200hr yoga teacher training? What is going on?

Written by Dr Michael de Manincor

If you are interested in doingor offering a 200hr yoga teacher training course, here are some things you might like to consider. I’ll share some of my thoughts and experience from being involved in teacher training for the past 25 years and at the end of this article I have recommended a relevant and very interesting podcast with J Brown.

How the 200hr Training Model Evolved

200hr yoga teacher training courses have become very popular. It is interesting to know that this training model evolved from what was happening in the fitness industry in America about 30 years ago. 200hr training courses were primarily intended for people who were already qualified fitness instructors and wanted to include yoga in their classes or gyms. Upon completion they would be known as Yoga “Instructors” – fitness instructors teaching some yoga postures. At the same time, to become a Yoga “Teacher”, it was recognised that 200hrs training was simply not enough, and a minimum of 500hrs of training was required.

The difference between a yoga instructor and a yoga teacher, and the original intention of doing 200 or 500hr courses was soon lost or forgotten, and more and more yoga schools started offering 200hr training courses for people to become yoga teachers quickly. All this happened with Yoga Alliance in America several decades ago and has since become the accepted norm in many countries.

More recently, Yoga Alliance introduced registration of 300hr courses, to bridge the gap between 200 and 500hr courses. Currently, in America, schools can offer registered courses that are 200hr, 300hr, 200 + 300hr, or straight up 500hr.

The Evolution of Yoga Teaching Training Standards in Australia

In Australia, soon after all this was happening in America, senior yoga teachers and teacher trainers came together to form the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia (YTAA), now known as Yoga Australia, and agreed that 200hrs was not enough training to become a yoga teacher. An initial standard of 320 hrs, over a minimum of 1 year was established. This soon became 350 hrs (half way between 200 & 500). I was President of Yoga Australia when this was established.        

Confusion Over Yoga Alliance ‘Certification’

Not surprisingly, people soon became very confused or simply were not aware of all this. Many people from Australia were going to America (or other more exotic places) to complete a 200hr course, and returning to Australia to set up their own 200hr training courses, registered with Yoga Alliance in America (or, to add to the confusion, a clone organisation calling themselves Yoga Alliance International, with branches such as Yoga Alliance Australia – nothing to do with Yoga Alliance). These courses were often promoted as “Internationally” accredited or certified. Unknowingly, this is mis-information. Firstly, courses are not certified or accredited, only registered – there is a difference! Secondly, there is no such thing as international registration (accreditation or certification). It simply meant that these courses were registered in America, not Australia.

Eligibility for Yoga Teacher Registration in Australia – 350hr Minimum

Many people who love yoga and the amazing benefits it brings to their lives, want to deepen their experience and learn more. One way of doing this is to sign up for a short 200hr teacher training course (often in an exotic location), even if they do not want to become a yoga teacher. These courses can offer a wonderful and enriching experience, sometimes truly transformative or life changing. However, many people finish these training courses and realise that they do not have the depth of knowledge, skills or confidence to become a yoga teacher, whether they originally intended to or not.

This is a very common experience. They also find themselves in the situation where they cannot become registered as a Yoga Teacher in Australia, because they do not meet the minimum 350hr (1 year) training standard. So, they need to do more training (which they often feel they need anyway to be able to teach with confidence), with an additional 150 hrs training required for registration with Yoga Australia. After doing another teacher training course (often called a “level 2”), people often tell me that they wish they had completed a more thorough training to begin with.

Questioning Standards in Yoga Teacher Training

Questions and concerns around 200hr teacher training courses have been present for many years, since they were first established by Yoga Alliance. More and more people are starting to share these concerns, even though many schools have felt the need to offer these courses in order to survive financially as a business. Teachers and schools often find themselves entrenched in a mindset, business model and system that depends on these courses for survival, and struggle to find a different (better) approach. The latest development is that Yoga Alliance themselves are apparently reviewing their own training standards, and there is a very real possibility that the 200hr standard as a minimum training requirement for yoga teachers will be scrapped, in favour of more hours – not an easy move, with considerable pressure against the change, from yoga schools and the fitness industry.

Part of the ongoing concern is also related to the whole notion of “number of hours” as a training standard, regardless of how many – 200, 300, 350, 500 or more. It is unusual for any professional training standards to be based on number of hours. It is simply what happened in the yoga-fitness world in America back then, was adopted in countries where there was a vacuum with no standards or yoga teacher associations, and now seems to be entrenched. Training standards in most professions (if we can call yoga teaching a profession) are generally based on competencies – demonstration of the required knowledge and skills. Numbers of hours are nominal, not the defining feature of the standards required. In yoga teacher training, they have become the dominant feature of the standards. Regardless of the number of hours, more and more people are starting to realise that 200 hrs is just not enough.

Yoga Australia has worked hard to maintain a minimum of 350 training hrs (over 1 year), knowing that the hours were only nominal anyway, with a genuine sense of what would be best for the yoga teaching profession in Australia, rather than just naively adopt the unusual model and standards that emerged from America. This remains a financial challenge for Yoga Australia, when many teachers and training providers in Australia chose to pay money and register with Yoga Alliance in America, because their training and courses only meet the lower 200hr standard.

Why our Yoga Teacher Training is 500hrs

The Yoga Institute has been offering yoga teacher training and yoga therapy training for many years, and is recognised as one of the leading yoga training and education centres in Australia. We currently offer a Diploma level teacher training course (nominally 500hrs, which includes the foundations of yoga therapy), even though the Yoga Australia standard remains 350hrs, and 200hr courses are the most popular. We believe that a shorter course would not adequately equip our graduates with the knowledge and skills required to step out into the world and become highly competent and confident yoga teachers.

We also offer post-graduate training in yoga therapy, as well as shorter courses and retreats for people who do not necessarily want to become yoga teachers, or have not yet decided, and want to deepen their own personal experience of yoga. 

Podcast: J Brown and Karin Carlson Discuss Where to Next for Yoga Teacher Training

J. Brown of the popular ‘Yoga Talks’ podcast, and many others, have been giving voice to concerns about the issue of 200hr training standards, as well as Yoga Alliance general. I recommend listening to a recent podcast conversation with J. Brown and Karin Carlson (link below).

Whilst their concerns are largely related to the situation in America, many of the issues are relevant to what has been happening in countries like Australia, that seem to follow the American way (no disrespect to our friends across the Pacific). In their conversation, they ask the question of: Where to next? And include comments about the possibility of the whole ‘shit-show’ imploding, going more local, with no standards or registration.

You can listen to the podcast here on the Yoga Talks website, or searching for “Yoga Talks” on your smartphone podcast app, and find the most recent conversation with Karin Carlson.

W.H.O. International Working Group to Review Standards

On a more global scale, I have been invited to join an international working group of the World Health Organisation, to look at standards for yoga teacher training, yoga therapy training, and yoga research. We start in the new year, and will keep you posted.      

P.S. I will be on the Yoga Talks podcast in conversation with J. Brown in coming weeks (recorded last week). Not sure when it will be released.

Want to find out more? Join our next Teacher Training Information session to find out more: https://www.yogainstitute.com.au/teacher-training-information-sessions/

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