Navigating the complicated territory of the yoga alliance certifications
One of the first steps in searching for a yoga teacher training program is understanding the difference between the 200 hour and 300 hour yoga alliance certification. This is absolutely crucial to starting your teaching career; I see students all the time who make the wrong choices on how to approach their teacher training, and it can cripple them for their entire teaching career.
In this article, I’m going to cover a few important things to know.
- How does it all work?
- When should you do the 200 vs. 300 hour?
- What do the different qualification levels get you?
Not so long ago I was sitting where you are now, throwing darts up against google trying to pick a program without knowing what I was getting into. Having done my 200 hour and 300 hour certification, and working for one of the largest yoga training companies in the world, I hope I can give you some clarity!
Let`s talk Yoga Alliance
Yoga Alliance is a non profit organisation that sets the standards for yoga teacher trainings and yoga teachers worldwide. If you want your certification to be valid everywhere in the world, it's recommended that you do a teacher training with a school that`s registered with Yoga Alliance and will give you a Yoga Alliance approved certificate. According to Yoga Alliance standards the entry level training when one wants to start their education in yoga teaching is a 200 hour teacher training.
When completing the 200 hour training, you (hypothetically) will have all the knowledge to confidently teach at any studios, or teach private classes. I say hypothetically because this is not always the case. The industry has changed a lot in the last 5 years, with thousands of questionable schools training yoga teachers. You can now get your 200 hour certification in India or Thailand in 14 days for less than a thousand dollars, but these programs rarely offer you the actual tools to be a professional teacher.
Think of your 200 hour as your highschool degree. You can definitely get jobs with a high school degree, but most of the great studios will want to hire teachers who also have the 300 hour degree (advanced certification).
After you've done your 200 hour you can take a 300 hour training. Some programs will allow you to do a 300 hour before the 200 hour, but turn away immediately if a school tries to sell you on doing a 300 hour without a 200 hour. Programs that do this are not following the Yoga Alliance guidelines, and you mostly likely will be overwhelmed by a 300 hour training without the foundational knowledge of the 200 hour. Once you have completed both your 200 hour and 300 hour teacher training, you`ll become a 500 hour certified instructor with Yoga Alliance.
Is the yoga alliance certification necessary to teach yoga?
No, not at all. It is not a legal requirement, nor is it required by many studios. There are plenty of high-quality programs that offer 200 hour equivalent courses that are not certified by Yoga Alliance. From my experience, getting extensive training matters big time, but it doesn’t necessary need to be with a Yoga Alliance program. If you get a yoga alliance equivalent 200 and 300 hour training, it generally holds the same weight on the teaching market. Many of the best teachers I know did alternative routes such as Kundalini training, Jivamukti, Anyuswara, or others. The insider secret within the yoga industry is that the Yoga Alliance is sort of the necessary evil, everyone uses it but nobody really knows why.
Do you need to do your 200 and 300 hour at the same school?
No, and I would strongly encourage you to do your 200 and 300 hour trainings at different schools to gain different perspectives. Many students elect to do their 200 hour with one school, and then begin teaching for 1-2 years before taking their 300 hour. I would strongly recommend doing it this way because after having real teaching experience you `ll have a clearer idea of which direction you want to go deeper in, and choose your advanced training accordingly.
It can be helpful to think of these certifications like college degrees. The 200 hour training would be equivalent to a high school degree. You can still get a job without it, but it’s very unlikely. Almost all teachers teaching yoga today have a 200 hour teacher training certification, or an equivalent from a different certifying body. Many top studios are now demanding 300 hour certifications, and this is generally the sign that you want to start teaching full time professionally, like a college degree.
What will you be getting at a 200 hour teacher training
A 200 hour teacher training is about teaching you everything from the basics. As if you were a beginner practitioner, you`ll build up everything starting from the foundations. In my job I speak to people every day and in my experience 95% of the people are hesitant to take trainings because they think they aren`t experienced enough, or cannot perform enough advanced postures, or wouldn`t make good enough teachers. Let me stop this thought process of yours right away - yoga teacher training is not a bootcamp where only the fittest can go who already know everything. EVERYBODY goes to a yoga teacher training to be a clean slate and LEARN, not to show off what they already know. Unless you are doing an ashtangha training, you will not be doing 6 hours worth of hardcore flows at a foundational teacher training - it`ll often be made up of lectures where you`ll study anatomy, philosophy, dissect postures etc. Even those participants who technically can perform the pretty poses will spend the exact time sitting and studying like all others. All you need to start this journey is humbleness to learn.
You will learn how to perform yoga postures, how to build them into a sequence that makes sense for the body, how to give safe variations of practitioners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. This knowledge will be supported by learning about anatomy, breathing techniques, sequencing techniques, different philosophies and a lot of hands on practice. The main purpose of this training is that YOU become more aware and more in tune with YOUR own body, and you can build a conscious self practice. Once you have this foundation as part of your life, you`ll naturally be able to teach others what you have learned from an authentic place. And while the certification isn’t necessary, after getting it you’ll likely feel a boost of confidence with the certification and credibility behind your name.
Are all 200 hour trainings the same?
Not at all! There’s a huge variety on the market and it can be nerve wrecking to go through pages of google, trying to detect the one for you. The huge variety and unscrupulous standards of 200 hour trainings has been a big problem in the last 5 years, and recently the yoga alliance released a new set of standards governing what must be included in the 200 hour training, to help standardize it a little more.
Here`s some tips that can guide you what will be a great training for you:
- Choose a school that has a clear description on what style of yoga are they teaching. If you can’t clearly understand the descriptions on their website, you’ll probably have a similar experience with the school. Good schools are clear about who they are, and what type of students they attract.
- As a foundational training, I recommend going for a hatha training - this is the basis of all other yoga styles, all other modern styles of yoga comes from Hatha yoga. You can always do more than one teacher training in a lifetime, but at first you should get the basics right.
- Read about the lead teachers and try to get to know them, their journeys, their teaching styles as much as possible before committing to a training with them. Even contact them personally and arrange a call - teachers are usually extremely happy to hear from eager students!
- Check reviews of the school, even connect with past students if possible to know about their experience. They will give you insights into the training that you just can’t get anywhere else. Keep in mind this is a huge life decision, and you want to make sure you make it right.
In what set up can you complete your 200 hour training
200 hours is a long time that’s 22 full work days at a 9/5 job- one might think, so how will it fit one`s life? There`s usually two ways teacher trainings are organised:
Part Time Local Training
You can either take a course at your local studio where you`ll have training days over evenings and/or weekends, this way you`ll usually complete your certification within 4 - 9 months, depending on the schedule.
- The great thing about this set up is that between classes you`ll have time to read more books, study more, practice more, practice teaching, and altogether deepen your knowledge.
- Also as you`ll build a long term connection with the studio you`ll be more likely to get a job there once you completed your training with them. As by the time you finish your training, yoga and going to the studio will become part of your lifestyle, you`ll be more likely to actually wanna teach as well.
- As you`ll participate in the training while having your “normal life” on track, chances are you`ll always turn up to training days super tired, after long days or weeks, and might find it hard to focus.
- Also since you won`t be seeing your teachers and peers as often, the community building is not as strong generally in these trainings either.
Overnight Intensive Training
Another way you can do your training is an intense format within three to four weeks, having training days five to six days a week, all day long. These trainings are usually in beautiful locations around the world where you can travel to, to focus fully on your studies. You will find many trainings like this in Thailand, India, Bali, Costa Rica and many more locations. We have listed the best ones in this article for you - you`re welcome :)
- What makes these trainings amazing is the fact that you actually have to leave your life behind and give your undivided attention to studying and being immersed in this science on a daily basis for a long period of time. There`s no running errands, dealing with to do lists, taking work calls, taking care of family issues, etc while you`re at training. You will be dedicating your attention to learning every day, all day. In this intensity and dedication, learning is easy and can deepen immensely.
- As you`ll be living closely with everyone else who`s attending, and with your teachers, very shortly an amazing community will form, and you`ll find friendships that`ll last a lifetime.
- As there`s such a huge amount of trainings out there, it can be confusing which one to go for. Luckily you don`t have to deal with all this yourself, you can just give us your ideas of what training type and setup you had in mind, and we`ll help you find the right fit for you - get started here!
What will you be getting at a 300 hour teacher training
Only after completing your 200 hour training will you be able to apply for a 300 hour training. A 300 hour teacher training will go into more depth, and get into more of the subtle yoga practices to attune your practice. If the 200 hour training is the bachelor degree, then the 300 hour is the masters. After completing both trainings, you`ll have 500 hours of training under your name.
Furthering Education: E-RYT Certification (Teaching other teachers)
One of the best long-term goals as a teacher is to start to train other teachers. This is when most teachers really start to grow their career financially, as trainees are willing to pay thousands of dollars to be trained as a 200 hour certified teacher.
In order to be able to teach other teachers, or run your own teacher trainings, you’ll need 2000 hours of teaching experience. Once you have your 200, and 300 hour certification, and the 2000 teaching hours, you will reach the highest certification level with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500. At this point you can organise your own yoga teacher trainings and be lead trainer, or work with yoga schools that are looking for lead trainers for their trainings. Of course you don`t need to aim for these goals to do your 300 your teacher training - many teachers after a few years of teaching with their foundational training are just wanting to take their knowledge to the next level and either take another 200 hour course, or go for the 300 hour course.
As someone who has done many trainings and has worked in this industry for a long time, doing your 200 hour teacher training based on google search, or others` recommendation is perfectly fine. Once you`ve completed this training you`ll see what style is close to your heart, what teachers are authentic to you, in what direction you`d like to move forward - and then in light of all this, choose your 300 hour training with this knowledge. Generally people are going for a 300 hour because they know the lead teacher of the training and they want to learn from them specifically.
In what set up can you complete your 300 hour training
Just like the foundational training, you can also do your advanced training in a weekend setup over a few months time, or in an intensive format within a month to six weeks. There are many, many creative module-combinations that schools put out in their 300 hour teacher trainings. Many 300 hour traininngs today are pieced out in 100 hour modules broken into 3 time periods throughout the year.
What does a 500 hour training look like
Some schools do offer 500 hour teacher trainings. A 500 hour teacher training is doing the 200 hour and the 300 hour training back to back in one effort. Larger schools tend to do this and simply roll students from their 200 hour program into the next month into the 300 hour program, so be prepared to have an entirely new group after your initial 200 hours.
In the weekend setup, the 500 hour takes up to more than a year, and in the intensive format a few months. These trainings are extremely immersive and require a great deal of dedication and passion towards yoga and learning. I'm sure there’s no lack of dedication and enthusiasm on your part, but I strongly caution you against doing your 500 hour training together in one effort. Your 200 hour will be like a tasting menu, and if you don’t like the food, you won’t want to stay for the whole meal. Most students feel extremely overwhelmed after their 200 hours and to do it all in one go is extremely mentally and emotionally challenging.
Like most jobs, the best approach is to do your initial certification (college), go out and work for a few years to get more precise on what you want to do, then come back for grad school. I highly recommend you teach at least for 6 months after you do your 200 hour before considering doing your 300 hour.
200 hour + 300 hour trainings = 500 hour certification
300 hour advanced training prerequisites: completed 200 hour teacher training
Do you NEED a yoga alliance certificate to teach yoga? No, but it's beneficial. Yoga Alliance equivalent programs are generally recognized exactly the same in the teaching market.
ERYT (leading your own teacher trainings) requires 2000 teaching hours.
If you still can’t choose a training, I highly recommend trying the FindYoga Try our bidding service! Someone who works in the industry will help you choose a program and even negotiate you a price from your best options.
I hope that this article answered a lot of your questions and will help you navigate this complicated world of yoga alliance certifications. Go forward with confidence!