A 500-hour yoga teacher training certifies participants in the ancient wisdom teachings of yoga, but what does that mean exactly, and how does a 500-hour yoga certification compare to a 200-hour yoga certification or a 300-hour yoga certification? Several decades ago Yoga Alliance became the most authoritative registry for yoga teachers. The goal in doing this was to create an organization that offered standards and structure for the emerging industry of yoga. The birth of Yoga Alliance signaled the birth of the 200-hour yoga teacher training. A short while later, yoga studios that had sold out of the 200-hour yoga teacher training were looking for the next thing to sell practitioners, and thus the 300-hour yoga teacher training certification was born. It was not long after that Yoga Alliance developed the option to register a 200-hour yoga teacher training, a 300-hour yoga teacher training, or a 500-hour yoga teacher training. At the time, there was not very much structure or guidance as to what differences the 200-hour and 300-hour yoga teacher training should have, so many teachers taught mentorship style training that lasted for several years. All of that changed in 2019 when the world went on lockdown as COVID-19 hit the scene.
With the introduction of COVID came the need for more strict standards and regulations around yoga teacher training as a whole. COVID shut the world down, and because of that Yoga Alliance allowed yoga teacher training to go online. This made many older teachers nervous because they worried that the hands-on teaching style and traditional techniques would be lost and that the profession would suffer as a result. To protect the industry, Yoga Alliance developed online standards for the temporary facilitation of yoga teacher training online. This created accountability and ensured that students in training were getting a certain amount of exposure to specific topics and techniques.
To circle back to the original question, what is the difference between a 200-hour, 300-hour, and 500-hour yoga teacher training? We first need to look at the foundations. When someone decides they want to be a yoga teacher the first thing they need to ask themselves is if they have a sustained practice; essentially, they need to be living their yoga in order to be a good candidate to teach. Many people come to yoga teacher training to deepen their knowledge and personal practice, which is completely fine; but, if someone really wants to teach they need to be committed to modeling the practice for students and laymen alike.
A 200-hour yoga teacher training will take a steeped practitioner deeper in practice and will help them to better understand the technical nuances of asana, pranayama, and pratyahara. At the end of a 200-hour yoga teacher training, a new teacher will be able to identify appropriate alignment based on individual student’s frame, assess asana energetics, evaluate breath and posture, sequence in the style of the training yoga lineage they have been taught in, and adjust students to find more comfort and ease. Many 200 hour teachers need time to teach and gain experience before they feel confident, but almost all of the 200-hour yoga teachers that graduate from My Vinyasa Practice teach beautifully and hold space as if they have been teaching for decades.
The 300-hour yoga teacher training will take a 200-hour yoga teacher a step further. Some 300-hour yoga teacher training sessions are very philosophically based, and some are more asana-based. Finding a 300-hour yoga teacher training that teaches you the specialized practices that one would expect an advanced yoga teacher to offer classes is highly recommended. Advanced practices include Yoga Nidra, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Adaptive Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Children’s Yoga, Meditation, and Trauma-Informed Yoga. When a teacher completes a 300-hour training that focuses on advanced practices they graduate with a well-rounded breadth of understanding that provides them with the skills they need to meet a wide range of students’ needs.
Whether you complete a 200-hour yoga teacher training first and then a 300-hour yoga teacher training OR whether you complete a 500-hour yoga teacher training at the end of the process you will be a 500-hour yoga teacher. If you register with Yoga Alliance you will be a 500-hour RYT. A 200-hour YTT and a 300-hour YTT add up to make a 500-hour YTT. A 500 hour registered yoga teacher is an advanced yoga teacher, but they are not a yoga therapist. This is another confusing nuance of the yoga industry.
Let’s go back to when Yoga Alliance was founded several decades ago and revisit the advent of the 500-hour RYT. At the time, people didn’t see a real need for an advanced yoga teacher certification, so individuals who were certified at the 500-hour level were called Yoga Therapists. Yoga Alliance recognized that another organization, the International Association of Yoga Therapy already existed and therefore Yoga Alliance decided they did not want to have anything to do with the term Yoga Therapy. In fact, they went so far as to say the word Therapy was not allowed in teachers’ profiles or descriptions of offerings. This shook up the industry a bit until more 1,000-hour Yoga Therapy Certification programs started to pop up.
Now, teachers looking to become Certified Yoga Therapists with the International Association of Yoga Therapy can complete a 1,000-hour C-IAYT training and obtain a Yoga Therapy Certification. This is the highest level of Yoga Certification outside of a Master’s Degree in Yoga.