With the explosion of interest in yoga has come a greater tendency to organize and create forums for teaching, sharing and discussion and sometimes to setting standards and principles for the field. While none of these organizations is mandatory as of this writing, there is a growing movement to standardize the qualifications and training to become a yoga teacher. While there are considerations on either side of the debate about whether to legislate what it means to be a yoga teacher, the organizations that have grown organically from the community of teachers can be an invaluable resource in finding kindred spirits, sources of advice and wisdom and the resources you’ll need to dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s.”
The first organization you’ll likely come into contact with is the Yoga Alliance. They are the registering body for schools and for teachers. A school that wants to produce Registered Yoga Teachers must comply with their requirements for curriculum, contact hours and a number of other metrics. Once completing one of these programs, you can submit to become a Registered Yoga Teacher through a process of paperwork and dues. The Yoga Alliance, once regarded as little more than a paper pushing list maker has recently expanded to include interesting community forums, an exciting conference and growing teacher support materials.
Once you’re an RYT, you should give thought to liability insurance and this, too, can be obtained through the Alliance or another professional organization. This is sometimes mandatory and always a good idea, especially at the reasonable rates available.
Each named style of yoga has its own association, and this is often regarded as a benefit of studying in a style or school, rather than committing to general Hatha yoga. Whether you’re a devotee of Sivananda, Svaroopa, Anusara or Iyengar, each style has it’s own association and they are often a vast source of mentoring, knowledge and resource.
The American Yoga Association touts itself as “your resource for excellence in yoga instruction” publishes their own beginner’s manual outlining a ten week course of practice and has a useful website with articles on types of yoga, its history and how to choose a teacher.
The International Association of Yoga Therapists is a specialty organization for yoga teachers trained in how to use the practice to heal specific injuries or diseases. They sponsor ground breaking research and a well regarded conference.
There are other specialty associations that serve particular communities. Some examples are the Children’s and Pre-natal yoga registries of the Yoga Alliance. The Children’s Yoga Alliance offers “Support. Ideas. Collaboration. Real help in real time. Professional standards for teaching yoga responsibly to children.”
Some states have their own associations, such as California and Texas. In addition, there is an association for yoga studios, NAMASTA, or the North American Studio Alliance that offers helpful support in organizing the logistics and infrastructure for studios.
Professional websites and associations often have branches catering to yoga teachers. On linkedin.com there are groups specifically for yoga enthusiasts and teachers, and for yoga retreats. Some recent discussions have included helpful hints on sequencing, the use of music in class, talking with difficult students, handling uncomfortable situations and help in marketing luxury yoga retreats.
The Green Yoga Association promises “spiritual activism for the planet” and is quite active with events at Yoga Journal conferences and a certificate program in Yoga and Ecology.
Yoga Journal Conferences are sponsored by the ubiquitous monthly with yoga posing models on the front and set the standard for eclectic and deep teaching from a plethora of styles. There are conferences in New York, Estes Park, Colorado and in the capital of Western yoga, San Francisco, California. Attending a conference can be a splendid way to learn about all the resources available to support you on your journey.
Some communities form around online presences such as iHanuman, which has a spiritual bent, or myyogaonline, a more mainstream health and fitness vibe. Harmonyswell is the home of virtual studios where individual teachers create their communities through subscription.
While yogis tend not be the classic joiners, the benefits and support of finding a community that speaks to your needs and offers you wisdom in the manner that resonates with you can easily outweigh the romance of going it alone.