A Quick Guide to Yoga Alliance Certifications

Understanding Industry Lingo


NOTE: this article focuses on Yoga Alliance North America. To learn about other Yoga Alliances, click here

You’ll see these two words popping up around any time you look for a yoga teacher or a yoga teaching course: Yoga Alliance. But what exactly does a Yoga Alliance Certification entail? For newcomers to the yoga world or those beginning to take their teaching career seriously, getting a clear understanding of the term can be as elusive as ever. Don’t worry, we’ll break down everything you need to know.

Yoga Alliance happens to be the largest nonprofit membership for the yoga community. It’s a credentialing system via a Yoga Alliance membership for both

Yoga Alliance simply shelves these memberships in their directory. This directory is useful for two groups of people (1) yoga students looking for a Yoga Teacher Training, and (2) yoga schools and yoga students looking for qualified yoga teachers.

How Does a Yoga School Become Yoga Alliance Certified?

To be clear, Yoga Alliance does not actually certify or license anyone. That’s why when you see—and you will see it often—the phrase “Yoga Alliance certified,” it is a bit misleading. But a YTT can meet the Yoga Alliance standards in order to register with Yoga Alliance.

In fact, there are over 6,000 Registered Yoga Schools (RYS) under Yoga Alliance. The company/school just needs to submit the required paperwork and pay a fee. According to the Yoga Alliance website, this ensures that the training:

  • Has a pre-defined curriculum that meets the Yoga Alliance Standards
  • Is taught by yoga teacher trainers who are qualified to train teachers
  • Offers a consistent approach that focuses on depth, rather than breadth

So if you are a yoga student looking for a great YTT, finding one that is “Yoga Alliance certified” is something, but it isn’t everything. You’ll still want to ask yourself these five questions before choosing a YTT.

Quick Reference for Yoga Alliance Acronyms:

  • RYS (Registered Yoga School)
    • RYS-200, RYS-300, RYS500: Includes the number of hours related to the training program
  • RPYS (Registered Prenatal Yoga School)
  • RCYS (Registered Children’s Yoga School)
  • RYT: Registered Yoga Teacher
  • RYT-200: Registered Yoga Teacher who completed at least 200 hours
  • RYT-500: Registered Yoga Teacher who has completed one course or a few courses that add up to 500 hours
  • E-RYT 200: A Registered Yoga Teacher who has completed a 200-hour training and then 1000 hours of teaching experience
  • E-RYT 500: A Registered Yoga Teacher who has completed 500 hours of training and 1000 hours of experience teaching

So let’s say you’ve found the best Yoga Alliance certified Yoga Teacher Training for yourself and you’re getting excited to officially start teaching yoga. You’re on your way to becoming a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT).

What Does it Mean to Be a RYT? Is it Worth it?

Once you’ve graduated from a YTT that is registered with Yoga Alliance, you can then register yourself, as a yoga teacher, to Yoga Alliance. According to their website, the benefit to this is:

  • An internationally-recognized credential that shows you have met their minimum standards of yoga training
  • Marketing on their RYS directory, where you can list your upcoming trainings
  • Access to free live Online Workshops (and a library of their recordings) which allow you to learn from leaders in the yoga community
  • Advocacy alerts when there are local, state and national government issues facing the yoga community
  • Invitations to community events and meet-ups that Yoga Alliance attends or hosts in your area
  • Discounts on products and services from Yoga Alliance partners on everything from liability insurance to wholesale yoga clothes to business software

In all, the best thing for you to know is it helps you get insurance, secure travel and work visas, and helps open some doors for employment. But the most employable thing about you will be your passion for teaching, your hours put into actual teaching the best you can, and your dedication to continued learning.

Continuing Education Hour Requirements

The learning doesn’t stop at your 200-hour course if you want to make a career out of yoga teaching. The Yoga Alliance says, “every three years starting from your initial date of registration, each RYT and E-RYT must complete and log a minimum of 75 hours.”

Forty-five of those hours must be of teaching yoga, easily enough. Thirty of those hours must come from yoga-related training. This is where it gets a little complicated, so let’s explain further.

What is yoga-related Training?

At least 10 training hours must be Contact Hours. What does a Contact Hour consist of? These are classroom hours in the presence of a qualified Continuing Education Provider. You’ll have to look for this credential or ask about it when interested in a yoga training, a workshop, or an online course, for example. Check for a YACEP Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider.

All hours must be related to an Educational Category. Educational categories could mean you’re learning more about techniques, teaching methodology, anatomy and physiology, or yoga philosophy.

No more than 20 training hours may be Non-Contact Hours.

These hours consist of learning outside of a classroom or without a qualified Continuing Education Provider present. These also must be within the Educational Categories, just like the Contact Hours. For example, it’d probably look like hours spend reading a book, watching a video, being present during a webinar, being mentored remotely, or creating class material.

You’d then need to write a reflection of each activity to show what you learned.

Where to Find CE Courses? Yoga Alliance typically has a list of Continuing Education courses on top of their RYS list though many yoga teacher trainings remain unregistered.

The Yoga Teachers College® takes a different approach. Since we often hire our own graduates to teach in our studios, our courses have always been 100% focused on professional-level skills. We are not a yoga retreat or personal development organization. We train mind-body fitness professionals and our graduates’ successes speak to the quality and standards of our programs.

Yoga Teachers College provides free and convenient options for graduates so you don’t ever have to worry about getting your credits. How to get your credits? Join our Friday Roundtable sessions on Facebook or audit (at no extra charge) any of our in-person courses you’ve graduated from.

by Kaleena Stroud

Learn More About Yoga Teachers College Continuing Education Courses: