December 13, 2011

RYT, E-RYT, or RYS? BFD! ~ Laura Riggs

 Originally published by our elephriends over at Recovering Yogi on December 7, 2011. 


By Laura Riggs

Many students used to ask me, “What does it mean to be an RYT or E-RYT?”  The PC answer: “According to Yoga Alliance, the reported ‘professional’ organization for yoga instructors, these labels mean ‘Registered Yoga Teacher’ or ‘Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher,’ and if you have any interest in earning either of these two labels, then you have undoubtedly done some research into attending a training with a RYS: ‘Registered Yoga School,’”

However, I am now a former E-RYT who led many of these 200-hour TTs for RYTs at a RYS, and I can attest to the reality that this is all just a bunch of marketing BS by YA to get your GWs so that you can add one of these ambiguous labels to the end of your name.

Labeling is an easy way to provide students with a false sense of security that a particular teacher or school has a certain level of education or experience that other teachers/schools may not.  This, to me, is sort of like believing that the TSA has bolstered our level of security for air travel.  I read a post recently from a concerned yogi about teachers who are not registered with YA falsifying their accreditation by adding the label RYT to the end of their name.  Rather than focusing on whether or not a few teachers are on the “cool kids” list, I would ask why these teachers opted out of the registry in the first place.  Now, it could be that they have opted to donate their funds to a more worthwhile cause instead — like rescuing whales, helping starving children in Africa or earthquake victims in Turkey, or assisting with the massive EU bailout.

Since yoga instructors make next to nil when it comes to teaching yoga classes, I think the ones who have opted to not throw away $55-75/year on a meaningless, commercialized label are brilliant.

I have worked with many wonderful teachers who have opted to stay as far away from YA as possible and they are, in most cases, more qualified to guide a yoga class (or lead a teacher training) than many of the teachers currently listed in the YA registry.  Reason being: YA lacks sufficient internal structure to monitor and hold the registered teachers and schools accountable in order to uphold the standards they have allegedly established.  Furthermore, these so-called standards do not give any weight or bearing toward the qualifications actually needed to guide a yoga class in a knowledgeable, empowering, safe and ethical manner.

Yoga Alliance spends too much time fighting local governments to actually focus on reigning in yoga schools so that they abide by a set of standards that could actually give the profession some foundation of credibility.  Granted, yoga is a spiritual system, which makes it difficult for me to resolve the philosophical conflict between having government get involved with the conduct of yoga teachers/ schools versus being repeatedly and severely injured by so-called teachers who have absolutely no business assisting students.  There currently are NO legal requirements that yoga teachers actually be good teachers before they step into a classroom and start jacking with people’s effed up bodies.

The ability to effectively assist a student requires a great deal of knowledge about physical anatomy and the understanding of how to modify a practice for various injuries — similar to that of a massage therapist or chiropractor. So many of us start practicing yoga because we are too injured to continue with whatever other sport brought us to our doctor to begin with, at which point, said doctor advised us to “go to yoga; it will be good for you.” But while other healing professions require rigorous study, followed by a series of tests, in order to gain legal license to safely practice skills on the general public, yoga teachers are not legally bound to obtain any sort of education, seek out certification, or carry any type of licensing whatsoever.  Your hairstylist has more accreditation than your “guide to obtaining spiritual enlightenment” and increased health and wellness.

I realize that we are an externally focused society, but are you f***king kidding me?

At minimum, a licensed massage therapist needs 600 hours of training on the physical anatomy alone.  Current YA standards only ask teachers to have 20 hours (less than one full day), which includes how to assist students safely.  So where do the remaining 180 hours of a 200-hour training go?

Good question, because the guidelines outlined by YA are fairly obscure: for example, 100 hours of class time must be logged. But many schools, the one I unfortunately worked for included, cheat their students out of official YA Standard hours.  As defined by YA, an “hour” counts only if the class was conducted for trainees only, and not for the general public, by an E-RYT — not a studio manager or any other “unqualified” teacher.  So, if you got corralled into the 5 o’clock class with your mat overlapping that of 85 of your closest friends, taught by the latest and greatest hot young thing, it technically did NOT count toward your 200- or 500-hour certification.  Nor do your hours count if the session was to be led by promised master instructor Shiva Squat, but instead was taught by Mr. 1,001 Handstands-and-Call-it-a-Yoga-Practice.

Schools often do not adhere to these standards for two reasons:

  1. It does not make financial sense to cancel classes on the schedule just because 40-50 (or sometimes 100) students paid thousands of dollars to participate in a legitimate training, when the studio has the opportunity to earn an additional $500/class minimum by allowing the public to participate, and
  2. Yoga Alliance will not monitor the quality of the programs delivered by said “registered schools.”  I highlight here the “will not.” instead of “do not.” I made a few calls to YA some time ago to question the ethics of this practice by many RYS TT programs.  I learned that YA “does not get involved with disputes between teachers/trainees and schools, you must speak to the head of the program directly about this.”

Uh… I am (or at least was) the head of the program, so now what? Talk to the owner of the studio? Yep, done that, and got this response: “All YA cares about is that you think someone is ready to teach; it really doesn’t matter if they complete the 200-hour training.”  Of course, my reply was that none of the trainees were ready to teach. They had been shorted an education they invested in and desperately needed.

As you can imagine, this was not exactly in alignment with the financial plans the studio had. Especially when the ultimate goal of the TT program was to upsell current trainees on investing in subsequent and equally mediocre programs.

My concerns over the lack of responsibility on behalf of the school went completely ignored by the YA staff.  That is, of course, until it was time for me to renew my E-RYT registration.  After numerous mailers and phone calls from some lovely sales interns over at YA, I gently but adamantly refused to renew my registration because no reply had been given yet to these issues that I had raised over the integrity (or lack thereof) in our “profession” – a term I use loosely these days.  Six months later, YA still hasn’t called me back… but they still send me renewal notices in the mail.

I commend the teachers who are not registered with YA.

It is a waste of time, effort and money.  The instructors who add integrity to the profession of teaching yoga don’t tout that they are card-carrying members of the YA. They simply show up, act professional, seek out meaningful education on a continual basis, and serve their students.  As a student, how do you find this type of teacher?  Ask questions and pay attention.  If the teacher is unable or unwilling to help you, this is a good indication that they might be an RYT, and therefore possibly not qualified to guide you on your spiritual growth, as they have yet to face the truth in their own life — that yoga isn’t always sunshine and unicorns — and sometimes it takes honesty to see things as they really are, say that they are broken, and be willing to do the thankless work of trying to correct them.

About Laura Riggs

Laura started practicing yoga roughly ten years ago and began teaching five years ago.  She left a successful career in advertising to teach yoga full-time because she decided it would be totally rad to pretend she was 21 again. She managed two large studios for the past two years, led many teacher trainings, and enjoyed having her soul sucked out of her. Now that the LSD in the Kool-Aid they had her drink before work each day has worn off, she is relieved to be rid of a company that believes first in money and second in “speaking your truth” — so long as it agrees with “our truth” because “our truth” can kick “your truth’s” ass!  She does admit there are days that she still checks the studio’s yoga schedule and experiences flashbacks – only to be grateful she no longer has to manage the severely undereducated teachers trying their best to fulfill the studio’s mandate to “Bring the Sexy Back” to yoga. Last time she checked herself, before she wrecked herself, yoga was never sexy to begin with…..

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