Becoming a Yoga Instructor

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Your downward facing dog is flawless, your bow pose is impeccable, and more than one person has paid you compliments on your picture-perfect crane. So it only makes sense to focus your personal training career on the art and discipline of yoga.

Yoga, which can be traced back more than 5,000 years, is an ancient spiritual and physical discipline that is actually a branch of East Indian Hindu philosophy.

Often considered not just a form of exercise, but a way of life, yoga is said to connect and unite the mind, body, and soul. (Yoga, which comes from the Sanskrit word yuji, means to join, or unite).

What is Yoga?

Those who are immersed in the discipline often have their own unique way of describing what yoga means to them:

  • Yoga is our self in the purest form without injuries of false beliefs.
  • Yoga reminds us what we as human beings are truly capable of becoming.
  • Yoga is a place where you remember your essential nature of compassion and kindness.
  • Yoga reminds us of the difference between dark and light, between ego and love.
  • Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice.
  • Yoga creates strength, awareness, and harmony in both the mind and the body.
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For those who are not familiar with yoga, however, this discipline can be best described as controlled physical movements that are designed to increase flexibility, strengthen muscles, and center your thoughts. The poses are designed to focus on specific body parts. Yoga is often chosen as a form of exercise for many because of its calming and relaxing qualities.

Just a few of the thousands of yoga poses include:

  • Bridge pose
  • Hare pose
  • Tree pose
  • Upward bow pose
  • Chair pose
  • Garland pose
  • Cow pose
  • Cobra pose
  • Plank pose

In the Western part of the world, yoga is focused mainly on the physical aspects of yoga, which involve a wide array of poses. In addition to performing these controlled poses, students of yoga are encouraged to train their minds in such a way as to be in a state of complete stillness. Training the mind (often referred to as the “monkey mind”) allows people to calm their thoughts through meditation.

Because the process of meditation, for many, is quite difficult, as a personal trainer you will likely remind your students that yoga is a practice and a lifestyle, not a journey.

Types of Yoga for Personal Trainers

Your personal yoga sessions, which you may perform in a gym, fitness center, yoga studio, personal training facility, at home, or even in a serene, outdoor setting, will differ based on the type of yoga you practice.

And because yoga has been around for thousands of years and practiced all over the world, there are many types of yoga. Some of the most popular types of yoga in the U.S. include:

  • Vinyasa: Vinyasa (also called “flow” yoga), the most popular type of yoga in the U.S., offers a faster-paced approach that is focused on fitness.
  • Hatha: Hatha involves very slow movements and holding poses for a longer time. This type of yoga is widely practice in the U.S. Ideal for beginners, Hatha involves slow and smooth movements.
  • Bikram: Bikram involves doing yoga in an extremely hot room (often called hot yoga). The objective is to loosen the muscles and sweat to cleanse the body and remove symptoms of disease and chronic pain.
  • Kundalini: Often considered an intense form of yoga, Kundalini focuses on the core (or root chakra). Kundalini emphasizes rapid movement and breathing, chanting, and meditation.
  • Ashtanga: Often called “power” yoga, Ashtanga is more physically challenging than other forms of yoga, as it involves quickly moving from one pose to the next to build strength and endurance.
  • Iyengar: Iyengar focuses on body alignment and balance through the use of props, such as blocks, bolsters, ropes, and straps.

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is often recognized as much for its mental benefits as it is for its physical benefits. One of the many benefits of yoga is that is can be safely practiced by people of nearly every age and fitness level. Everyone from the couch potato to the professional athlete will benefit from yoga.

As a personal trainer, you will also encourage your clients to perform yoga to:

  • Lessen chronic pain
  • Increase flexibility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce insomnia
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Tone muscles
  • Improve energy and vitality
  • Improve metabolism
  • Reduce weight
  • Improve balance
  • Improve posture
  • Manage stress
  • Improve mental well-being
  • Help heal and prevent injuries
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Improve circulatory health
  • Improve athletic performance

Yoga benefits:

  • The body, by conditioning it through postures/poses that hold muscular contractions
  • The mind, by teaching you to concentrate on specific parts of the body, thereby strengthening the mind-body connection and focusing on the internal
  • The spirit, through controlled breathing that merges the mind, body, and spirit

How to Become a Personal Trainer Who Specializes in Yoga

Although a love of yoga and experience in the discipline is an excellent, first step to becoming a personal trainer who specializes in yoga, your main goal should be to complete an educational program that will provide you with a solid foundation in the science of body movement and how the body responds to physical exercise.

Education Options

One of the best, first steps should be to complete an associate or bachelor degree program in personal training or a related field, such as:

  • Exercise science
  • Physical education
  • Exercise physiology
  • Sports medicine

These types of degree programs are designed to provide you with a scientific base of knowledge through coursework in anatomy and physiology, biology, human anatomy, and kinesiology, but also through coursework directly related to fitness and exercise prescription, such as:

  • Foundation of physical conditioning
  • Exercise physiology: foundation and theory
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Exercise testing: foundation and theory
  • Biomechanics
  • Exercise prescription

Certification Options

As a personal trainer with a focus in yoga, you will also want to achieve professional certification to demonstrate your expertise as a yoga instructor.

Just a few of the professional organizations that offer yoga certification include:

  • Yoga Alliance and American Council on Exercise, YogaFit Yoga Certification
  • American Council on Exercise (ACE), Mind Body Specialist
  • National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association (NESTA), Sports Yoga Instructor
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA), Yoga Specialty Certification
  • International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA), Yoga Instructor
  • American Fitness Professional Association (AFPA), Yoga Fitness Instructor, Level I and Level II
  • American Sports and Fitness Association (ASFA), Yoga Certification
  • Health and Fitness Alliance (HFA), Yoga Instructor Certification

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