Touch is Touchy: Are Yoga Teachers Qualified to Touch?



Yoga teachers might not be qualified to facilitate the type of touch they are currently delivering, but there is a way that they can provide safe touch to their clients. 

There are 2 types of touch you typically receive from yoga teachers: yoga adjustments, and those “feel good” touches in Savasana.

Yoga adjustments are hands-on assists that either guide someone into a deeper stretch, or help to modify the body slightly to create better alignment. Example: a yoga teacher might press down on your lower back in Pigeon Pose to deepen the stretch, or they might move your knee to align above your heel in Warrior II if it’s jutting inwards.

The “feel good” touches you receive from yoga teachers sometimes resemble what you might be getting from your massage therapist - a scalp massage or temple rub, maybe even some compressions on the legs or feet.

But are yoga teachers really qualified to offer this type of touch?

Yoga Teacher Education

The practice of yoga in the United States is unlicensed and unregulated. This means that unlike physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists, there are no standards or state regulations that govern yoga teachers.

Why is this important?

For licensed and regulated practices, there are education requirements, standardized board examinations, and background checks. This does not exist in the world of yoga. 

So who can call themselves a Yoga Teacher?

Just about anyone. You can go through NETA (National Exercise Trainers Association), AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), ACE (American Council of Exercise), and then of course, Yoga Alliance. And because there are no real state regulations, let’s include the option of waking up one day and just deciding to call yourself a Yoga Teacher.

Let’s talk about the big guy... Yoga Alliance approved RYT 200-hr trainings.

When you think of becoming a yoga teacher, the first thing that usually comes to mind (or your search engine results) is a 200-hr Yoga Alliance Approved Yoga Teacher Training. With some really great marketing and lobbying, Yoga Alliance has established themselves as a standard in the yoga world. Most yogis wouldn’t consider a training that isn’t approved by Yoga Alliance, and many even believe that they must be registered with yoga alliance to be considered legitimate.

What does it take to be a registered teacher on Yoga Alliance?

  1. 1. Take an approved 200-hr Yoga Teacher training
  2. 2. Sign up for the membership and pay a $50 application fee + $65/year.

No testing to make sure you know your stuff. No educational requirements. No background checks. Nothing.

Okay, so how do I become a Yoga Alliance approved school that can facilitate Yoga Alliance approved Yoga Teacher Trainings?

  1. 1. Take an approved 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training.
  2. 2. Sign up for the membership and pay a $50 application fee + $65/year.
  3. 3. After two years, you can become an E-RYT and be qualified to facilitate a training.
  4. 4. Create a syllabus that meets the Yoga Alliance standards.
  5. 5. Pay $400 for the application + $240/year to stay registered.
  6. 6. Get approved, and start collecting $2,000-$4,000 per person.

There is no oversight by Yoga Alliance for these programs. They do not require tests from participants, and Yoga Alliance does not check in on the programs and make sure they are adhering to the syllabus. 

According to Maty Ezraty, “Unfortunately, most yoga 'schools' are not schools; they are businesses,” says Ezraty, who co-founded YogaWorks in 1987. “You often have people with charisma that can fill a YTT program, you have students that may not be truly ready for such a training, and you have this 200-hour 'stamp' that people mistakenly believe alone will make them a yoga teacher. It’s fair to say we’re having a bit of an industry crisis.” She also adds, “The problem is that the public thinks, or wants to think, that [Yoga Alliance registration] is good enough,” notes Ezraty. “The reality is that Yoga Alliance does not certify you as a yoga teacher, they register you, which merely acknowledges that you have completed some type of coursework. In my opinion, the 200 hours itself doesn’t really mean anything, as it all depends on what happens during the course of those hours, and beyond.” 

So let’s bring this all back to the main question...should Yoga Teachers be allowed to touch clients?

Absolutely not. When you walk into a yoga studio, there are no required consent forms (consenting to touch, etc.), no intake forms (i.e. the forms you fill out at the doctors office, chiropractic office, physical therapy office, and massage therapy practice that tell the practitioner your medical history, any injuries, preferences etc.), no way for you to confirm their qualifications, and no background checks. 

All of this being said, there are many students that go to yoga class because they absolutely love the hands-on component. 

This makes sense. Safe touch is an epic wellness booster. It is a human need, it’s connective, immunity boosting, and floods your body with the happiness hormone oxytocin. Science says so, check out these studies.

So is there a way to incorporate safe touch into your yoga classes in an ethical and responsible way?

We believe that there needs to be more accessible, safe ways people can receive safe touch on a regular basis. And we also believe that this safe touch can be received from a qualified yoga teacher who is following proper procedures.

That’s why we created Mindful Touch™. It’s a training that yoga teachers, reiki practitioners, and others in the health and wellness field can take to facilitate Mindful Touch™ classes.

In the Mindful Touch™ training, practitioners are taught how to apply light touch mindfully, safely, with consent, and in a trauma sensitive manner. This does not involve yoga adjustments or tissue manipulation, as we believe extensive training in massage and/or physical therapy are required for those types of touch. In a Mindful Touch™ class, there are protocols in place to ensure the client’s safety and consent, and background checks are conducted on every practitioner. 

f you would like to join the conversation about yoga teachers and touch, please join our private Facebook page.

To learn more about the Mindful Touch™ curriculum and certification, please visit this page.Yomassage is offering 8 Mindful Touch™ trainings in-person in 2020, and 12 virtual trainings.

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