You can find out from the instructors themselves, or you can inquire about the qualifications preferred by the studio where you practice. Often studios will list this information in their biographical information online, or in their studio flyers or pamphlets.
RYT: The Yoga Alliance “Registered Yoga Teacher”
When an instructor has the letters “RYT” following his or her name, this stands for any one of various levels of certification through the Yoga Alliance. The internationally recognized entity standardizes and regulates the basic education and training that Yoga instructors must obtain in order to be certified. Yoga Alliance also requires instructors to maintain a certain amount of continuing education and regular practice in order to stay certified.
The Yoga Alliance also offers a free, searchable database online, if you would like to check your yoga instructor’s qualifications, or if you would like to search for a yoga instructor of a particular style or type of yoga in your area.
“Certified Yoga Instructor”
There are any number of reputable schools and organizations that will train and certify group fitness instructors. You may need to research other kinds of certifications to determine whether or not your instructor is truly qualified to meet your needs in yoga class.
Yoga Therapy Certifications do not yet have a recognized standard, though there are several organizations trying to establish one.
Some yoga schools (such as Bikram, Ashtanga, Svaroopa etc.) provide certifications outside of the YA and ACE guides. Frequently, these instructors will be certified by more than one organization.
ACE Group Instructor Certification
In order to obtain a group instructor certification from the American Council on Exercise, an instructor would need to attend or read the preparatory class materials and pass a written examination, proctored and administered in a fashion not unlike the SAT. This is the certification that is required by most gymnasiums and fitness centers, and often, your yoga instructor will have both.
ACE vs. Yoga Alliance
The Yoga Alliance is an international body, and the certification is an ongoing, standard of continuing education and work on the part of the instructor. There are levels for future development and Instructors can “move up” within the hierarchy. This also indicates a deep understanding yoga, the spiritual and physical aspects of it, as well as a deep understanding of the poses involved and the benefits and purpose of each of the poses.
The ACE certification is only recognized in the US. And indicates a high level of safety knowledge – such as Red cross CPR training – as well as basic understanding of keeping an entire class safe during practice. However, it does not indicate an awareness of Yoga, its history or precepts.
Best of both worlds
Naturally, a Yoga instructor in the US would ideally have both the RYT certification and the ACE certification to be fully trained and educated in providing their students with the safest, most knowledgeable leadership!
Much like your experience on the mat, you must take the time to ensure that your instructor is completely accredited before entrusting this person with your welfare and safety!