Yoga Alliance to Require Tests in 200-Hour Teacher Trainings, More Credentials for Lead Trainers

There are new standards for registered yoga schools and teachers. Here’s what’s changing.
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Yoga Alliance to Require Tests in 200-Hour Teacher Trainings, More Credentials for Lead Trainers

Learn more about the teacher-training tests here. 

Yoga Alliance updated its requirements for 200-hour yoga teacher trainings today, marking the first comprehensive overhaul of its standards for yoga schools and teachers since the organization’s inception in 1999. The updates, which go into effect after February 1, 2020, include mandatory tests for students, required completion of an online course on equity in yoga, and more training and years spent teaching to qualify as a lead trainer.

These additions follow an 18-month standards-review project by Yoga Alliance that included surveys completed by more than 12,000 respondents, recommendation papers from eight working groups, and virtual town halls.

“We heard loud and clear from the community that people are ready for Yoga Alliance to do the work necessary to up-level and then uphold the standards that underlie the credential,” says Shannon Roche, president and CEO of Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation. “We wanted to make the credential mean more but not overstep into a space the community is not ready for us to go.”

Yoga Alliance is also dropping the terms "contact" (with a faculty member) and “non-contact” hours (not in the presence of a faculty member) and instead making all 200 hours in classroom and tied to a newly defined core curriculum. The organization is also allowing up to 40 of those hours to be completed online in a virtual classroom. The remaining 160 hours must be in-person. 

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While these changes target the 200-hour registered yoga schools (RYS 200) and 200-hour registered yoga teachers (RYT 200), expect future updates to the 300-hour and 500-hour trainings to be announced in June 2020, according to Yoga Alliance.

Here, four key things you need to know if you plan to take or teach a 200-hour training:

1. All 200-hour YTTs will test students

Yoga Alliance will require that each school assess teacher trainees before certifying them as 200-hour yoga teachers, yet the organization will be pretty hands-off when it comes to the actual test.

“To be a home for most, if not all, lineages, we won’t prescribe a mandate for the assessment,” says Catherine S. Marquette, vice president of marketing and communications for Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation. “We'll offer resources and sample rubrics, but schools will be responsible for these tests.”

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The tests can take a variety of formats, including a combination of written work and practice teaching. What Yoga Alliance will require is that the 13 competency categories outlined in its new core curriculum be included in the assessment: asana, pranayama and subtle body, meditation, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, history, philosophy, ethics, teaching methodology, professional development, practicum (practice teaching), and elective hours. 

If you sign up for a 200-hour YTT in 2020 or 2021, whether or not you are tested will depend on three factors: whether or not your school already tested students prior to the updates, when your school first registered with Yoga Alliance (registration after February 2020 means required testing in 2020), and when your school updates its training to meet the new standards (current schools will have up to one year from their 2020 renewal dates). Come 2022, all 200-hour trainings by registered schools will include the mandatory assessments. 

2. All trainees must take an online equity in yoga course

Yoga Alliance plans to launch an online course focused on equity in yoga by February 2020. The course will be a requirement for trainees and free of charge. It will also count toward 10 Continuing Education credits with Yoga Alliance.

"The course will heighten members’ comprehension of and responsibility to change the societal and systemic inequities that exist in yoga so that we can begin to address the root causes behind why people feel excluded and underrepresented, or what leads them to believe that yoga is not for them," says Marquette. 

Roche says the decision to create the course came after members of the working groups flagged “barriers of entry to yoga” as a top issue of ethics and safety. All working groups highlighted in some capacity the issues of inclusion, equity, and diversity, says Marquette.

See also Inclusivity Training: 4 Ways Yoga Teachers Can Hurt Students with Language

“If you are not being made to feel like you belong in a place because of the color of your skin or the way your body moves or works, it’s a question of safety in yoga and yoga spaces,” Roche says. “We aren’t going to solve this problem with one course, but we want to elevate the conversation and make sure that anyone who holds the credential has an awareness of the elements that contribute to making people feel unsafe or unwelcome—and in elevating that awareness to encourage teachers to do their own work.” 

The format of the course and the experts who will appear in it are not yet determined, according to Roche. She says the organization will reach back out to participants in the working groups for another “listen and learn” stage before the course is developed. 

3. Lead trainers will need an E-RYT 500 credential

If you want to be a lead trainer of a 200-hour YTT, an E-RYT 200 (you completed a 200-hour training plus taught at least two years and 1,000 hours of classes) will no longer fly as a minimum requirement. 

You’ll need an E-RYT 500 (you completed a 500-hour training and taught for at least four years and 2,000 hours of classes—with at least 500 of those hours since graduating from an RYS 300 or 500) by February 2022 

In addition, the organization will require that lead trainers teach at least 75 percent of the curriculum, more than doubling the current requirement. 

See also Is 200 Hours Enough to Teach Yoga?

4. The approval process for registering a school will be more rigorous

Yoga Alliance also plans to take a closer look at registration applications for new schools during the review process. When a school seeking RYS-200 submits its manual, syllabus, letter of intent, and list of policies (ranging from how to handle sexual misconduct to refunds), it will be reviewed by a panel of three Yoga Alliance staff members who are yoga teachers instead of just going to one person at the organization. 

“We looked at other associations that provide credentials and who have the gravitas we’d like to offer our members. A panel or peer review is a best practice in the industry,” says Roche. “There will be more eyes on every application and a more robust discussion internally.” 

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