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Opportunities for CIYT: Yoga Alliance accreditation

Hello CIYT around America!

Many people have asked me for personal thoughts about the opportunities for CIYT regarding Yoga Alliance accreditation, as I have been a part of IYNAUS and Yoga Alliance for many years. So here are my thoughts.  I hope you find it helpful.

This post is written for CIYT certified through IYNAUS, as it assumes that you already have an understanding of the responsibilities related to American CIYT at each of the certification levels.  CIYT certified outside of the United States and members of the general yoga community may find this post interesting.

For those who don’t know me or my background,  you can scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more.

What exactly is happening?
Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYTs) may now join Yoga Alliance as Registered Yoga Teachers.

It is that straightforward.

Heather, what do you think about it?

I think it is pretty great. I am so happy it is finally happening after literally decades of discussion.

This gives Iyengar Yoga and Iyengar Yogis a bigger platform for disseminating the work of BKS Iyengar. Yoga Alliance represents 90,000 registered yoga teachers worldwide. IYNAUS has 1,800 CIYT. This gives us a louder voice and important representation within a bigger organization. We need this representation on local, regional, national and international yoga issues.

We all know that the history of Iyengar Yogis has a mixed reputation within the general yoga world. And, we also know that as our community matures, we have a lot to offer the world.  Our experience and standards, our mentorship and deep study, our practice of all that encompasses the limbs and wings of yoga is worth sharing. If we sit on the Yoga Alliance committees and boards, we will have opportunities to show people more about who we are, on a much bigger scale. Perhaps with this collaboration, and one CIYT at a time, we can get people to understand that their perception of Iyengar Yoga may be worthy of looking at again.

CIYT who join YA may have increased earning potential.   I will talk about this more below.  This could be helpful for helping us to survive as professionals in this industry. It will be up to individual CIYT to decide if they want to join.  They could join as individuals or as a school, if they so choose.

This relationship could mean that influence the world of Yoga in a more impactful way. The way we train students, mentor teachers, approach asana and pranayama. This needs to be shared. Light on Yoga lit up the world!  We have an opportunity to influence Yoga Alliance directly from the inside, if we decide to join it.

I am told that in the early days of Yoga Alliance, decades ago, Guruji was asked for guidance about umbrella organizations and their relationship with Iyengar Yoga. BKS Iyengar did say an individual member could join if they were inclined to do so. He was clear that he didn’t want his organizations to become members. And, IYNAUS hasn’t become a member. We are still governed by CIYT rules and that doesn’t change. Guruji believed in all yoga, he believed in its universality and he believed in the excellence of those who used his name. I think he would have applauded this initiative. It retains everything he worked for and it creates connections to other Yoga bodies.

I am proud that IYNAUS, our national organization, took leadership on this issue.  I applaud collaboration with like-minded organizations.  I want to point out that collaboration is actually very hard, especially on an organizational level.  It takes tremendous teamwork, requiring open mindedness, flexibility, negotiating skills and patience.  Not every CIYT or yogi out there is going to think this particular collaboration is a good idea.  I think it is a pragmatic approach, and has great potential.  Thank you IYNAUS!

Let me also speak to my personal experience the different yoga organizations.  I have volunteered within Yoga Alliance, IAYT, IYNAUS, and IYANC. I have been certified with Yoga Alliance as a teacher and studio owner for the last few years.  I was on a YA working group that looks at teacher education standards.  It was an excellent experience, and gave me a sense of the organizational power of YA. Similarly, I helped IAYT on-board their CIYT when they did the grandfathering process. I think IAYT has squandered opportunities in the last 3 years to really make use of the energy of their CIYT members – but that is my personal opinion and its a topic for another pose. Anyhow, I want YA to do better, I expect it to do better, and I think it will.  I will certainly do my part.

People need to remember that Yoga Alliance is undergoing a major change in its standards, and the way it collaborates.  You can find out more about the changes here.   There is a CIYT who sits on their board of directors.  He has been effective at bringing the two organizations into collaboration together.  Thierry Chiapello, I applaud your efforts and thank you.

Is IYNAUS becoming part of Yoga Alliance?
No. That is a crazy idea! This is simply a collaboration that allows individual CIYT an ability to become registered with Yoga Alliance if they want.

Why would I want to become registered with Yoga Alliance?
As IYNAUS said, CIYT should make an independent judgment whether it is in their best interest to seek the Yoga Alliance credential. The decision to register with Yoga Alliance is voluntary.

The reasons why someone would want, or not want, to join YA is related to personal and professional circumstances, interests and resources that will be different from person to person.

Here are some things to consider:

  • The Big Picture. Yoga Alliance represents 90,000 registered yoga teachers world wide. IYNAUS has 1,800. Do you want to get on board with a bigger organization? I do. By joining the Yoga Alliance, CIYTs will have opportunities to share with the rest of the yoga world what we do and how we do it. It can give us a chance to do a much better job educating people about the benefits of what we do.
  • Name recognition. The YA certification has more name recognition in many circles.
  • Job opportunities. Are there places you want to work that need a Yoga Alliance certificate?
  • Increased earning potential. Some people will study with you because you are part of Yoga Alliance.
  • Yoga Alliance programs. Yoga Alliance actually has some cool programs. It provides advocacy and in the past they offered online programming/training about soft skills related to teaching and running a yoga business. They are free for members. I have enjoyed the courses I have taken.
  • Marketing. Yoga Alliance offers a website and people can find you on there. There might be people looking for an Iyengar Yogi in your town and YA is where they look first.
  • If you train teachers, you can become a YA school so apprentices can get their YA-200 as a step before earning their CIYT. See below for details.

Why would someone not want to become part of Yoga Alliance?
There are plenty of valid reasons.

Many people believe that Yoga Alliance has cheapened yoga by allowing 200-hour certificates. Even Yoga Alliance sees that this 200-hour designation is not a good direction. They have publicly stated that they plan to get rid of the “hours” designation in the coming years.  They have just done a multi-year review of their standards and have launched a comprehensive plan to upgrade their own standards, monitoring and regulation processes. It is important to realize that this is a new day for Yoga Alliance as well.

Other reasons that you might not want to pursue this opportunity:

  • IYNAUS provides all the services you need.
  • You are not willing to put more money into membership and accreditation dues.
  • You want your CIYT designation to stand alone.
  • All the places you teach – or want to teach – accept CIYT as a standard for hiring. You don’t need anything more.
  • You want to focus on all that you have going on right now. Joining another organization could be a distraction.
  • You fundamentally disagree with the concept of 200 or 500-hour standards as a starting point for teacher education, and you find Yoga Alliances policies problematic.
  • You disagree with Yoga Alliance’s mission, vision and/or values.

There are many in the yoga community that believe Yoga Alliance has played a central and harmful part in how the yoga industry has evolved, and many do believe that supporting Yoga Alliance with time or money is fundamentally wrong.  J. Brown and the Yoga is Dead podcast – Tejal Patel and Jesal Parikh – have offered important critiques of Yoga Alliance’s programs and policies.

Personally, I think that these critiques are valid and we should all put Yoga Alliance on notice that we are watching.  We do need Yoga Alliance to step up more – to offer more member benefits and services.  As the big kahuna in the industry, Yoga Alliance has unique responsibilities that they are not yet stepping up to.  The critiques about inclusion and accessibility are especially important.  And, I do have other disappointments –  I have been disappointed the Yoga Alliance has discontinued some of its programming, and I think it needs to put more resources into its advocacy work.  One important thing: I am not quite sure what it is doing with money, especially the hundreds of dollars I spent each year as a yoga school.  I can see some of the services I am getting, but I am not super satisfied that I get as much as I put in.

I am sure that there are reasons people may not want to become part of Yoga Alliance. You can let me know if you have any reasons you decide not to do it, and I will add it to the list.

With anything you buy, it is important to learn about the history of the organization that produces it, and look closely at where it is going.  I highly recommend you check out “200 hours killed yoga” episode of Yoga is Dead to learn more about the history of Yoga Alliance, and critiques of where it is going.  If you decide to become part of Yoga Alliance, go in with your eyes wide open.

Does this mean that if I become registered, that my apprentices can be Yoga Alliance-accredited teachers?

Yes. You will need to register with YA at the appropriate level, go through their school accreditation process, and of course be CIYT at the appropriate level.

This is exactly how I use my YA-school credential. Students in my TT graduate from my year 1 and can apply for their YA 200. They know enough to get teaching gigs in gyms, community centers or in their existing workplace.  At the end of our year 1, they are effective and safe teachers.  I feel that they are qualified to teach small groups as they continue their TT education.  With the YA 200, they can start teaching a bit and also continue to be with me, teaching in front of me regularly, building their knowledge base, their teaching skills and confidence within my program..  The YA credential can help some of them get real-life experience as they are finishing their basic teacher education.

I decided not to offer a 500-hour accreditation through Yoga Alliance.  There are a couple reasons for this.  Bottom line, I didn’t want to give Yoga Alliance any more money!  The “200 hours killed yoga” episode of Yoga is Dead says a lot of the reasons why.  I spend enough on professional fees / memberships for my teaching and our yoga school. Plus, I have felt a 200-hr accreditation was sufficient for the specific purposes my apprentices use it for.  When our apprentices graduate from their second year, they may be ready to pursue becoming CIYT.  Others need a third year of mentorship to hone their skills and personal practice.  The whole reason my TT program exists is toward CIYT.  For some people, YA-accreditation can be a valuable part of helping them on the path to become a CIYT, but its just one part.

For all the CIYT out there who want to affiliate with YA, a 500-hr certificate could be useful because it closer reflects your knowledge than a 200-hour one.  But for my apprentices who are not yet CIYT, the basic accreditation is just fine.

Can teachers certified in other methods get credit for studying with me if we both are YA-accredited?

Yes, depending on what YA accreditation you get, there is definitely increased earning potential for you. All YA teachers are required to do continuing education. By registering with the Yoga Alliance, CIYTs will have exposure to a much larger and diverse base of potential students.

Personally, I don’t offer YA-specific ongoing education. I haven’t had teachers from other methods ask me for YA credit to study with me, but it could definitely be something you do. We have yoga teachers of all backgrounds study with us and some may indeed want YA credit.

Doesn’t connecting ourselves to Yoga Alliance lower our standards as CIYT?
No. The standards for CIYT have not changed in anyway. In fact, this collaboration now ensures that anyone who registers with Yoga Alliance as an Iyengar teacher must actually be a CIYT. That is a big thing!

Does this mean that CIYT who are not qualified to train teachers in our method can do so under the umbrella of Yoga Alliance?
The rules for CIYT about who is qualified to train teachers has not changed in anyway.  CIYT at Jr Int 1 and above are allowed to mentor aspiring teachers.  CIYT certified at Jr Int 3 and above can hold teacher training programs. Don’t risk your own CIYT certification by conducting teacher education within YA unless you meet these qualifications.

Can CIYT who live outside of the United States apply?
Yes, probably so.  You should talk to Yoga Alliance directly.  This current relationship is between IYANUS and Yoga Alliance.  Though the certification standard across Iyengar Yoga Associations is equally high globally, the actual paperwork and certification process for CIYT is country specific.  If you are a CIYT who became certified through an Iyengar Yoga Association that isn’t IYNAUS, your application process will likely look a little different. The first step would be to contact Yoga Alliance and find out how to proceed.

How was it decided to pair the 200-hour certificate at Intro level which takes thousands of hours of study?
Update here:  In late December Yoga Alliance announced that it was going to grant CIYT the full 500-hour accreditation.  Cool!  I imagine we will get more details from IYNAUS in the next weeks.


About the author:

I am a Jr Intermediate 3 CIYT and c-IAYT. I am a e-RYT 500 and have a registered Yoga Alliance school. I own Adeline Yoga in Berkeley, California.

I am currently affiliated with Yoga Alliance, IYNAUS and IYAT as a member. I do not speak on behalf of any of organization except Adeline Yoga. All that I have written is my personal opinion, or interpretation of what I have directly experienced during the last 20 years as a professional yoga teacher, studio owner and volunteer leader within the Iyengar Yoga and general yoga communities.

I did have direct conversations with IYNAUS and Yoga Alliance representatives in order to accurately prepare this document.  I wrote it because my colleagues asked me to comment on what I thought. I hope you found it helpful. You are welcome to send this link to any CIYT you think might find it helpful.

If you have more questions, feel free to email me Or come visit us at Adeline Yoga in Berkeley California.

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