Qualifying as a Yoga Instructor is one of the most rewarding career choices that you can make. Of course, you can study the ancient art and science of Yoga and choose not to teach, but more and more people are deciding that what has always been a love of theirs, could actually be their career.

With hundreds of Yoga schools popping up all over the world it can be confusing and daunting to choose a school, and even more confusing to understand and decide upon which qualification you want, or need.

In this post I hope to clarify any confusion there is between the 200-hour and 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) qualifications that are provided by Yoga Alliance registered schools. Let’s dive in.

Why are there different qualifications?

There are different qualifications outlined by Yoga Alliance to distinguish your level and experience as a Yoga teacher. The first difference to note between the 200-hour and 300-hour YTT qualifications is that they are seen as Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications. That means that you can not take the 300-hour without first completing the 200-hour. On the other hand, you can decide to remain at Level 1 and only complete a 200-hour program.

This might make things a little easier when selecting a school if you are new to teaching as for now, you can put aside all the 300-hour programs, as a 200-hour program is where you must start.

Yoga Alliance 200-Hour YTT

What is the main purpose of the 200-hour YTT program?

The main purpose of the 200-hour YTT curriculum, put together by Yoga Alliance, is to give you enough guidance and information of postures, Yogic life, Yoga philosophy, anatomy and physiology for you to start teaching. It focuses on giving you the right structure of HOW to teach.

A quote that I find sums up the 200-hour program well is this: “The way you do one thing, is the way you do anything”. What I mean here is that 200-hour YTT programs dedicate a large portion of time on developing you as a person. Giving you a chance to figure out if the Yogic life is one that you want to thrive in, one that inspires and excites you, and one that is a natural fit for you.

The way your do one thing, is the way you do anything

The reason why this is important is because the way you do one thing, is the way you do anything. If you develop your own practice and find patience, self-love and harmony in that practice, you will be able to bring those same feelings into your classes. You will not have to “pretend” that you are a Yogi, you just are. You will give the same amount of energy to your classes that you give to your own practice.

Yoga may just change your life

The 200-hour YTT programs are well known for being life-changing events for many people. This is because the focus is put on stripping away the layers of an individual and introducing them to themselves. This journey to the self creates wisdom and inward knowledge that is paramount for a teacher to pass on to others.

Of course, each Yoga school will have its own particular focus, aims and desires for its students and will, therefore, mould the Yoga Alliance curriculum around their own aims and desires as a school. This is where it becomes so important to research and do your homework before choosing a school for the 200-hour YTT, because you will want to find a school that has the same ideals and expectations of you as a teacher as you do.

What is the Yoga Alliance curriculum for the 200-hour YTT?

Yoga Alliance has a very specific curriculum that needs to be covered as part of any 200-hour program. What is important to note is that only 185 hour of those 200 are required to be specifically focused on the educational categories provided by Yoga Alliance (contact and non-contact hours) which are:

  • Techniques, Training and Practice - 100 hours
  • Teaching Methodology - 25 hours
  • Anatomy & Physiology - 20 hours
  • Yoga Philosophy/Ethics/Lifestyle - 30 hours
  • Practicum - 10 hours

The remaining hours can be dedicated to any areas of focus that are particular to that school. This could be a focus on Chakras, Reiki, Ayurveda principles, meditation etc.

How are 200-hour YTT programs structured?

Immersive: In order to fulfil the purpose of a 200-hour program, many schools offer three to four week fully immersive programs that introduce you to, and cradle you in, a Yogic life. These immersive programs will introduce you to every aspect of Yogic life, from the ancient traditions of meditation, Ayurvedic or vegetarian eating to self-reflection, mantras and chanting.

A fully immersive program throws you in the metaphorical deep end of the community you are deciding to grow and thrive in. There is no better way to decide if it is the right decision for you or not, then to pack your bags and leave the familiar and routined behind, for the new and very different.

Part-Time: There are many great part-time programs that are fantastic if you are not able to take a long vacation from work, however, in my opinion, an immersive program is best.

Yoga Alliance 300-hour YTT

What is the main purpose of the 300-hour YTT program?

If the 200-hour YTT is designed to teach you how to teach, then the 300-hour YTT is designed to teach you how to become a better teacher. Here the focus is put on sharing your experience as a teacher, helping you find your speciality, and honing your skills and attitude.

To train you to become a better teacher

It is recommended that a 300-hour YTT program is only considered once you have been teaching consistently for about two years. This is because during that time you will have gained experience as a teacher, have a clearer understanding of what styles of yoga you prefer and where you want to focus your further education.

Further your education in a specific area of Yoga

You will also be experienced enough in your own practice to learn more advanced poses, go deeper into meditation and pranayama techniques and dive deeper into the philosophy of Yoga.

At the heart of it, the 300-hour YTT program is designed to further your education in a particular area, take you deeper into the Yogic life and bring to the surface topics and techniques that you want to continue exploring over time.

What is the Yoga Alliance curriculum for the 300-hour YTT?

The Yoga Alliance curriculum for the 300-hour program does not differ in terms of educational categories of the 200-hour program, but rather in the time dedicated to each one. Where the 200-hour program has 185 hours assigned very specifically to the different educational categories, the 300-hour program only specifically dictates 80 of those hours.

The remaining hours are divided and assigned to the different education areas, or other areas of Yogic focus, depending on the focus and aims of the school. This is where choosing your speciality comes into play. If you have decided to focus on Tantra yoga, your additional hours will be focused on the lineage and specific practices of this style.

How are 300-hour programs structured

Modular: Many 300-hour YTT are broken down into modules that can be taken over the course of anywhere between six months to two years. The idea behind the modular format is that techniques and knowledge are learned over a number of workshops that are then taken back into the classroom to be tested and experimented with. Teachers can then come back and discuss with each other the experience they had, share any difficulties they might have had or any “aha” moments.

Some schools offer students the option to select the modules in the order that best resonates with them. Dates are given when the modules will be taught, and where. Each student will then be able to fit their education into their own time.

It should be noted that the 300-hour program is much more intense and assessment based than the 200-hour program. That means that there are many non-contact hours required that are dedicated to mandatory reading, written assessments and exams.

Immersive: In addition to the popular modular format of the 300-hour programs, many schools also offer fully immersive programs that usually last four weeks. These are a great option if you have time in your schedule to dedicate a number of weeks to your training, or if you know that keeping on top of assignments and reading over the course of several months is difficult for you.

What to consider when deciding to complete a 300-hour YTT program

As I have already mentioned, the biggest difference in the 300-hour program to the 200-hour program is that it focuses on honing your skills as a teacher. Therefore you should approach choosing a school from a different place in your mind. Now that you know HOW to teach you will want to find a school that offers a program that speaks directly to what you want to specialise in, will challenge and inspire you and will introduce you to fellow teachers who will become your community in that speciality.

Here are my top 5 recommendations on what to think about when deciding on a 300-hour program:

1) Have a firm understanding of what you want to specialise in

This is by far the most important first step to make, in my opinion. If you have decided that you want to specialise as a Yin instructor, there is no point looking at any other schools or programs that teach anything other than Yin.

In the 300-hour program, you are specialising in something very specific. This means you want to get as many hours as possible under your belt in learning the specifics of that area. Perhaps that includes very precise terminology, cues, adjustments, voice prompts or philosophy. This is the number one reason why it is important to first teach before furthering your education, as you will be less confused about what route you want to follow.

2) Choose a teacher with experience over one that is just well known

There are many celebrity Yogis that have amazing 300-hour programs. However, these can have very long waiting lists, be oversubscribed, carry a higher price tag, include too many people and often are not even lead by the celebrity Yogi, but an apprentice.

I am not saying don’t aspire to learn from some of the great yogis, I am saying to take into consideration individual attention over fame. A smaller program with an experienced teacher in your field of interest who is not as well known may give you everything that you need to advance yourself, without the expensive price tag or long waiting list. There are always options to attend workshops with some of the great Yogis of this time.

3) Choose a program that has a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology

In your 200-hour YTT, you will have been taught basic anatomy and physiology that will have ensured you led a safe Yoga class. In your 300-hour program more time is dedicated to this essential science of the body, and therefore you want to make sure that the program you have decided on has a good curriculum and a teacher who is properly qualified.

This is particularly relevant for those choosing to specialise in Pre-natal Yoga, Yoga for Kids, or Yoga to help rehabilitation. The human body changes as we grow, go through pregnancy and suffer injuries. It is fundamental as an advanced teacher of Yoga that you understand not only the physical structure of the body but how Yoga poses affect the body in different ways.

4) Choose a program that honours sharing of experience

Some of the best teachers we meet in our lives are the people we have around us. That includes the peers you have during a 300-hour YTT program. All of the people on your program are teachers themselves and therefore will have a heap of experience that is different to yours.

A program that focuses on sharing and experimenting with each other's techniques, providing feedback and having open discussion will greatly enhance your experience and skills. You will also come away from the program with a network of other teachers who you can reach out to and collaborate with who have the same interests as you, but different experiences and style.

5) Choose a program that honours Yogic life

An advanced teacher is not just one who can stand on their head. An advanced teacher is someone who admits to not being all-knowing, but rather someone who understands that they are still a student. A good 300-hour YTT program will spend time exploring more of the Yogic philosophies, techniques and histories to further your knowledge, personal growth and understanding of self-awareness.

This understanding can only enhance your offering as a teacher, further help to hone your particular voice and shape your practice to one that is unique and pulling from your internal understanding of what Yoga is.

To Sum Up…

Ultimately, if following a Yogic path is your desired career choice than you should look to complete both your 200 and 300-hour certifications to be able to apply for 500-hour registration. At that level, Yoga Alliance will identify you as an advanced Yoga teacher, which can be beneficial if looking for work in specific studios.

However, the number of certificates acquired does not in itself provide proof or you understand of Yoga to yourself or others. Only consistent practice, honestly with yourself and your own personal growth and study will bring you the wisdom and “knowing” that you seek.