Yoga is an unregulated industry. Unlike doctors, lawyers and accountants, there are no state or national governing boards that set standards for yoga professionals, and there are no yoga licenses to distinguish true yogis. According to Lynn Burgess, founder and director of Yoga from the Heart in Sarasota, Florida, that means it’s up to the buyer to beware.
“As both yoga supply and yoga demand grow, it’s a case of caveat emptor,” says Burgess. “In the future, as the industry matures, I expect to see benchmarks and licensing requirements arise. Until then, it’s important for yoga practitioners to do their homework when choosing a studio to ensure a safe environment with qualified instructors.”
Burgess shared the following steps for vetting a yoga instructor.
1. Is the instructor certified? Yoga Alliance, a non-profit organization committed to spreading awareness about the importance of knowledgeable yoga instruction, offers credentials to distinguish teachers. However, credentials are obtained through registration and not testing, so while certification is a minimum standard to seek, it’s still not a guarantee.
2. Call the studio and ask a series of questions. You’ll want to find out what their approach is. Ask if the classes are vigorous and if the studio offers classes for beginners. What is the average class size? More experienced and popular teachers will usually have larger classes, and that leaves less time to work with individuals. Whereas, novice teachers tend to be a bit rough around the edges, but they also have smaller classes and more time for personal attention. By asking these questions before going to class, you’ll avoid any unpleasant surprises.
3. Ask to speak with the owner. A quick conversation can help you glean greater insights into the school and instructors. It’s also perfectly acceptable to ask to speak with other practitioners to find out their opinions.
4. Clarify any special needs. If you have physical limitations, briefly describe them over the phone and find out if the teacher has worked with these challenges before.
5. Check out the website. Search for instructors’ credentials, such as training, teaching experience and ongoing education. Hone in on any photos to determine if you feel comfortable with that space. If the site is filled with photos of skinny little yoginis sitting in pretzel poses, think about whether that’s a good fit for you. Read the testimonials and check out social media accounts, and sites such as Yelp, for first-person perspectives and reviews.
6. Visit the studio. Listen to your gut instinct when you get there. If it’s messy or there aren’t any yoga props around, consider checking out more options. Also, use common sense. If a studio has signs out front that warn against leaving your valuables in your car, or encouraging women to walk together in groups after dark, consider if it’s the best fit for you.
7. Give it a try before committing. Many studios offer tempting month-long, year-long or other bulk-rate deals. Those can be tempting, but it’s smart to start with a single class before making a greater commitment. Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all mentality, and trying out a variety of instructors and different classes will help you in the long run.