Thursday, April 8, 2010

Regularization of Yoga: Guest Post from Suburban Yogini!

Rachel, from Suburban Yogini, is a beautiful and vibrant Soul. She kindly offered to write a guest post for me and I love her chosen topic: Teacher Training in the UK. As I have been considering embarking on that journey, I am honestly jealous of the time frame required for certification. 2.5 years- wow, the opportunities and level of experience. With this post, Rachel offers a nice perspective from beautiful Cambridge England, on what it might be like should Yogis in North America simply 'chill out' (my words). Thank you so much Rachel! (Don't you LOVE her Red Hair?? Gorgeous!)

Embarking upon yoga teacher training in the UK isn’t an easy option.  It’s not just something you can do in a few months to add another string to your bow, it is a huge commitment of both time and lifestyle.  It can be up to 2.5 years of arduous training, essay writing and anatomy tests usually combined, for most of us, with a full time job because that’s the only way we can afford to pay the £2,500 that the training certification costs!  On top of that you have to have been practicing, with an accredited teacher, for at least two years and it is preferred if you have done the twelve month Foundation Course first. 

There is a reason for all this – yoga teaching certification is overseen by the governing body of yoga in the UK, The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY).  And this brings us nicely onto the thorny subject of regularising yoga certification.
In the UK we have governing bodies for pretty much everything.  It’s not as bad as you’d think really.  While I’m not going to pretend that the BWY is faultless (believe me, it isn’t), it does exactly what it says on the box.  It oversees all yoga certifications within the UK.  This means that if your yoga teacher’s certification is with the BWY or one of its affiliates then her training is up to a certain standard and has taken her at least two years to achieve. 

That is not to say that there are not very many fantastic and capable teachers who have not trained with the BWY, but it just means that one cannot set oneself up as a Yoga Instructor in the UK without sufficient qualifications.  After all would you want to be seen by a doctor who had only spent a few weeks at medical school?  No, thought not.  So why put your body in the hands of somebody who doesn’t know the deep physical, mental and emotional journey that yoga can put a body through?

I’m an impatient person.  If I could have done my yoga teacher training in nine months or six months I would have done (although perhaps not in the two to four days promised by one organisation that will remain nameless).  But in hindsight I’m glad it took me so long.  I’m glad I had to dedicate such a huge part of my life for over three years to it.  The British Wheel isn’t very glamorous.  It’s more about dusty church halls than exotic beaches and pine-floored studios.  But it is a one-stop shop in health and safety and other legalities that are essential to know when you set up on your own as a self-employed yoga teacher as I did.  

My yoga teacher training was fantastic not because of the syllabus, or the teachers (although both were brilliant) but because of the sheer length of time it took me to achieve. (Lisa here- 560 hours minimum required from what I can gather from their website)  In those three years I changed a lot.  I truly began to understand my body and the bodies of others and the timeframe allowed me to assimilate fully all that I learned - far more so than I would have been able to if I had taken in that amount of information in six months. 

The fact that our certification is regularised by a governing body has never limited us as teachers here on our little island.  We continue to teach in our own ways and from our own hearts but safe in the knowledge that we are adequately trained and adequately insured at all times. And that is something that we deserve both as teachers and students. 

Please visit Rachel at her wonderful sites: Suburban Yogini, Facebook or Twitter

Find more information on the British Wheel of Yoga on their website

Aims of the British Wheel of Yoga

To encourage and help all persons to a greater knowledge and understanding of all aspects of Yoga and its practice by provision of study, education and training
To maintain and improve the standard of teaching of yoga
To co-operate with and support other organisations having similar aims 

Article and photo Copyright of Rachel at


  1. This is a really great post, and something I wrote about after completing my own YTT.

    To become a full member of the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia, you need to have completed 500 hours of training. It is possible to become a partial member with 200-300 hours, but there is a difference.

    I completed my 500 hours training in 12 months, and there's an Advanced Diploma that I'll do at some point (perhaps next year) as well.

    And I was talking about this very thing with an old-hand yogi last night. Becoming a yoga teacher, allowing all that knowledge to seep into your body, mind and heart requires time. It's a transformation. And while I understand that it's possible to become a yoga teacher in a much shorter timeframe with some programs, I can't see how someone could feel like they understand enough to teach with any authority after such a short and quick training.

    But perhaps that's just me. I've been studying yoga in all it's facets for around ten years now and I *still* consider myself something of a novice, really only at the beginning of my journey with yoga!

  2. i always thought yoga teacher trainings could stand to be a bit longer here in the states of united. i get asked fairly serious medical questions all the time, and i know a lot of teachers do, and with only like 50 hours of anatomy and physiology required that seems under par.

    good to see you here, rachel :)

  3. I think it's interesting to compare the various degrees of certification you can have.

    I did a TT intensive, meaning 200 hours crammed into 4 weeks. I felt like I got a lot out of it, but then again, I had been practicing for about 7 years and already been teaching for nearly 3 years. So a lot of what I learned was solidly rooted in my own experiences.

    But some of my fellow trainees hadn't even been doing yoga for 3 years (it was a minimum of 2 years practice for the course), and had never taught before. Some of these people attained their certification and others didn't, but I certainly felt that it was a lot to ask of people in 4 weeks and I wonder if a longer course would have been better for them.

    Not to say that I wouldn't benefit from a longer training as well... But since there are no teachers (nor yoga schools!) where I live, I am glad that they offer these intensives to make the YTT accessible to people like me! Moving country for 2.5 years to become a yoga teacher takes a little more commitment than I have. :)

  4. Hi Rachel and Lisa! Great post!

    There is a lot of debate about standardizing yoga teacher certification here in the states. But I also question the programs I have seen lately - 200 hours in three months, at one place. Is that enough? I can't imagine that it is.

    While I have my doubts about standardization, I find myself leaning more and more towards that side of the camp.

  5. This is so fascinating! Thanks, Rachel. I often find myself wishing there was more YTT standardization here in the U.S. I'd like to practice for a few more years before doing my own training, but the 200-hr training I'm most interested in is low-residency and conducted over the course of 7 months (long weekends, Fri-Sun, with regular classes with the instructor/studio owner). My own teacher did the same training and vouches for its comprehensive instruction and intensity, but I'd like to have more experience on my own first. Possibly I'd also like to take an anatomy class as well.

  6. Great post! I originally did one of the standard 200 hour TTC intensives, not so much to teach but just for my own development and didn't start teaching until a year and a half later - at the encouragement of my local teacher.
    I try to do at least one retreat/workshop/intensive every year and would say that that combined with my own study and practice - and teaching - is what has really made me comfortable calling myself a teacher. The TTC was a good foundation in philosophy and discipline and the 'why' of the practice but the 'how' really came over time - lots of time.
    I like the sound of a lot of these non-residential programs they have now in the US where the course of study is stretched over a year or so of week-ends with homework in between, and if I lived there I probably would have gone that route. But having gone the other way, I can also see how important intensives in appropriately supportive settings can be, so much happens in that pressure cooker like environment; you can really see, feel and explore the power and depths of the practice in quite a different way than when you're in your regular life.
    I know it is ideal to bring our yoga into our regular life as much as possible but occasionally yielding to the steady rhythm of a retreat is also quite critical to balance the day to day practice. The steady work is like digging a well, gradually it take shape and starts to fill from below and that shape and that growing moisture will always be there. Periods of intensive practice are like a monsoon, raising the water table and making things murky at first, then clear, cool and so much deeper than they were before - and even if that depth and clarity doesn't last forever, the memory lingers in your bones. That being said, it obviously helps to have a well made well to catch the deluge... I don't know if this makes any sense any more, it's been a long day... anyway, so I'm for both long periods of supervised study and practice + retreat style intensives. Thanks again for the great post!

  7. Was visiting Rachel's blog and saw she was guest posting so came on over for a look. Good post! I think that the point you made about the time it involves being, essentially, part of the teaching. Yoga seems to be more of a journey and less of a goal, so why wouldn't training to be a yogi be any different? I think that the journey and dedication to the calling of becoming a yogi instead of just getting certified so that you can make some money is important.

  8. I have heard that overseas (outside of the US) is a much different ball game to learn to teach yoga and participate in a teacher training. So interesting to read how it is so different in another country. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for yoga teacher trainings in the US. NY and some other states are trying to make it a sort of technical degree type of thing, which will make the demands so extreme that some schools (most) won't make it. This is what happened to massage schools. I do think that there are too many yoga teacher training programs in the US and that some are not as good as others, but more regulations would isolate even some of the great training programs that exist now due to monetary demands.

  9. Thanks for this post! This is so interesting - I didn't realize TT was so intensive elsewhere. I did the 200-hour training in the U.S. after practicing yoga for about ten years. There were a few people in TT with me who had been practicing for under a year. I'm not sure if they were completing the program because they actually wanted to teach, though, as the program was often advertised as a way to grow your practice even if you didn't want to teach. Many graduates have not gone on to teach.

    I also did a follow-up program to my 200 hours, which was hugely beneficial. I was able to let my TT knowledge sink in for awhile as I focused on my own practice for a few months, and then I began the level two training. I think this made all the difference for me, and I can certainly understand why 2-3 years of training would be far better than the shorter trainings allowed in the U.S. I would absolutely *love* to spend 2-3 years in an organized training program with strong teachers and a set curriculum.

    That said, I likely would not have done a 2-3 year training if it were required, at least not at this time in my life. I did my TT just months after finishing a four-year evening law school program, and my husband and family were wary of even the 200-hour TT at that point! And I do think I'm a good teacher, although I freely admit to my students that I'm a new teacher with a lot to learn. Frankly, at this point I really can't imagine calling myself anything but a beginner teacher EVER - there's so much to learn about yoga that it boggles my mind.

    Anyway, I guess my point is just that, while yoga certification in the U.S. is certainly not perfect, and maybe not what it should or could be, I do think good teachers can come out of it, especially if they are constantly seeking new knowledge on their own. I take workshops regularly, and I consciously seek out the most experienced teachers for my own practice so that I can learn from their teaching styles and methods. I constantly read books about yoga and related subjects, and I'm passionate about yoga and endeavor daily to live my yoga. I think these sorts of qualities and efforts matter a lot too.

    Another thing I find immensely helpful is my yoga community. I met some amazing teachers and fellow students during my TT program, and I remain in contact with many of them. We provide tons of support to one another, and I am so grateful. And this online community that I'm just beginning to explore is also very helpful and encouraging. I honestly feel like I'm continuing my TT education every day.


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