Yoga Instructor Courses

Allied Health World has conducted independent research and spoken extensively with recent graduates of yoga teacher training programs in an effort to help our readers understand the educational, experiential, and training requirements for a career spent teaching yoga. Here you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions about the curriculum, course structure, and educational environment of schools offering yoga teacher courses:

What is the job outlook like for yoga instructors?

How are yoga teacher courses structured?

Most training courses designed to prepare the next generation of yoga teachers are 200 hours in length total. Some graduates of these programs opt to pursue more comprehensive programs, which are usually taken after completing and showing proficiency in the initial 200-hour class. Even when augmented with additional levels of training, the total time invested in preparing for a yoga teacher career is about 500 hours. This can usually be completed in as few as three months when attending classes part-time.
These courses will place a primary focus on training would-be teachers to master the more common asana poses to such an extent that they are able to instruct others in how to perform them properly. The asanas that are taught in a yoga teacher training program will often differ from one program to the next depending on the particular yoga method the class is centered on. Learning the basic 12 asanas is standard, but some courses teach a series of as many as 75 asanas.

Yoga teacher training courses are usually structured to include a significant portion of classroom time spent learning the principals and philosophy of yoga, routine development, anatomy specific to the particular asanas being taught, as well as how to lead a group meditation, and how to assess clients based on their physical aptitude. Mat time, or floor time, during which aspiring teachers are themselves instructed on the proper form and technique of each movement and pose will make up the majority of the time spent in the training program.

It is important to note that training programs for the various different yoga methods will be structured differently in accordance with the principals and practices of the respective method. For example, training in the Ashtanga method will place a considerable focus on the meditative aspects of yoga, while a training program for Iyangar will instruct students in the use of various props that can be incorporated into a routine.

What specific coursework can I expect from yoga instructor training programs?

Training programs for yoga teachers can vary quite widely in terms of the classes they offer. Generally, certificate programs for yoga instructors place the focus primarily on the mastery of the 12 basic asanas. These programs will also focus on how to offer instruction to others in the mechanics of these poses and the best ways to maintain proper form when performing them so as to safely maximize their effectiveness.

Those who opt to expand their understanding of the human body and how it responds to diet and exercise may go on to pursue associate’s and even bachelor’s degrees in exercise science, general health and wellness, physical education, or kinesiology. Those who choose a more academic path so as to gain the knowledge that will dramatically enhance their level of professional expertise will encounter a much heavier load of didactic coursework. Classes included in these types of programs would include nutrition science, anatomy, physiology, biology, and kinesiology, among others.

What is an “asana” in the discipline of yoga?

Yoga, in all of its forms, is practiced as a series of postures and poses. These poses are referred to collectively by the Sanskrit word “asana”. Each asana was designed and refined to isolate specific sets of muscles and related connective tissue in various combinations. That is to say that although many asanas make use of the same individual muscle groups and fascia, each asana represents a different variation or combination of these muscles and connective tissues.

Yoga focuses on asana poses performed with absolute precision and total control, all the while being mindful of regular deep breathing. In this way, the practice of yoga is an evolution of mastery. It isn’t a matter of simply learning a series of asanas, but rather learning to perfect the control, balance, stability, and fluidity with which each asana is performed. There are countless asanas that are incorporated into the various forms of yoga. The following list includes the few dozen that are among the most universally used, and that are likely to be included in the yoga teacher courses that train students to become yoga teachers themselves.
Listed here are yoga asanas by their western names as well as their original Sanskrit names in parentheses. The first twelve listed here represent what are often referred to as the basic poses:

  • Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
  • Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sirsasana)
  • Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
  • Seated Forward Bend (Paschima Tana)
  • Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
  • Locust Pose (Shalabasana)
  • Crow Pose (Bakasana)
  • Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
  • Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
  • Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)
  • Plow Pose (Halasana)

Beyond the first 12 basic asanas are dozens of others of varying levels of difficulty. Different yoga methods incorporate various combinations of these asanas, so it is reasonable to expect that regardless of the method being trained, some of these asanas will be included in all yoga teacher courses:

  • Flying Crow Pose (Eka Pada Galavasana)
  • Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
  • Awkward Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
  • Four Limbed Staff Pose (Chaturanga Dandasana)
  • Staff Pose (Dandasana)
  • Sleeping Vishnu Pose (Anantasana)
  • Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
  • One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
  • Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
  • Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
  • Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Monkey Pose (Hanumanasana)
  • Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirasana)
  • Pendant Pose (Lolasana)
  • Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
  • Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana)
  • King Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)
  • Boat Pose (Navasana)
  • Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
  • Revolved Half Moon Pose (Parivritta Parsvakonasana)
  • Revolved Side Angle Pose (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)
  • Compass Pose (Parvrtta Surya Yantrasana)
  • Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivritta Trikonasana)
  • Side Crow (Parsva Bakasana)
  • Pyramid Pose (Parsvottonasana)
  • Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
  • Goddess Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
  • Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
  • Reclined Big Toe Pose (Supta Padangustasana)
  • Firefly Pose (Tittibhasana)
  • Seated Wide Legged Straddle (Upavistha Konasana)
  • Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
  • Raised Hands Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)
  • Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Muhka Svanasana)
  • Standing Big Toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padanqusthasana)
  • Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
  • Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
  • Extended Child’s Pose (Balasana)
  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
  • Warrior Pose (Virabhadrasana)
  • Hero Pose (Virasana)
  • Scorpion Pose (Vrschikasana)
  • Forearm Stand (Pincha Mayurasana)
  • Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Yoga Teacher Schools