantiated claims about their products and what they could do. I guess in this aspect YA isn’t any worse that the Urban Zen program, which steers students to Young Living oils (also smacked by the FDA for, among other things, claiming Thieves oil could prevent ebola).

        • susan

          Excellent points Bain. I am a registered aromatherapist and yoga instructor. I am objective about EO’s but didn’t know that YA was advocating a MLM. That is a surprise to me. Wow.

    • LoRo


  • Nicky

    The first time I ever tried yoga (about 12 years ago) my first reaction was ‘wow, I need to tell people about this!’, many of my friends were at the same stage as me, but none felt the need to talk about it. Through the ebbs and flows of life; accidents, ailments, injuries and illness, both mental and physical I have kept up with my practice in some way. I still have the need to spread the word but and not because I am now bankrupt, I can’t objectively justify the teacher training pricings. Many years ago and the price has remained the same I qualified as a snow ski instructor with the Austrian Ski School, this cost €250 fully inclusive for 10 days (accommodation, lift pass, instruction, etc). I was fully licensed Ski Insrtuctor and worked 3 seasons. I am terrified to invest my precious money on a Yoga Alliance approved course (at least $2500) to find I’m involved with a mediocre school whose only interest is to take my money and in exchange not provide me with the correct tools to go forward and spread the word.

    • IMHO

      Nicky, if you want to teach yoga professionally, you can’t go wrong with YogaWorks YTT, which has a 25-year track record, and which offers discounts and scholarships to dedicated yogis such as yourself. Their courses are offered in all of their 30 studios, and in dozens of partner studios around the U.S. and abroad. Theirs is a highly professional course that covers asana, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, pranayama, restorative, prenatal, subtle body and the chakras. In my job, I have dealings with yoga teachers who have received training from many different schools, and YogaWorks consistently provides the highest quality yoga instructors.

      • Missy

        I’ve taken many classes with YogaWorks trained teachers. Typically, they are very good, but what makes the ones I’ve had so good are the people themselves. The training helps, but I think these people could have gone through any program, and been a great teacher. The great teachers never stop learning and sharing what they learn.

    • John

      Do the cheapest. None of them are worth a fraction of the amount they charge. If you want to teach and for some reason (insurance?) must do a TT then spend as little as possible. Otherwise do it the old fashioned way, assist your teacher, then cover for them, then take over classes/clients as they come up

      • Wondering

        Excellent advice.

      • Missy

        To some degree, I agree with John. I’ve had teachers from many programs, including some “Ivy Leagues” of yoga TT and some from a much maligned national program that has trainings in Canada, too. Some of the “Ivy League” graduates may have the book knowledge, but they shouldn’t be teaching because of their egos. Their egos encourage them to teach in a way that’s physically dangerous and harmful to their students. Two from the much maligned program are fantastic teachers, and they teach joyful and safe classes. (And yes, it’s a commercial program, but it makes it convenient to train.) If you want to teach yoga, it’s more about the person than the training. The really good teachers always continue to learn and grow. I do think that some programs get alignment and sequencing better than others, but a dedicated yoga TT student will seek out additional information at all times. Then again, I’m in a city that has numerous offerings, and although they are competitive, it’s nothing like what is found find in NYC or LA, where I imagine there’s a glut of yoga TT, and it’s hard to evaluate the choices. I also agree with John that you can learn so much from taking classes, observing, assisting, etc., as well as self-education. When I find a teacher I really like and trust, I stick with them while still trying new ones. Before putting any money down, do your homework on that yoga TT program.

        • S.

          Do your homework and avoid Yogaworks, the most corporate of all studios.

        • What is the name of the much “Maligned” program. I am wondering if I am thinking about the same thing.

  • I support the article and the comments.
    I particularly like the attention paid to the role the YA has played.
    Here is a link to a piece I wrote on the state of teacher training and my reflections on yoga (modern) in general.

  • LoRo

    Check out this well written and researched piece on how Yoga Alliance has contributed to the diminished quality of yoga teachers.

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