How to Become a Yoga Instructor

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, ERYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP

How to Become a Yoga Instructor

How to Become a Yoga Instructor

I talk to people daily who want to learn how to become a yoga instructor.  The good news is that becoming a yoga instructor is more accessible now than ever!  With this step-by-step guide, you will be teaching yoga sooner than you might imagine!

Step 1:  Decide what style of yoga you'd like to teach

There are six main branches of yoga, and within these branches you may find various styles.  The six main branches of yoga are:

  • Hatha Yoga (Includes physical yoga or the yoga of postures)
  • Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of devotion)
  • Raja Yoga (Meditation and contemplation)
  • Jnana Yoga (Yoga for wisdom and knowledge)
  • Karma Yoga (Path of service)
  • Tantra Yoga (Path of Ritual)

Almost all of the 200 hour, 250 hour, 300 hour and 500 hour yoga teacher trainings that are offered fall under the Hatha branch of yoga.  This is the branch of yoga that encompasses physical yoga, or asana practice, although it also includes far more than asana.  Within the Hatha branch of yoga, there are many styles of yoga.  Some of the most popular styles of yoga include:

  • Viniyoga - Viniyoga was founded by T.K.V. Desikacher, son of Krishnamacharya. While Viniyoga classes can vary, there is always an emphasis on mobilizing the spine and on synchronizing the breath and movement.
  • Iyengar - Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar in the 1970's.  It includes 200 classical postures and 14 pranayamas. Iyengar is credited with bringing props to yoga and Iyengar classes are all about the props.  Iyengar classes are more about quality than quantity.  If you want to know how to become a yoga instructor for Iyengar Yoga, it is recommended that you check with an Iyengar school because they host their own trainings. 
  • Anusara - Anusara yoga was founded by John Friend in 1997. It is centered around the universal principles of alignment.  There are far fewer Anusara classes and trainings now than their once were.
  • Ashtanga - Ashtanga was founded by Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India.  Ashtanga is a vigorous and purifying practice that links breath to movement. Ashtanga sequences are traditional and unchanging.  Practitioners are first introduced to the primary series and once the primary series has been mastered, the secondary series is introduced.
  • Vinyasa - Vinyasa is a dynamic, flowing practice that connects breath to movement. Vinyasa is quite popular in the West.  It is my preferred style of yoga and my vinyasa practice has really sustained me over time.  I've come to rely on my vinyasa practice for daily peace.  In Vinyasa, strength and stamina are built through the transitions.
  • Kundalini - Kundalini yoga releases serpent energy within the body.  This practice awakens energy in the body and moves it upwards.
  • Baptiste Yoga - Founded by Baron Baptiste, Baptiste Yoga is fast-paced and challenging.  Classes are held in a hot room, about 90 degrees and classes last 90 minutes.
  • Bikram Yoga - Founded by Bikram Choudhury, this style of yoga includes an unchanging sequence of 26 postures.  Classes are held in a hot room, about 105 degrees and with 40% humidity.
  • Integral Yoga - Founded by Sri. Swami Satchidananda, this style of yoga is both physical and spiritual. It was founded in 1966 and incorporates six branches of yoga philosophy.
  • Jivamukti - Founded by David Life and Sharon Gannon in 1984, this is a Vinyasa-based style of yoga that is centered around five tenets: music, non-harming, devotion, meditation and scripture.
  • Ananda Yoga - This style of yoga is all about energy awareness, inner awareness and higher consciousness.  It includes chakra based asana and pranayama.
  • Laughing Yoga - Founded by Dr. Kataria, laughing yoga is a mindfulness-based practice that combines laughter exercises, breathwork and clapping.
  • Forrest Yoga - Founded by Anna Forrest in 1982, Forrest Yoga is a strength based practice in a hotter environment that emphasizes self-love.
  • Kripalu Yoga - Kripalu is a system of yoga founded by Swami Kripalu that is designed to increase prana flow and includes asana, pranayama and meditation.
  • Sivananda Yoga - Sivananda includes 12 postures and is a more spiritual style of yoga. Classes are 90 minutes long.
  • Yin Yoga - Yin yoga has strong traditional Chinese medicine influence and focuses on releasing fascia.  It lubricates the joints and the tendons.

Step 2 - Decide if you plan to take a yoga teacher training that is online, in person or hybrid

The next step is to decide how you want to become a yoga instructor.  Since the COVID pandemic swept the world, many yoga schools that were once only in person are now online or offering hybrid programs. Some programs, like our 250 hour yoga teacher training online have always been online, making yoga training accessible and affordable to all.

All three yoga teacher training formats are valid, and the certification you receive at the end of the training will be the same regardless of the format that you choose. However, the three experiences are very different and deciding which format is right for you is an important step in choosing the right yoga training program.  

Traditionally, yoga teacher training took place between guru and student, and the student would be under the guru's mentorship until the guru is satisfied that the student is ready to teach.  Over the years, yoga instructor training has evolved, as we discussed in our previous blog on the history of yoga teacher training.

Now the standard for becoming a yoga teacher is the 200 hour yoga teacher training program, which will soon be changing to 250 hours.  200 hour yoga teacher training programs held in person were the only option for many years, however that has changed.  Trainings that are held in person have a lot of pros and cons.  The pros are that you get the most individual attention available, you get to share physical space and energy with other people and you're able to ask questions in the moment as they occur.  The cons of in person yoga instructor training programs are that they often have rigid schedules with unforgiving attendance policies, you normally don't have lifelong access to the material and have to rely on the notes that you take, and they are quite expensive and often range from $2000-5000.

Hybrid yoga teacher trainings are partially online and partially held in person.  The benefits of a hybrid training for some are the cons for others.  You're able to complete some of the training at your own pace while having the additional support of an in person training.  Hybrid trainings are usually priced somewhere in between online trainings and in person trainings.  Some students really enjoy this format while others find that mixing the formats creates a sense of discontinuity.  

Online yoga teacher training has become increasingly popular in recent years.  The benefits of online yoga training are that you get lifelong access to the material, so you can go back and access it at any time, you can complete the training at your own pace, and it is much more affordable than both in person yoga instructor trainings and hybrid yoga teacher trainings, starting at just $395.

Online yoga teacher training caters to those who need flexibility in scheduling or who prefer to study from the comfort of their own homes.  

The self-paced format of many online yoga teacher training programs is helpful because it enables students to spend as much time as they'd like on any given topic, whereas hybrid and in person yoga training programs require that students move on to the next topic when the teacher moves on.  We've found that many of our students appreciate this aspect of learning how to become a yoga instructor online.  For example, students with a strong anatomy background may breeze through the anatomy portion but may choose to spend more time on another module, like sequencing.  Students who are unfamiliar with anatomy will spend far more time in the anatomy section. 

Online yoga teacher training offers accessibility and affordability while maintaining authenticity.  It is designed for students who are comfortable working independently.  It is also a great choice for anyone who does not plan to invest a ton of money into the training program.  Our online yoga teacher training programs has a strong online community of thousands that allows our students to interact with other trainees internationally.  

Step 3 - Decide whether or not you want to register with Yoga Alliance

Yoga is an unregulated industry.  Yoga Alliance is the largest yoga organization and intends to be a self-regulatory board, offering yoga teachers support and resources.  Yoga Alliance is a registry, much like the yellow pages of yoga teachers.  When you register, you will have an online profile.  Registration costs change over time and currently total $115 for initial registration.  Not all yoga schools are registered with Yoga Alliance. 

Once you've decided what style of yoga you'd like to teach and what format of yoga instructor training you plan to take, the next step is to decide if you are interested in registering with Yoga Alliance.  If you are interested in registering with Yoga Alliance, you will want to choose a school that is a RYS (Registered Yoga School).

Step 4 - Search for yoga teacher training programs that meet your criteria

Now that you've decided what style of yoga you'd like to teach and whether or not you want to train in person, online or with a hybrid yoga teacher training program and you know whether or not you want to register with Yoga Alliance, you're ready to search for a yoga training program that meets your needs.  Google is a great way to get started in your search, and you can also search the Yoga Alliance website for registered yoga schools if you are planning to register.

As you start to narrow your search down, here are some great questions to ask:

  • Who is the lead trainer and what is the lead trainers background?  Find out where that person trained and how long they have been practicing and teaching.  
  • How many students has the school certified?
  • What do graduates have to say about the yoga teacher training program?
  • What are the requirements for graduation from the program?
  • Is there an attendance policy?
  • What are the topics of study, and does the training lean more heavily in one topic than others?  Some trainings are rooted strongly in philosophy while others may be more anatomy driven.
  • What is the cost of tuition and are there payment plans available? 

Step 5 - Narrow your search down to 2-3 training programs and ask questions

Once you've narrowed down your search to three or fewer yoga teacher training programs, contact the school and ask any questions that you have.  Remember that all questions are valid and it is important to ask these questions up front so that you know you choose the best program for you.

Step 6 - Enroll and complete a 200 or 250 hour yoga teacher training program

Once you've chosen your program, enroll and get started. Many online yoga instrucor training programs will grant you immediate access to the material. Right now, you can still teach yoga with a 200 hour yoga teacher training certification, although that is expected to change in the near future to 250 hours.  To be safe, you may want to choose a 250 hour yoga teacher training program.  

Once you've completed your 200 or 250 hour yoga teacher training program, you're certified to teach yoga anywhere!

About the Author

Founder of Online Yoga School and Yoga & Ayurveda Center

Steph Ball-Mitchell ERYT 500Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP, CAADC

Steph has over 25 years of experience in yoga and movement.  Her understanding of yoga and the human body has been influenced by lifelong dancing and holistic health.  She found her life’s purpose in helping people become happier and healthier through her own healing journey.  Steph assists her students in knowing the joy and wonderment of integrating the mind and body through accessible yoga.  She encourages an authentic and life-nurturing practice, one that brings greater consciousness to each moment and every movement of the body with a heavy emphasis on breath.  

With a masters degree in counseling, Steph brings awareness, acceptance and a down to earth approach to her classes.  She studied with Maty Ezraty and later completed her second 200-hour training with Nancy Candea at Yoga Impact in New Jersey and her 300-hour training with Chris Loebsack at Boundless Yoga Studio in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.   The perpetual student, Steph has studied with Leslie Howard, Travis Eliot, Bryan Kest, Donna Farhi and countless others.  She has extensive training in pelvic floor yoga, restorative yoga, yin yoga, power yoga and accessible yoga.  Most recently, Steph was certified as a Grand Master of Meditation through Swami Vidyanand.

Steph founded Yoga and Ayurveda Center with her husband.  She later launched Online Yoga School to support her local trainings and has recently launched a virtual yoga studio to accommodate the international community of trainees.

When she isn’t on her mat, Steph can be found volunteering, enjoying her husband and children, dancing and cooking.  She currently enjoys serving on the board of World Yoga Federation and Meditation Alliance International and previously enjoyed serving on the Education Committee of Yoga Alliance and places a strong emphasis on inclusivity in her teacher trainings.