How to Become a Yoga Instructor

If yoga is a passion of yours or something you think you might like, you may consider becoming a yoga instructor as a career or a side gig. This position would allow you to work in the fitness or wellness fields and to help people improve their mental and physical health.

A yoga instructor is a type of group fitness instructor who specifically teaches the practice of yoga. As an instructor of yoga, you would generally teach a group of students yoga poses and may also guide them through breathing and meditation exercises. Yoga classes can vary greatly by the specialty of yoga and the setting of the class, so that is something to consider when deciding to teach.

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Components of Yoga

If you’ve never taken part in a yoga class and are wondering if teaching yoga would be right for you, it would be smart to take classes first to see if the practice is something you like.

The main focus of a yoga class is usually the physical poses. It’s similar to an exercise class where the students follow the teacher’s choreographed movements. In this case, the movements are poses you put your body into, and then you hold the pose for a certain length of time. During the class, students will go through numerous poses that help them align, strengthen and stretch the different parts of their bodies.

Yoga classes also tend to involve mental and spiritual components. During the poses, there is often a focus on clearing the mind, focusing on breathing and surrendering to the pose. Classes may also include a meditation session at the beginning and/or the end and may include a spiritual focus.

The components of a yoga class can vary by the type of yoga being taught. As the teacher, you would have flexibility on the components you include in your classes, yet you might need to follow certain expectations based on the style you’re teaching and the setting where you teach.

A yoga class can be physical like an aerobics exercise class or can be more relaxing, rejuvenative and spiritual in nature. Many classes combine these aspects into the same class, although certain specialties of yoga may emphasize one component over another.

Types of Yoga

One yoga class is not like all the others. Instead, you can choose from various specialties. If you want to teach yoga, you’ll want to consider the style you’d like to teach.

A general yoga class, which is often referred to as Hatha yoga, tends to include a combination of poses, breathing and meditation. Otherwise, these are some of the other popular types:

  • Flow yoga: A popular form is Vinyasa flow yoga. Rather than hold still in a pose, flow classes move from one pose to the next in sequences, providing an aerobic component.
  • Fitness yoga: Some yoga classes, particularly in gyms, may focus more on fitness and general concepts than on a particular style.
  • Hot yoga: The main type is called Bikram, which incorporate specific sequences of poses in a heated room. The practice encourages sweating and deep flexibility.
  • Iyengar yoga: This has a focus on proper alignment within each pose and breath control.
  • Other yoga styles: There are many additional styles, such as Kripalu, Integral, Ananda, Ashtanga and others.
  • Specialty classes: You can find yoga classes that are geared toward a certain group of people, such as pregnant women, seniors or children.

Some classes are gentle, while others are more rigorous. Some hold a pose, while some include sequences from pose to pose. The main focus of the style can vary. To decide on the type you would like to teach, it might help to first consider what aspects you like best about yoga. Are you drawn to alignment in poses or to gentle breathing and meditation? Do you like to hold still in poses or flow from one to the next? Research types that fit the components you prefer and try classes in those styles to see if you like them.

Goals of a Yoga Class

As a yoga instructor, you will have certain goals for each class. These are some common goals of yoga:

  • Fitness: Yoga is capable of providing the three key components of exercise: aerobic exercise, stretching and strength training.
  • Calming and destressing: The deep breathing, meditation and movements of yoga tend to calm people and relieve stress.
  • Spiritual practice: Yoga often incorporates meditation and spiritual exercises.
  • Health and wellness: Yoga can provide many health benefits and help a range of mental and physical health conditions.

Also, you can adapt a yoga class to fit the goals of a certain audience. For example, chair yoga classes target people with physical limitations that would make it difficult to perform floor or standing poses. A prenatal class would gear the goals toward pregnant women.

Any yoga class may include tools such as straps and blocks to adjust poses to fit the abilities of different people. Also, a good teacher can suggest modifications to a pose or replacement poses as needed.

Settings

As a yoga instructor, you could teach in different kinds of settings. Some instructors teach in gyms or health studios, some in designated yoga studios, some in senior centers or other established businesses, and others on their own. The setting may determine whether instructors are independent contractors who work for themselves or employees of the business.

The setting where you teach could influence your role as a yoga instructor. For example, a gym or health studio may expect you to teach a more aggressive or physical type of yoga, such as power yoga, hot yoga or flow yoga. Nonetheless, some gyms may want a relaxing class with stretching and rejuvenation to balance out aerobics classes and strength training. Some gym classes may include a combination of components.

Yoga studio classes often combine the different tenets of yoga through a class with poses, meditation and deep breathing to focus on the mind, body and spirit in one. Yoga studios often have a relaxing atmosphere. Nonetheless, there are also studios designated for specific styles of yoga, such as hot yoga, which may differ.

Yoga in senior centers, hotels, workplaces and other businesses will most likely cater to the setting and the audience. For example, senior centers or living facilities often provide chair yoga classes. A workplace may also provide an adjusted class that employees can participate in without changing out of their work clothing.

Some yoga instructors work for themselves and may provide classes in an outdoor setting, their home, a community center or another private setting. In this case, the yoga instructor generally has flexibility to determine the type of class they want to offer.

Yoga Instructor Certification

To become a yoga instructor, you should obtain certification. Gaining certification through a teacher training course will increase your chances of getting a teaching position and will guide you on how to teach a class. You can become certified through a 200-hour teacher training course or go to the higher level of a 500-hour option.

During the yoga instructor certification program, you will learn about the type of yoga you are being instructed in, how to instruct, anatomy and physiology, yoga poses and related topics. You will observe the teaching of qualified instructors and gain hands-on experience.

To become certified as a yoga instructor, look for certification in the style of yoga you want to teach. For example, you can become certified in Bikram yoga or Kripalu yoga. If you decide you would like a more general or fitness-based yoga certification, consider certification through bodies such as:

  • Yoga Alliance and American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  • American Fitness Professional Association (AFPA)
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA)
  • American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA)

The various teacher training options will give you the qualification of a certified yoga teacher (CYT). You also have the option to become a registered yoga teacher (RYT) through the Yoga Alliance, which is a respected certifying body recognized worldwide.

To remain a CYT or RYT, you need to earn continuing education credits, which includes a combination of teaching classes and attending seminars or workshops. When you teach, you’ll want to consider additional factors, such as whether you need yoga teacher liability insurance or whether the setting where you teach will cover you. Also, you will need CPR training.

Being a yoga instructor allows you to help people improve their health and wellness while you perform and promote the practice you love. Teaching yoga can provide a steady source of work, as many types of yoga are taught in a range of settings. Yoga has been around for thousands of years and spread throughout the world, so it’s not likely to disappear as a career option. As more people look to improve their health, get fit and destress, they’ll turn to you to instruct them.