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Yoga instructor leading a class
Yoga instructor leading a class

Yoga instructor qualifications

6 minute read

If you want to be a successful yoga instructor, build a brand and set yourself apart, you must have the right yoga instructor qualification.

Our comprehensive guide will help you at the start of your journey and ensure that you’re only spending your hard-earned money on recognised training that leads to a qualification.

Before we dive in and explore the various organisations and institutions offering yoga qualifications and CPD in the UK, it’s first important to outline just what exactly a qualification actually is. After all, the more you know, the more of an informed decision you can make.

What is a qualification?

If you do a cursory search online you’ll no doubt find an overwhelming amount of options for ‘yoga instructor courses’ and ‘yoga teacher training’. It’s important to note upfront that not every course on the market leads to a qualification. For an educational programme to be considered as a qualification, it must sit on a framework. In the case of the fitness industry, the current framework is the RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework). A qualification will also be certificated and stringently quality assured by an awarding organisation. If you’ve completed any fitness qualifications previously, the likes of YMCA Awards, Active IQ, OCR and City & Guilds will already be very familiar to you.

In England, qualifications are regulated by the Government’s independent watchdog, Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation), while Qualifications Wales, CCEA (Northern Island) and SQA (Scotland) handle the rest of the UK. These regulators ensure that your chosen qualification is fit for purpose, that you’ve going to gain the skills and knowledge you actually need and you’ll be adequately set up to perform the role of a yoga instructor or teacher.

Feedback being delivered on an HFE yoga course

A final layer to the world of qualifications is professional bodies. These organisations give their endorsement and recognition to qualifications. In the fitness industry, the preferred professional body is CIMSPA (Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity).

Finding a reputable training provider

Now you have an understanding of qualifications and what they actually are, it’s time to look at training providers – the organisation who’s actually going to help you become a fully qualified yoga instructor or teacher. In the UK, recent surveys suggest that yoga is the most popular form of group exercise with over 1.3 million people saying they’ve taken part in a class in the last four weeks.

Students taking part in a yoga class

The sheer demand for yoga classes, alongside the ever-increasing number of fitness facilities in the UK, has naturally created a need for more and more yoga instructors and teachers. This, in turn, has led to a significant increase in recent years of those offering fitness courses and yoga instructor qualifications.

It is arguably subjective about which is the ‘best’ fitness training provider out there, however, what’s important is that you find the right fit for your needs, career ambitions and budget, if that is a driving factor behind your decision. When faced so much choice, it’s important to do your research and ask the right questions.

Here are a few things to get you started:

The learning model – Will you be studying full time during the week? Combining home study and part-time attendance as part of blending learning? Or is the programme delivered solely online?

Cost of the course – What do you actually get for your money? Are the basics you need like learning materials, tutor support and your certificate included or are they extras you’ll have to pay for?

Resources – To help you achieve your qualification, what learning resources and materials will you receive? Videos, manuals, access to an online system, practice quizzes? Every learner is different so it’s important you feel like you have everything you need.

Recognition and endorsement – Is the yoga instructor qualification accredited by an awarding body (YMCA Awards, Active IQ et al)? Have the likes of CIMSPA given it their endorsement?

In your search to find your ideal training provider, you’re well within your right to enquire about all of the above. Any reputable provider will be up front about course costs, who they’re accredited by and what learning resources and support you’ll receive. If the provider is not forthcoming in any way, it’s probably best to give them a wide berth.

Another avenue could be to check third-party review sites like Trustpilot and Review Centre. What have previous students said about their experience? Some providers may claim they offer a five-star service on their website, but independent reviews will often reveal a very different side to the story.

Qualifications needed to become a yoga instructor

The starting point for new yoga instructors and teachers is the face-to-face Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Yoga, to give it its official title. There’s also the option of online yoga teacher training. This is a standalone course that carries no entry requirements. No one will be expecting you to be fluent in Sanskrit or effortlessly perform headstands and backbends, but if you have your sights set on becoming a yogi, chances are you’ll have already taken part in classes and have some, even if only informal, knowledge about the subject.

Students taking part in yoga teacher training

It will naturally vary from student to student but typically the level 3 diploma can be completed in around six months. As the qualification is internationally-recognised by all leading gyms, health clubs and leisure facilities the door is wide open to you once you qualify. You’ll be free to explore a career as a freelance yoga instructor, start your own fitness retreat, deliver online classes and much more.

In terms of actual course content, here’s a small selection of what you can expect to encounter, learn and experience:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • The incredibly rich history and philosophy of yoga
  • Understanding yoga asana (poses)
  • Yogic breathing and pranayama techniques
  • Planning and teaching a yoga class

Taking things further

The very best yoga instructors and teachers are always on the lookout for opportunities to not only grow their client base and help more people but grow within themselves. One of the ways this is achieved is by gaining additional qualifications and completing CPD.

A natural adjunct to yoga is Pilates. Both are unique forms of group exercise that attract different types of people, but you will often find overlap and similarities, particularly when it comes to the exercises/poses being performed. In terms of enabling you to work with more people and safely adapt yoga, there are a range of courses aimed at special populations including pre and postnatal, older adults and exercise for disabled clients.

There are also many styles of yoga that can be studied and taught. Hatha is just one, other popular ones include vinyasa, ashtanga, Iyengar and Bikram (now more commonly known as hot yoga). Mindfulness and meditation are two movements that have simply exploded in popularity in recent times and adding these strings to your bow, alongside other qualifications, could make you an incredibly in-demand yoga teacher.

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