Why professional registry matters, and what you should know about your teacher.

by: Carrie Klaus, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP

What is professional registry? Why does it matter?

You may have noticed when checking out our bio page that all of our teachers hold the designation RYT, E-RYT, or RYT500, but you might not know what that means.  The designation RYT stands for Registered Yoga Teacher and indicates that your teacher is registered with Yoga Alliance.

Registered Yoga Instructors at Inner Spring Yoga

In the US there are two professional organizations that recognize the skills and training of Yoga teachers. These are Yoga Alliance and International Association of Yoga Therapists. These two organizations provide Registry status to Yoga teachers who have completed accredited trainings, and maintain good standing by adhering to guidelines and ethical standards set by the registering body, and staying up-to-date with continuing education. Both of these organizations have their challenges, but as Yoga continues to grow in the West both organizations are at least a starting point to ensure Yoga teachers are well trained, well educated, and skilled and knowledgeable in the field of Yoga.

It is currently not required for Yoga teachers to hold any specific registry or certification. In fact, many Yoga teachers have not even attended a Yoga Teacher Training program.  On the one hand, we definitely don’t need the government to intervene in our Yoga practice by setting regulations and requirements, but on the other hand, we can’t deny that we are working with people’s bodies as well as their minds and spiritual life and it takes a trained and skilled individual to do this. Registration/Certification with these professional organizations at least ensures that a teacher’s education and training has met some set standards. There are certainly some great teachers out there who are choosing not to become members of these organizations, mostly in protest to being regulated at all, so this isn’t to say that only registered teachers have the skill and knowledge to teach safe and effective classes, but registering with a professional organization is a way to ensure to your students that you are committed to continuing your education, and advancing your skill and knowledge. 

So, what do all of the titles and designatory letters mean?  Here’s a little guide to help you understand…….

Yoga Teacher - Can mean anything at all. This person may or may not have completed an accredited Yoga teacher training program, they may or may not have completed a quick “weekend warrior” type program, or they may or may not have completed an on-line training. Basically, anyone at all can teach Yoga and call themselves a Yoga teacher. 

Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT) - General describes someone who holds a certification of some sort. This could be from an accredited Yoga Teacher Training program, but it could also be from an on-line or “weekend warrior” course.  The good news is, at least you know your teacher has had some training. The bad news is, you have no idea the quality, length, or depth of that training. 

Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) - This means that your teacher has completed a Yoga Teacher Training Program accredited by Yoga Alliance. Their training has met set standards and has included training in anatomy, philosophy, teaching skills, and study of yoga āsana. This designation also indicates that your teacher has agreed to a set of moral and ethical codes of conduct, and is committed to continuing their education by accruing required Continuing Education Units (CEU’s). 

  • RYT 200 = Your teacher has completed a minimum of 200 hours of training with a Registered Yoga School (RYS). This designation does not indicate any required teaching hours.

  • E-RYT 200 = Your teacher has completed a minimum of 200 hours of training with an RYS. The “E” stands for experienced, and indicates that your teacher has taught for at least 2 years, and has accrued a minimum of 1,000 hours of teaching.

  • RYT 500 = Your teacher has completed a minimum of 500 hours of training, and has at least 100 hours of teaching accrued since completing their initial training. RYT 500 does not mean that your teacher reached the E-RYT 200 level first before completing a 500 hour training.  Therefore, an E-RYT 200 can have more actual teaching experience than an RYT 500. It’s the student’s responsibility to inquire about the teachers actual teaching experience.

  • E-RYT 200, RYT 500 = This teacher has completed a minimum of 500 hours of training with an RYS, has taught at least 1,000 hours of Yoga, and has taught for at least 2 years since completing their initial training. This designation is a better indicator of your teacher’s experience than the RYT 500 designation.

  • E-RYT 500 = This designation indicates that a teacher has completed a minimum of 500 hours of training with an RYS, has taught at least 2,000 hours since completion of their initial training, with 500 of these hours accrued after completing the 500th hour of training. This designation requires that a teacher has taught Yoga for at least 4 years since completing the initial training.  

C-IAYT = This teacher has completed training with a Yoga Therapy program certified by the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

What else you should know about your teacher.

It is important to find a well trained, and skilled teacher, as well as a teacher who is committed to continuing her/his education. A good haṭha yoga teacher should have an advanced understanding of how the human body works (biomechanics) and should be able to work with students as individuals, rather than offering only rote cues and instructions.

Because the designations above don’t necessarily indicate length of time teaching, teaching experience, or other specialized trainings your teacher has had, it’s a good idea to ask these things. An E-RYT 200, for example, could have 1000 hours of teaching, but they could also have several thousand hours of teaching and just not completed the advanced training course. Or, an RYT 500 could have met the minimum requirements, yet the E-RYT 200 could have been teaching twice as long with twice the number of teaching hours.  It gets complicated, you see, and the only real way to know your teacher’s experience level is to ask.  You might also want to know why a teacher who has been teaching for a number of years and still holds the designation RYT 200 or E-RYT 200 hasn’t invested the time to continue their education to the 500 hour level

In addition to having some knowledge about the level of education and experience of your teacher one of the most important questions you can ask them is, “how often do you practice”?  You see, Yoga Teachers often have a bad habit of spreading themselves too thin with their teaching, and rarely carve out time for their own practice. It is my strong belief that if a Yoga Teacher doesn’t have time for her/his own practice, then she/he doesn’t have time to be teaching. If you are looking for a haṭha yoga teacher, you should find a teacher who practices āsana more often than not. If you are looking for a meditation teacher, you should find a teacher who practices meditation more days than she doesn’t. If you are looking for a prānāyāma teacher, you should find a teacher who intentionally practices breath work more often than he doesn’t. The best teachers are the ones who honor and respect the practice as a lifestyle, who first and foremost carve out time for their own practice. 

There are other important factors to consider when choosing a Yoga teacher. Personality, teaching methodology, and style of Yoga taught are all factors that will influence your experience of Yoga practice. But, those are all topics for another post!

Rob Klaus