How do you become a yoga therapist in Australia?
If you’ve been searching online for information on studying yoga therapy, you might have ended up on a US based site or social media group. That can be confusing because entry criteria for accredited courses, course types and graduation standards can look quite different to Australia.
So what is the pathway to becoming a yoga therapist in Australia?
Firstly, you need to be committed to an in-depth study of yoga and passionate about supporting your students to manage their health. If that sounds like you, it’s time to take the next steps.
Your yoga teacher training background
The next consideration is your current level of training. In the US, yoga teachers only need 200hrs training to join an accredited yoga therapy course. However, in Australia you need 350hrs. How come?
The entry level for yoga teacher training in the US is the Yoga Alliance RYT200 accreditation. While many Australian yoga teachers have done a Yoga Alliance RYT200 course, the minimum training standard set by the peak body for yoga in Australia, Yoga Australia, is 350hrs training.
Because Yoga Australia recognises 350hrs as the baseline for Level 1 yoga teacher training, this standard became the minimum standard for entry to yoga therapy courses in Australia.
However, despite the difference in entry level, US and Aussie yoga therapists end up with the same number of hours training. US yoga therapy courses offer a minimum of 800hrs training, while Australian courses offer a minimum of 650hrs training. Either way, that’s 1000hrs training prior to graduating as an accredited yoga therapist.
The bottom line for Australian yoga teachers is that RYT200 teachers need to gain an extra 150hrs training before they can enrol in an accredited yoga therapy course. This can be done by taking a foundational yoga therapy training or by attending a variety of recognised yoga workshops and courses. As long as you can demonstrate 350hrs of yoga teacher training, you’ll be eligible to apply for a yoga therapy training course.
Teaching experience counts
Another important part of yoga therapy training in Australia is the minimum teaching experience standard. To ensure yoga therapy training standards are not watered down, Yoga Australia requires teachers to have plenty of real-world teaching experience prior to graduating as a yoga therapist. Current standards require teachers to have been teaching (including practice teaching during training) for at least four years by the time they graduate. If your training school is willing to graduate you before you’ve been teaching for four years all up, they’re not following the guidelines and you might like to ask them why.
No quickie courses
The minimum training time for accredited yoga therapists is 2 years. Why can’t you do an ‘intensive’ yoga therapy training and get through the coursework more quickly? Yoga therapists have to assimilate a huge amount of information, both ancient yogic wisdom and modern health practices. What’s more, they have to learn to translate this information into hands-on clinical work, often with very vulnerable students. You can’t cram that kind of learning. Yoga Australia has set a minimum term of 2 years for accredited yoga therapy training because that’s how long it takes to learn, practice and become proficient in the skills and theories that you will need to become a good yoga therapist. If you find a course that rushes you through in less than two years, you might want to check that they are sticking to Yoga Australia standards.
Yoga therapy online
With so many high quality trainings available online, why can’t you find an accredited yoga therapy course online? While many yoga therapy trainings have online components, Yoga Australia makes it very clear that the majority of your training must be synchronous – that means you are working in real time with your teacher and peers. You can’t watch recordings of workshops or rely on online training modules to get all the learning you need.
As a yoga teacher, you already know there is no substitute for working face-to-face with your students. A good solution is a course that offers plenty of online content to minimise your travel time (and make your study more flexible), combined with face to face training that gives you the opportunity to embody and practice the practical, human contact aspects of yoga therapy.
Hard yakka – but worth it!
There is no doubt that training as a yoga therapist is a big commitment. It takes time and effort to develop the skills and confidence to support students to heal with yoga. However, as any graduate of a yoga therapy training course will tell you, the effort is rewarded a million times over by the satisfaction of doing a job that makes a transformational difference to the health and lives of your students.
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.