It only takes a second to share a video with your nephew in Austin or a joke with your friend in Phuket. You can book a flight on your phone, or postpone lunch or buy insurance, and with over 1800 accredited online yoga teacher training programs in the United States alone, you can now embark on a new career in yoga from your phone, tablet, or laptop as well.
But with a practice so deeply invested in the state of presence, can you really train to teach yoga without being… present?
Let’s take a look at the world of online Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), and see how it stacks up against more traditional, in-person YTT.
Is Online Yoga Teacher Training Even Legitimate?
Quite simply, yes. Yoga Alliance, the governing body that regulates yoga certification, makes no distinction whatsoever between registered yoga teachers (RYTs) who got their designations in person and those who got their designation online.
The disruptions of Covid-19 touched every corner of society, and the world of yoga was not spared. In response, Yoga Alliance dropped its restrictions on online instruction and certification in April of 2020, making online and in-person RYT certifications co-equal.
Whether you get your instruction in person or online will not be noted on your certification, and online certification will allow you to work anywhere that people who were certified in-person can work.
Isn’t YTT Better In Person?
At first glance, you might think so. Many did before the pandemic.
And yet common convention has shifted so much since the disruptions of 2020, and an overwhelming number of yogis, yoga teachers, and yoga studio owners now look favorably upon getting trained online.
Sarah Ezrin of Yoga Journal writes that online yoga teacher training is performing better than expected in two key indicators of success, interest and attendance. And in August of 2021, Yoga Alliance went beyond lifting the prohibition and announced a shift in posture from one of online YTT acceptance to one of online YTT advocacy. YA began to research and develop guidelines and best practices for online-specific methodologies and pedagogy.
In short? Online Yoga Teacher Training is becoming a discipline in and of itself. It’s not just conventional YTT with a webcam in front of the classroom any more. It is its own thing, and it is fast becoming an important pillar in professional yoga.
So Are Online YTT And In-Person YTT Exactly The same?
They are not, but this answer is not as simple as you might think. There are obviously some things that you simply cannot get online that you can get in person:
- The energy of an in-person experience
- The focus that comes from the immersion of an in-person class
- The ability of an instructor to address small but crucial posture adjustments
- The ability of instructor and student to ask questions and get immediate feedback
- The sense of community that comes from in-person learning
But don’t forget that, while online YTT and in-person YTT may have their differences, in-person YTT programs all differ from one another as well. One program may be exclusive to Iyengar or Vinyasa, for example, and another will take a more general approach.
You wouldn’t think that an in-person Bikram training program would be anything like an in-person Hatha training program, would you? Don’t let the fact that there are differences between online and in-person YTT be a deciding factor in choosing one over the other. Instead, make your choice about online training in the same way that you’d make your choice when deciding between different in-person training programs.
Look at the program itself, and make the decision based on whether the program is right for you, not just the medium.
What Do You Want?
You’ll need to decide if you want to study a generalized program or one that specializes in a particular style. You’ll also need to choose the certification experience level you’ll be pursuing:
RYT 200, RYT 300 or RYT 500. The numbers refer to the hours of experience required for the certification, and while many schools are (Registered Yoga School) RYS 200, RYS 300 and RYS 500, others are just 200 or 200 – 300, so take this into account.
Of course, you’ll also want to do due diligence. Look for reviews on Yelp and Facebook, certainly, and you can also do searches on Twitter and Reddit. Reach out if you already have a small yoga community (IRL or online) and see what your friends have tried.
After that, some of your decision will and should be based on your sensibilities and inclination.
- Do you like the teachers?
- Do you like the vibe of the sample classes?
- Does the program seem rigorous or relaxed enough for you?
The only factor that shouldn’t be a mere judgment call is Yoga Alliance accreditation. You can find ads offering online YTT for as low as $79, but you should pass these right by; none of them have YA accreditation. You might learn something interesting with them, sure, but there is no professional advantage to graduating from a program without YA accreditation.
That said, online YTT is a great fit for some future teachers. Is it a great fit for you?
5 Reasons Why I Like Doing a Yoga Teacher Course Online
Making time for a rigorous program can be a challenge. While you will still have to dedicate many hours to online training, it does give you more flexibility in terms of when during the day you can study.
You might have six hours a day to dedicate to training, but not six hours in a row. If you can do two hours before the kids get up, however, an hour or two in the afternoon and a few at night after everybody’s gone to bed, you’ll reap the benefits of a complete training without taking yourself out of the prime hours of the day.
There’s no place like home, as they say, and some people may be more comfortable going through the training process in a familiar space. There will obviously be times when teaching yoga will have to take you out of your comfort zone, but if you are one who learns better when you are in your comfort zone then online training can smooth the transition into a career in yoga instruction.
And beyond comfort, training at home also simplifies issues of child care or caregiving for parents.
There is almost no comparison in price between online YTT and in-person YTT. Online courses can range from $200 to $1000, whereas in-person courses range from about $1000 to $7,000 and beyond.
- Carbon Footprint
Transportation could probably be filed under either time, place or price. Online instruction doesn’t require commuting time, after all, it doesn’t make you move from place to place, and it doesn’t cost you gas and wear-and-tear. But there’s another factor to consider regarding transportation, and that is its carbon footprint. If you’re deciding between online YTT and in-person from a studio across the street then this issue is moot, but if you have an eye on a studio across town or one city over, choosing to train at home is the environmentally friendlier option.
- The Ability To Review
While in-person YTT brings a closer connection between the student and the teacher, online YTT can bring a closer connection between the student and the learning material. Most good in-person instructors will answer questions, of course, but there is only a limited amount of time in an in-person class.
But when you are studying online? You can go back over any troubled spots as often as you need. You can watch a class two or three times if you like, and you can play video at a slower speed. You can really sit with the material in a way that you can’t in a class with definitive start and end times.
- Go With The Flow
Before 2020, there were plenty of reasons not to get yoga teacher training online. Online instruction wasn’t accredited, it wasn’t well respected, and it hadn’t been examined.
But time changes things, and the evolution of online yoga teacher training since 2020 has been extraordinary.
This article would have been much shorter in 2017: “Online OTT: Don’t Waste Your Time. The End.”
But it’s a whole new world. In deciding whether or not to go the online YTT route, you can now decide based entirely on how you feel that a program — online or in person — will suit your needs. You don’t need to focus on any advantages in-person instruction might have, because online YTT has its own unique advantages. It is an idea, and a method, whose time has come.
Jake is a yoga and meditation teacher. He loves stream-of-consciousness writing, good coffee, and a quiet mind. Not necessarily in that order. You can find him pursuing that wherever he goes.