'X Hundred Hours' Yoga Certifications, What Exactly Do They Do?

Image credit: 'Door Henge' by Stanley Sephton1)

Since the start of the boom around the 1990s, training franchises have got so good at marketing entry level credentials, it's as if they are an international standard.

This 'magic spell' seems to work on anyone nurturing a vague, romantic drive for health, wealth and happiness by logging a hundred or so hours of very loosely supervised yoga practice.

However, increased awareness of cultural appropriation and persistent failure to provide straightforward career progression has taken some of the initial shine off these programs. As new market entrants offer cheaper and faster routes to credentials, yoga tutor certification was never about raising standards or protecting the public, but 'a race to the bottom' to offer the easiest courses to pass, and easy revenue for the external validators.

Misinformation and over-inflated promises about the actual working conditions for an entry-level yoga tutor mask the difficulties in recouping the costs of the training. Even the more scrupulous practitioners are being zealously encouraged to over-teach in settings where the demand for therapy, health information and cultural competence goes far beyond the credentials they have purchased.

Ironically, there is a positive correlation between the risk of personal injury and training, which often is touted as being the solution to the risk of public harm, not the cause of it. Meanwhile, certification rarely helps in securing work as tutors, or keeping students.

It's hard to walk away from a course of training if it wasn't what was expected, because of the way payments and learning modules are designed. There is often a rapid escalation of personal commitment in the shape of non-refundable upfront payments, lack of academic oversight and accountability, very little flexibility and patchy grievance procedures. Unlike established qualification framework, transferring to another provider even after achieving a full credit is generally not something that providers tend to feel obliged to offer learners. Providers are often positioned to compete with each other for memberships, so it is a niche, open and opportunistic market, wildly innovative (possibly to a fault), inherently rivalrous and so most do not cooperate with each other.

Graduation is incredibly unpredictable, some franchises expect members to become fitness fanatics and run a class like it's a keep-fit work out, while others insist it's all about reproducing breathing or other meditation techniques accurately which can be impossible for some to prepare for.

Avoiding the spiral of austerity working as a yoga tutor may be avoided if you are comfortable with becoming a big name, celebrity to attract more attention. But if you are the type of well-connected person with a lot of charisma and an awe-inspiring reputation with students that worship the ground you walk on, people can start to feel uneasy and become despondent about profitable yoga empires, so there is always the risk of an imminent collapse.

Credentials seem to mean very little to paying clients, and there is no evidence that being credentialled brings in any extra work or does anything to protect the public from harm. The yoga tutor training model actually borrows a great deal of intangible cultural heritage from India, only for well-intentioned people to end up in a chaotic and precarious role as gatekeepers to the global sports and recreation industry.

Tutor training networks can be very tight-knit and policy development tends to be secretive. What typifies the yoga tutor experience are poor working conditions with no proper union representation. Even if new recruits are prepared to devote time to developing their own social networks, (which involves a lot of self-promotion among family and friends, setting up social media, volunteering at events and on committees and so forth), a clear career progression is still unlikely to materialize.

Every training franchise has its own unique characteristics and will offer some experience and knowledge gains along the way, but a bachelors degree in education or the arts and sciences is probably still the most effective way of progressing your career as a yoga tutor.

Try looking beyond the 'empty circle' of proprietary certification and spend some time thinking about the qualities you want to see for yourself, and in other practitioners you connect with, rather than settling for whatever course a disinterested provider wants to sell you.

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