Updated: Feb 10
Yoga has become a huge industry and for a lot of individuals looking for an alternate source of livelihood, that could feel good as well, becoming a Yoga teacher seems to be the right choice. There are more than 100,000 teachers and thousands of Yoga teacher training schools ( Yoga TTC ) promising various types of courses, curriculum and a Yoga Teacher Training course certified by one of the following Yoga Alliances of the world.
Yoga Alliance USA
Yoga Alliance UK
Yoga Alliance Australia
Yoga Certificate India ( which is still in making by government of India, AYUSH)
Interestingly in the country of its origin, there has never been a concept of certificates and people asking or seeking your certificate or Yoga qualification before choosing to follow you or work with you.
Yoga the subject
First let’s understand what is it that we are trying to learn, or teach and how valid are the programs that we are seeking to attend in order to earn a certificate to become a Yoga teacher.
Yoga is a subject which is more than 5000 years old, a subject that is primarily rooted in a deep spiritual practice of the mind and encompasses various aspects of life, mind, body, food & water that go beyond anything that we know in the modern day science. What are the Yogis (practicing yoga in the classical sense) striving to achieve while practicing this subject?
For most Yogis, this is the path through which they are trying to achieve the highest potential of existence in the sense of consciousness that penetrates and surpasses mind, body, time, space, matter and all other dimensions of the Universe. For the one who achieves the highest state (Enlightenment) possesses 8 super powers ashta(8) siddhis and 9 treasures nav (9) nidhi.
A quick look at these powers, will give us a brief understanding of what this subject entails and where every effort on the path of yoga is supposed to be taking us.
Ashta Siddhis ( Eight Super Powers )
The ability to become smallest in size is known as Anima Siddhi. By attaining this siddhi the practitioner can reduce one’s body even to the size of an atom or even become invisible. He becomes supernaturally strong and congenial.
Mahima siddhi is the ability to expand one's body to an infinite large size. By attaining this siddhi the practitioner is able to expand the size of his body larger than than anything in the universe.
The ability to become infinitely heavy is known as Garmia siddhi. The practitioner can make himself as heavy as he desires to be and cannot be moved by anyone or anything.
The power to become weightless or lighter than air can be achieved from Laghima siddhi. The practitioner can float in air, become any creature on this earth and enter into his body after attaining this siddhi.
The ability to construct anything is known as Prapti siddhi. The practitioner can achieve anything he desires through this siddhi. He can acquire anything from any time and space on merely a desire.
Prakamya Siddhi is the ability to become whatever the practitioner desires. The thoughts of the person changes drastically and experiences a flow of supernatural energies. By achieving this ability the practitioner is able to do anything he wants. He can fly in the sky or walk on the water.
Knowing all powers and getting a control over them is known as Ishita Siddhi. The practitioner is able to get control on all the elements of universe and possess absolute lordship. He gets the privilege to practice lordship on anyone from states to empires. If he wants it to rain, it shall and if he wants the sun to shine it will.
Vashita or Vashikaran is the ability of getting a control on life and death. With the help of this siddhi one attain control over all kinds of living and non -living things. The one who excels in this siddhi can influence any person on this earth.
Besides the above, through the practice of yoga - the Yogis can acquire the following lesser powers
1. Tri-kāla-jñatvam: Knowledge of past present and future
2. Advandvam (non-duality): not being subject to dualities of heat/ cold, pain/ pleasure, sweet/ bitter, good/ bad
3. Para citta ādi abhijñatā: Knowing of others' minds
4. Agni arka ambu viṣa ādīnām pratiṣṭambhaḥ: having fire, sun, water, poison in control and stopping their effect
5. Aparājayah: becoming unconquerable
6. Anūrmi-mattvam: Being undisturbed by hunger, thirst, and other body generated cravings
7. Dūra-śravaṇa: Hearing things/ events happening anywhere in Universe
8. Dūra-darśanam: Seeing things/ events happening anywhere in Universe
9. Manaḥ-javah (manojvitva): Moving physical body wherever one wants
10. kāma-rūpam: Attaining/ assuming desired form
11. Para-kāya praveśanam (vikranabhav): Entering another persons body (spirits are believed to enter a person's physical body whose astral body is weak, but the power mentioned here is different and superior)
12. Sva-chanda mṛtyuh: To die only on one's wish (like that of Bhishma from Mahabharat, like that of many sages who left their bodies by their own wish)
13. Devānām saha krīḍā anudarśanam: Witnessing the pastimes of demi-gods (or Witnessing the events of 3 worlds as pastimes like god does)
14. Yathā sańkalpa saḿsiddhiḥ: Achieving as one determines
15. ājñā apratihatā gatiḥ: One's commands unstopped
Now even though all of these powers may seem unrealistic, do we personally know of anyone even a single Yoga teacher, or a Yoga teacher training who has ever witnessed or demonstrated or taught any such power or even talked about them, in a classroom.
What comes to our mind, when we talk or visualise a Yoga teacher ?
Simply a person with very good flexibility, healthy in mind and body teaching a physical exercise class, with a bit of singing, chanting or meditation towards the end of the session.
The Classical Practice vs Pop Version of Yoga
In reality the practice of Yoga is a very different, from what one imagines to be the current popular understanding of yoga. In classical form, actually the subject of Yoga is not even physical but purely mental and mind driven where the path leads the practitioner to the deepest and highest achievable state of human consciousness and where purifying the mind and body to achieve this state is the goal and highest state possible.
It is highly difficult to estimate anyone’s achievement by merely a certificate of achievement that is awarded to practitioners and students merely after 30 days of practice, in a Yoga teacher training course. If subjects such as accounting, biology, psychology, or any other discipline can take 3-4 years of earning a bachelor degree, do you possibly think, a 200/300 hour ( 1 month ) program is good enough for anyone to be a master of yoga let alone be yoga guide / teacher? Have you ever known any Yoga teacher passed from such a Yoga teacher training to display or posses any of the 8 super powers or several other powers as mentioned before ?
Pop Version of Yoga
This version which has become today’s reality – everything and every course in Yoga is merely driven to achieve the current western mind’s imagination of what yoga is? A class where a fit and flexible teacher (much like the gym) can do every possible posture and is conducting a physical exercise class, with some music or chants that somehow ends with resting or meditation of some sort to distract us from our daily lives into peace and health. All this somehow giving us a sense of being spiritual, empowered.
Yoga Certifying bodies (very much like Yoga Alliance USA, UK, Australia etc), of individuals who had nothing to do with the subject or field of yoga (who registered themselves in single room offices) popped up to cater to this pop version of Yoga which started becoming an industry connected to wellness of its own. There is sudden demand – with everyone wanting to train to this pop idea of Yoga and to have some kind of certificate that could give them some authenticity upon the subject they were teaching. These curriculums got evolved around the physicality of the exercises(asanas) along with some spiritual stuff loosely picked up to lend authenticity from Indian practices such as bhajans, kirtans, fire ceremonies (havans), mantra chanting, and ceremonies to imitate the Hindu rituals in order to incite the blessings of the Gods. The same as one might get to see in movies or temples of India while traveling through the Indian subcontinent.
The so called certifying bodies such as Yoga Alliance – decided for themselves that a training of 1 month, anyone with a specific curriculum could end up churning a Yoga teacher after 30 days. The basic idea of such 1 month trainings, came from Sivananda centres in Canada, where an Indian guru (Swami Vishnudevananda) – in his attempts to spread peace and spirituality wanted to train students in yoga who will then carry on the light and encourage everyone to bring yoga practice into their own lives. Today they are one of the biggest Yoga schools offering one month Yoga teacher training courses and Advanced Yoga teacher training courses across the globe, churning out an average of at least 2000 Yoga teachers a year.
Why did these certifying bodies pop up ?
Simply to address a business opportunity that existed in form of providing certificates to teachers, to yoga schools and sell memberships and marketing opportunities for new students or extend the reach to the Yoga curious population of the world. There exists a huge wealth in issuing certificates (for a subject beyond their competency) and in making everyone believe that they can put a measuring scale to a subject that by itself is nothing less than infinite. Can you imagine, not having to do anything but just issue a certificate, for a subject that is foreign to you and earn money for a standard that you create. Imagine creating a global certificate for Salsa teacher training course, being a person from Egypt or India. It is almost like a financial broker earning money through investing in some futures of a company that may have promising returns.
So can anyone become a Yoga teacher in 30 days ?
Can anyone even come close to understanding of the path of Yoga in merely 30 days, let alone become enlightened and then be ready to teach others? A subject where mind is paramount and all practices with the mind take dominance, can such a subject be even understood or realized in a month or even three?
If any confusion persists, please do re-read through the highest powers that a person could attain with the expansion of his/her consciousness, on this path of classical practice.
It is impossible for anyone to claim to be a yoga teacher or be relevant after such a course, though I must point this could be a good starting point for a person on the path of spirituality – from a learning stand point.
Top Yoga schools in India
Now it is important to understand that while we mention some of the top yoga schools and places to learn Yoga - they may or may not be offering a month long Yoga Teacher Training course to transform you into a Yoga guru. Also you may have to expand your whole idea of Yoga to more than certifying courses or physical yoga asanas in order to grasping the ocean of yoga.
1. Sivananda Yoga (main centers in Neyyar Dam, Trivandrum, Mysore and Uttarkashi ) offering 1 month TTC and Advance TTC courses. Established in 1970’s led by Swami Vishnudevananda, the Neyyar Dam center is a great example of managing and operating teacher trainings and other courses, with a set curriculum and giving an appropriate feeling of what a yoga ashram and school must look and feel like. Sivananda Yoga has more than 30,000 Yoga TTC graduates all over the world. The centers mostly offer residential programs and give you the facility of dormitories as well as private rooms, without having to look outside. Where they highly lack is their ability to teach any serious meditation in most of their TTC programs. The asana practice is set, with focus on learning the routine rather than understanding the basics and variations and their healing potential. A great space to meet a lot of students from all over the world and have the beautiful feeling of being in school again.
2. Bihar Yoga School – Again formed by one of the direct disciples of Swami Sivananda who existed for most of his life in Rishikesh, Bihar Yoga school is another very popular and highly respected institute. Until 2021, they were not offering any specific courses, that promised anyone the authority of becoming a yoga teacher and yet every student, who has attended programs at this school seems to happy and all praise.
3. Iyengar Yoga Center Pune – Originally run and established by B.K.S Iyengar who almost coined a name to hatha yoga - asana practice after himself, called Iyengar yoga. This practice relies a lot of precision in postures, extension, understanding the smallest nuances of every pose of yoga, in order to create space and re-balance the body from within. It must be noted that there is no specific stress on the practice of meditation here.
4. Vipassana Centers established by SN Goenka ( all over India & world ) – This is the simplest and purest form of what Buddha taught in form of meditation. In this form, that exists today – these centers of training were founded by S.N. Goenka who carried the work of his teacher in Buddhist meditation teacher from Burma by the name of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Beginners courses are 10 days long , in silent meditation which last approximately 10 hours a day with a lot of breaks in between. This is also one of the best places to start the process of knowing yourself and get a faint understanding of what the path of classical yoga ( working with the mind ) really entails.
5. Awaken Inner Buddha Yoga ( in New Delhi & several countries around the world) – Established by Vidhi Chhariya in 2008, this school combines the classical practices of yoga from asanas, to pranayama with the Buddhist meditation practice of Vipassana and taking students beyond the practice of yoga and meditation in to learning healing and therapy. Certificate programs exist for yoga meditation learning along with therapy. The school organizes programs in various formats for you to be able to question the science behind yoga and embrace the subject with a strong foundation on working upon the self, mind. Healing and therapy.
6. Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute – Originally run and made super popular by K Pattabhi Jois, this is the style of fast and physically challenging yoga that was introduced by T. Krishnamachari and is super popular in the western world for the heat, sweat and speed and strength it moves through. Even though it is popular – here the core focus is on physical postures that takes a good few years to master. Any form of deep meditation or pranayama practice is considered advanced where regular students never get to see or experience them in initial stages of their practice. This has emerged as a super popular school for the western world, with ashtanga yoga teachers readily found everywhere from Europe to America including PB Jois nephew Sharath, who has established his own yoga school. It must be noted that even though this style is referred to as Ashtanga ( 8 legs ) it does not in reality cover the major aspects / legs of yoga where one goes deeper into the mental practice. Another interesting trivia about this school is, that even though this school became hugely popular in the west, due to its strong focus on the physical aspect of Yoga, in India there are a lot of yoga practitioners who may not even know about this school of yoga or its founding teachers.
7. Kaivalyadham , Lonavala Pune – Founded by Swami Kuvalayananda in early 1930’s this is another yoga school that attempts to bring traditional yoga and modern science together. It does offer Bachelor Courses in Yoga that last for several years.
Besides the above, thousands of yoga schools & studios have popped up that are run by some very good and some very bad teachers who either come from the lineage of Sivananda, BKS Iyengar, T Krishnamachari Ashtanga style, with rarely any schools or teacher trainings that focus on meditation or advancement into the mental side of Yoga.
Apart from the above there are thousands of spiritual centres called the ashrams including those run by Sadhguru ( also offering certificate courses ), Amma, and many other spiritual gurus that are hardly known to western world. If you such enough you will realise that a lot of these ashrams will also pop up in Rishikesh. Today Yoga Teacher Trainings in Rishikesh are plenty - offered at varying rates, much like a vegetable market and run in small hotels or guesthouse setups, with barely 20 something year old yoga teachers teaching a subject much beyond their years. Rishikesh is also known for the highest density of yoga teacher training schools in the world. Most of these courses provide Yoga Alliance certificates – which in the real world – does not stand to mean much. However again, the trainings here are still a good place to start the path of spiritual practice, if not much expectations are put into it.
In early 2000’s as the yoga teacher training industry flourished, especially Rishikesh saw an explosion of yoga schools in every known ashram, guesthouse, hotel that exist offering all kinds of 200, 300 and 500 hours courses since the early 2000. Most courses are somehow a faint copy of Sivananda courses with now a lot more content added to it by way of teaching, multiple style of physical yoga and introductions to various ideas of meditation. Rishikesh last in 2020 had more than 1500 Yoga schools in an area of less than 4 kms.
So what must a good Yoga teacher be like ?
Age / Experience in Meditation / Pranayama / Healing Knowledge of Asanas
A Yoga teacher ( has to be a guide ) who can give you a great understanding and practice of therapy of physical asanas, combined with deep practice and knowledge of breath yoga and the healing that one can achieve through the breath work, and the paramount knowledge & experience to guide you into deep meditation ( and not meditations ) where you can progress to change the very fragment of your self programing or sub consciousness. All of this must come with a profound understanding of elements of nature including food and water that combine, in such practices to help you as a yogi or practitioner to attain un-natural states of consciousness that can occur on the path of Yoga. This could range from healing the body & mind or healing others or learning to transmit pranic energy and much more. One who is able to make you curious about the science behind Yoga and yet help you form a meditation practice that helps you explore the deepest darkest parts of your inner universe.
A good teacher is not merely adept in the subject of asanas, dhyana & pranayama but also must have a certain age, wisdom combined with the experience of life itself to be able to transmit the wisdom of this subject in easy to absorb ways – so that you in turn are able to share this learning after experiencing upon yourself.
Look out for our next article, to know where to start your path and what recommendations do we have in case you want to become an authentic yoga teacher. Also what is Enlightenment ?