Yoga Alliance Approved, My Ass

Another gem fro my friend J. Brown of the Abhyasa Yoga Center
Flipping through the catalog for a big name yoga and retreat center, I was shocked to notice that they advertised their yoga teacher training programs as “Yoga Alliance Approved.” Misrepresentations like this are the dirty little secret of the yoga industry. No one really wants to admit there is no accreditation for Yoga.
Anyone who claims to be “approved,” “certified” or “licensed” by the YA is either grossly uninformed or disingenuous. The YA maintains a registry of yoga teachers and training programs. In filling out the paperwork and paying the fees, yoga teachers and training programs purport to follow a vague set of curriculum guidelines that are posted on the YA website and assume a service mark of RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) or RYS (Registered Yoga School.)

What no one ever seems to acknowledge or mention is that the YA provides no oversight whatsoever. No one checks to see if anyone is actually doing what they say. Everyone is on the “honor” system. Consequently, the registry amounts to a digital rubber stamp or paid advertising. Not to mention, the YA does not disclose what they do with the money they collect from the Yoga community.

Even if everyone is being true to their word, referring to the YA guidelines as “standards” is quite a stretch. For example, being registered at the 200 hr level is said to have 20 hours of yoga philosophy. Generally, this entails a cursory reading of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s and a written test, kind of like reading the chapter and answering the summary questions in my 9th grade social studies class…

Read the rest here…

40 thoughts on “Yoga Alliance Approved, My Ass

  1. I wrote two blogs on this with the same view just in case ya’ll are lookin’ for an “amen” :) The first was written before I had met IYEA:

    and the second one was after:

    • I agree, this is a scandal to yoga they don’t recognize Patby Joys or Ayengar, the real teachers of yoga, this should be brought to the surfes and be acknowledge as a fraud.It takes more than 500 hours to be a yoga teacher it is a life time

  2. I’d felt harmed and snookered by an E-RYT 500 teacher who seemed to drink that Kool-Aid …
    As a student, “Certification” does not work for ME!
    Beyond that, I will say, “No comment”

  3. couldnt agree more. did an informal survey awhile back, toted up all the money those folks have collected world wide from individuals and schools, came to about 3.5 mil as in million. and to what end? where’s the beef? if they assumed a leading role in improving the quality of training programs in this country, then maybe we could accept their existence. but i searched their website in vain for something they did other than collect money. the word scam occurs to me, but i’d never say it out loud, tres un-yogic. at least if they’re going to establish standards, why not bring them more into line with the tradition? 100 hours of asana out of 200 total? that gives a seeming importance to a practice that it never had in the old days and simply reinforces the West’s misperception that yoga = asana. i dont know if this makes sense, but we need to take a step back to move forward now, we’ve pretty much picked as many nits as we can with asana. but they have us backed into a corner now. many prospective students nowadays believe that in order to find a gig as a teacher they need those YA initials on their resume. so they naturally gravitate toward programs marching in lock step with YA. the suggestion that you’re ready to teach yoga after “training” for 200 hours, no matter how expert the training, is ludicrous. incidentally that guy over there on the left side of this page, whats he holding up?

    • Thanks for the great comment, Richard. The image on the left is a drawing of me holding up my logo. It represents the movements of prana and apana towards each other.I call it “Atlas Breath.”

  4. I am glad you are bringing this up and hope that other big names in the yoga world will contribute to the conversation. I attended the Yoga Alliance conference in Indian Wells and heard a lot of similar criticism of the organization. I am sure that you know that your book was being sold at the conference. In fact, there was a whole booth there that seemed like it represented you. Because of that, I assumed that you were supportive of Yoga Alliance.

    • Far from being a supporter of YA, I begged them not to even come into existence after I resigned from the ad hoc committee that came up with the standards in the first place. For more info, go to:

      My booth at the conference was there to sell my online course to the attendees, not to support the Alliance.

    • p.s. unfortunately, prospective students in a TT have been scammed into believing that RYT is good, no RYT is bad. many teachers have told me that they think the YA is BS, but in order to attract students to their TT programs, they’ve joined because “are you YA registered?” is the first question out of their mouths.

      when I was certified 10 yrs ago, the studio was not a YA recognized school — he later became one because he said students started asking him about it….and he was one of the first yoga studios in Chicago in the mid-80s.

  5. What I have encountered here in Canada at least is that if you want to be hired as a yoga teacher in a studio the first thing they look for is some official body accreditation like from the YA. Even if the studio doesn’t believe in that, their hands are tied because the insurance company will ask that your teachers are accredited in order for you to insure your studio. I don’t believe a 200 hour YA certification means much but as a studio owner this has been a real difficult issue for me. I have the privilege of working with a teacher who has over 32 years of practice, has studied indepth with the likes of Iyengar and others, and continually educates herself but does not have any official “certification” despite over 20 years of teaching and a dedicated student base. This is an insurance block for the studio and even for herself should she decide to personally pursue insurance. There are others I know who are similar but come from an era and mindset that don’t believe in this YA thing. I agree with them but YA or RYT equaling insurance is an issue for studios.

    • This is also true with Personal training Certificate which can also be a real joke. It is politics. I have been in the “fitness field” since 1984, starting with teaching water safety classes to traditional fitness, etc.. and moved into yoga teacher training, and hold the E-RYT, but the truth is most of my knowledge has been through seeking out great mentors with a strong bio-mechanically knowledge, Physical Therapist and most be actually dealing with peoples issues, researching the safetest way to address them, so most of my skill over the years was sought out, NOT in some yoga training but with complimentary disciplines, such as Physical Therapist and Bio-Mechanics training, Yoga trainings to be honest lack that key essential ingredient, if your going to tell people how to move the body, you better know A&P like the back of your hand and YA does not assure that in the least! My BSE degree helped a lot with that and my self discipline of seeking out practitioners with PT or a strong knowledge of Bio Mechanics and movement.. I avoid training in “yoga studios” as I find them often, contra indicative

      • Certification is not necessary here in Oregon (and the US I would imagine) for insurance for my studio, nor do I ever ask teachers if they are registered. In fact, I don’t care. Its a scam and tells me zero about the potential teachers capacity to teach a safe class. Instead I make myself aware of the schools out there and pay attention to where they completed their 200 hr. That is more telling then being a RYT. We are about to launch a TT program and I am thinking of skipping the designation and telling students why. Its time we all stop contributing.

  6. Well said. I developed a 200 hour yoga alliance “approved” teacher training and as the only registered teacher at my studio was supposed to be the one to sign off. My studio co-owner decided to take all the money for herself and not pay me for my time leaving me out of the loop on our graduates. When I called to tell yoga alliance that the requirements were not being met by their supposed standards they would not even respond as they don’t really care if they are followed or not as long as the cheque is in the mail. So what is the point? Being screwed over by greed was the only thing taught in this teacher training.

  7. I agree YA ‘standards’ leave much to be desired. But then I think the same of the UN, the legal system, and government too. In a time where anyone can call themselves a ‘yoga teacher’, some attempt to set a quality standard is better than no attempt at all. I think the more productive questions are ‘how to reform YA so that it does mean something to be registered?’ or ‘how to introduce more integrity and quality to the system – so it isn’t merely a toothless digital rubber stamping sham?’ I don’t have the answers to these questions.. but I think it’s a conversation worth having.

    • Yes but they should recognize the Indian teachers and schools of india like Ashtanga yoga shala in India

  8. When I lived in Wilmington, NC, there was a yoga teacher who had her teacher training program shut down by the police. She was falsely advertising that her program qualified for RYT certification. She was told to refund the money and never run teacher training again. The other teachers at her school were the ones who notified the cops what was happening.

    This woman was listed as a RYT certified teacher on the Alliance website. Several teachers in our area, including me, contacted the Alliance about their fraudulent use of their name, which was documented in police records, but the Alliance refused to take her name off the list. If people think that the registry will prevent unqualified teachers from swindling students, they need to look at the fact that this organization would not even protect their own reputation.

  9. I think there is nothing wrong with certifications, and having a set of guidelines is important. Whether they are followed up is another thing for another time. Frankly though, I can tell the difference most times on who has and has not been through a 200 hour program.

    • I’ve gone through both the 200 level and the 500 level training at an excellent studio/school that delivered a very high level experience. It was a very rigorous program that included a Harvard PhD in Comparative Religion who also happens to be one of the top experts on Sanskrit and yoga philosophy in the Western world. I travel for work and attend studios and gyms across the country. I have suffered through many poorly taught classes from “instructors” who clearly had very little education in yoga let alone anatomy or pranayama. I’ve witnessed them doing potentially harmful actions as well. I support and approve YA’s attempt to standardize the training of teachers. It may not be perfect but it is movement in the right direction with the growing popularity of yoga.
      I cannot speak for all schools and studios but the one I attended, and where I now teach, applies a very high standard and produces some of the best teachers I have ever encountered. I attribute that to the YA teacher training guidelines.

  10. Thank you very much for your courage to write about this. I was going to pay for the high fees to YA but now after reading this, I will rethink about it.

  11. First and foremost I love Anantomy of Yoga, thank you Leslie. What is one to do that has been practicing for years and teaching for years, many students all ages, loves meditation, but is not considered for RYT for not handing over cash to a bureacrat or some studio that is registered, but has far less experience than I? It’s a conundrum. The students can tell the difference, but most studios have drunk the kool-aid and can not think outside the box. Yes we need some type of guide for the new student to seek a teacher, but what about a Yoga Clep? Time served? OJT? Experience must count for something. Peace and love to all, remember it’s not about the money, it’s awakening to the divinine union within us all.Namaste

  12. This is great article, from J., to read coming into the yoga industry and not enough is said about the accreditation issues and the alternatives.

  13. I was Grandfathered as a 200 hr teacher after filling out a form listing my experience at the time I thought it was vague but at the same time excited that there was some regulation. I was then told I could be Grandfathered at 500 hr and then a few yrs later e-500. Of course each time the yearly fee went up. As soon as I received the e-500 I realized this is obscured! No one was checking ANYTHING except my check book. So I let it go in 2008. I was already paying Massage license, Massage establishment, license and a nursing license NOT ONE MORE LICENSE!! I have had students come to my studio 200 hr certified not knowing how to do a proper down dog or triangle let alone know how to pronounce the simple Sanskrit names and said they never studied the YOGA SUTRAS!! Upset at what is happening to the beloved Art of Yoga, One local school says “Be a Yogi in 200 hrs”!! I decided to see how I could re establish my license. It took as long as it took to take my credit card info over the phone. A reflection on the American mind, turning Yoga into a money machine!! I know there are good programs out there but many are being misled. I don’t teach a teacher training but prefer to mentor students when I see the spark of a teacher within them. Now I am more dedicated to ensure what I teach is the highest standard. So happy to hear the above voices and know I’m not alone.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with the following statement, J. This behavior is not exclusive to YA. Yoga and its values are grossly misrepresented by other professional organizations that present themselves as representing the yoga community. It is truly sad and YES, we are capable of more. People need to stand up and fight the fight.

    “At the very least, any trade organization that wants to represent the yoga community must operate with complete transparency and accountability. Members of that organization must also do the same. Anything less is a discredit to Yoga and deserves scrutiny.

    Honestly, for me, it’s not just about the YA. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m venting some. I feel frustrated and tired of entrenched power that continues to undermine people and go unchallenged. I remain stalwart in the belief that we are capable of more”.

  15. It’s a complex blend of arguements already made above…tradition vs. some modern curriculum, the lack of testing/validation, the responsibility of teachers to actually deliver the goods, etc.

    A few thoughts from me: We can’t fault YA for everything. If a yoga school has a YA approved curriculum and doesn’t deliver, that’s really bad, but the blame falls on that school. I do think YA should do some testing to validate the understanding of core yoga concepts, especially those beyong asana.

    The goal of YA is valid, and in it’s defense, let’s make sure yoga schools have SOME some of clue of what to deliver to a new teacher. I have seen non-RYT teacher trainings where the students got NO A&P, No Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, No Ayurveda, and didn’t know the meaning behind Sanskrit invocations at the beginning of class. Terrible. (FYI – I don’t need an invocation, but if you’re going to say it you should know what it means.)

    Linda, I enjoyed your post as well. Not having any formal mechanism for grandfathering in long-term teachers and schools is more than a bit bogus. I know teacher who teach 16 classes a week for the last 15 yeras, have studied extensively around the globe, etc. and don’t qualify for RYT certs. And let’s mix in in the opposite issue of people who do teacher training to expand theri knowledge, but never teach. So, if they did that 10 years ago do they have 10 years of teaching experience? No way. I guess this goes back to testing right?

    And then there’s insurance. I’m sure RYT will be an ever-growing requirement for yoga centers. We live in a country of certifications, accreditations and…insurance companies and lawyers. Yikes!

    Great discussion. It will be interesting to this all evolves over time.

  16. (2014-02-20 Th)


    I am a 5-year yoga practitioner and currently attending a 200 RYT training at a local studio.

    I am steeped in maintaining my own personal standards of yoga practice and enjoyed classes from teachers who has high standards in doing a yoga class.

    I am indeed surprised (thus, the “Yikes!”) with all this “purported” faults assigned to Yoga Alliance because of the marketing misconducts of yoga instructors. It “appears” to be a big mess. But then, all appearances are misleading.

    This blog was posted way back in Nov 11, 2011 and, I suppose, the original e-newsletter of Abhyasa Yoga Center was way before that date.

    What about this “new and improved” “The Next Generation of Yoga Alliance”? Is this action of Yoga Alliance due to the increasing criticism back in 2011?

    I am new to this “controversy” so any feedback and update is pretty much appreciated…

    Loreto E. Torres

  17. Leslie, first let me say your yoga anatomy book was a dissection requirement for my 200 and 500 RYT. You should be ashamed of yourself! In response to your response. If you are at the conference you are supporting YA. How are you so different from YA? You were there for self-promotion and generating funds from sales, as everyone else. No organization or licensing agency is perfect, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.. May our Yoga “unity” light shine and be a little less judgmental on any persons “trying” to make improvements for safer yoga practices and teaching for all. After all Leslie, isn’t that why you said, “you came up with the standards?” What we judge in others, we will likewise experience, KARMA!
    Your comment was: Far from being a supporter of YA, I begged them not to even come into existence after I resigned from the ad hoc committee that came up with the standards in the first place. For more info, go to:

    My booth at the conference was there to sell my online course to the attendees, not to support the Alliance.

    • Tibbitts, I would refute your comment if there were a coherent line of reasoning to respond to. As it stands, you have just posted a jumbled mishmash of reactions, without anything for me to really comment on.

      By the way, had you read a little more carefully you would have seen that this is a repost of J. Brown’s commentary, not mine.

      Thanks for sharing, though.

  18. Hello i found this page I’m in the process of taking a yoga teacher who i did this scam course 200 hr with in Perth Western Australia , she is the ceo of yoga alliance Australia, this she did not tell us and used her business name my holistic fitness perth for this course..any how i need any information if any one could help ?

  19. Thank you, Leslie, for speaking to this! I did a comprehensive 6-month training with very experienced instructors for my first YTT, and yet somehow I always felt like I was lacking something because it wasn’t “YA Approved.” I then completed multiple continuing ed courses and partial teacher trainings with high-level teachers, with no “CEUs” since I wasn’t YA registered. My second YTT was 9-months and even deeper and more comprehensive than the first, and was an “official” 200hr training with the Yoga Alliance. I finally joined and felt some relief at somehow being in the system, only to find that I really got no benefit and was spending money on something that didn’t seem to give me anything in return. So, I let it lapse…and only occasionally look back. I so appreciate your strong voice in speaking up against unnecessary and unbalanced regulations, registrations, and (god-forbid) licensures for something as vast, complex, and multi-faceted as yoga.

  20. Yoga is a 5000 year old practice….seemed to be doing fine with teachers way before the YA came along…My teacher in India doesn’t need a RYT to teach me.

  21. Brave comment Leslie. Seem to be the only one and kudos for starting !! Great discussion but can we do anything about it?

    We live in a modern society, where electric cars are being built that can be go 200 miles on a charge, we carry everything we need in our pocket (cellphone) and keeping contact with your best friend in another country is just a free Skype call away. Would it so hard to bring some yoga to the yoga industry since thats completely free, the information in all the sacred books are already there (to learn how to be yogic, thats irony btw) so shouldn’t be a problem should it?

    Yoga has to do a lot of “setting the right intention”, so how about creating an alternative to the YA, more liked a registry for TT’s that are available, information about who is teaching it, their background and their goal. Curriculum could be added. Ratings could be done, like tripadvisors :-)

    There can also be some standards for different kind of trainings, normal yoga classes are teaching asanas, so I understand that need. But it could be different standards that could comply with different needs of “the professional scene” and alla the different branches that is also part of the yoga family tree.

    Why not set some standards that are are truly free to use and if you need a fee to sustain the administrative cost if would be a lifetime fee – self cost.

    The whole idea of judging is completely so far away from yoga that is laughable. Why not help the community?

    Why not take yoga to the modern age fully, with a yogic mind and dedication, simliar to the tech adventurous companies like Skype, spotify who love the idea of something very useful and bringing out the best from it. Still with integrity and honesty.

    I would be backer to something that could grow.

    x Standards that comply to the different needs of yoga family tree
    x Free or one time cost
    x Spirit of yoga – created from the best of intentions
    x Community that could grow

    I do TT’s for a living but stopped paying YA since its just “feels” totally wrong.

    I’ll even put upp my own money to get it going


  22. my teacher didn’t register me on yoga alliance because i didn’t meet the intonation/voice requirement in teaching test, i didn’t look at my neighbor’s answer either when doing the theory test while some students were busy looking at note on their hands and seeing others answers. Seriously we have to teach in loud voice with proper intonation which i never applied in my class. It is a YA registered school. The writing test is a serious thing as well, we have to remember every single words in text book. Even more serious than technical or safety part in teaching. I scored bad on those two tests, voice-intonation and theory test, but that’s the honest result. I felt lost and miserable. I read a lot of books and watch a lot of videos. Honestly 1 yoga book (philosophy, anatomy, etc) takes me more than 50 hours to understand it, even maybe years. At first i felt dissapointed and considering to take another new training only to get that title and hopefully be registered for marketing purpose, yes ego is playing in this part also. But then i found this blog and other similar blogs and completely changed my perspective about this YA, i agree that yoga is much much more than that, not limited to something and takes a lifetime to master it, as many said, it is a journey not a destination. 200 hours are definitely not enough, plus we don’t know if there is credible person who assess it for this registration. Thank you for writing this blog and gives inspiration.

  23. oh i got my certification by the way, but not registered. The place that i am working at and the students doesn’t even bother with that

  24. Yes, they’re collecting lots of money. Yes, no one who is sincerely practicing yoga needs to be “certified” or submit to a random set of “standards”. But, what’s a school to do? I wanted to lead a training program and outside of my own proclamation that I’m legit, my students need some kind of assurance that that is “for real”. Jumping through the hoops encouraged me to develop a curriculum, create a syllabus, plan out the schedule and assure my students I meant business. Would I have preferred NOT to have been “approved” and pay an exorbitant fee to people who seem to care less once they’ve got my money? Yes. Would I have done all those things without YA standing over me with their big check mark? Yes. But, again, having applied, been approved and begun my program, I’m glad my students have some recourse outside of me to know some kind of standard is being met. I don’t want yoga to be regulated. I don’t want the State involved in certifications. I just want to teach yoga and share what I know. There is NO OTHER large registry! What’s a girl to do?

  25. Reading through…very interesting. Lots of great comments. I founded CANADIAN YOGA ALLIANCE, not necessary for a money grab as our memberships were free in the beginning. As a yoga teacher without a ‘certificate’ I could not join YA and was told that I would have to train with a YA Certified School ( in those days they referred to the school as ‘certified’ which in fact it was ‘registered’) . This really pissed me off because I had practiced for 10 years and had 5 years teaching experience when I wanted to join the YA. It was laughable. Therefore, because I had a little internet experience, I did some searching on line and discovered that there was no Canadian Yoga Alliance. The rest is history. We ask for certificates in that we provide insurance. This is the main reason. YA has only recently started offering insurance ( and using the same company we use lol!) however, we negotiated with underwriters over a dozen years ago. We really wanted to add benefit to the membership. Yes, now we do charge membership fees however, CYA is a going concern and a full -time venture. There is not a lot of…I wish there were lol! My concern is building CYA and offering our members more benefits…recently we have negotiated income replacement insurance and additional medical benefits. This took a bit of negotiation however the members seem to be happy. We offer a free on-line journal of which its contents come directly from our members. It is available to the public at We are not a corporation and I am not interested in heading down that path. I hire young people to help with admin duties and pay taxes like everyone else. Ultimately,CYA will expand and our future vision is a eco-dome training centre and retreat featuring renewable technologies and permaculture farming. All of this came about as a result of a change in my life, at 21, to make Yoga my priority and life-path. I can only thank the Universe for the success of Canadian Yoga Alliance, and yes, to all the great souls who remain true to themselves and listen to the voice within. Namaste!

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