Lesson 2 of 11
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The History of the Yoga Alliance

1997 – A Need for National Standards

As yoga spread to the west, American teachers and practitioners began debating whether or not there should be a national standard for the training of yoga teachers.

Thanks to a Yoga Journal conference in San Francisco, California, about two dozen practitioners from a variety of lineages and traditions began to seriously expand on this idea. In the fall, this group dubbed themselves the Ad Hoc Yoga Alliance, and later that year, they held the first in-person meeting at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

1999 – Birth of Yoga Alliance

As the universe would have it, members of the Unity in Yoga Board of Directors saw the Ad Hoc Yoga Alliance’s Kripalu Center presentation and sought a meeting with the group. It was then that Unity in Yoga offered to roll their then-10-year-old charity organized as a 501(c)(3) completely over to the motivated group.

As a new nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting yoga, Yoga Alliance developed a voluntary registry to recognize yoga schools and yoga teachers whose training met their existing standards. It also established its first office in Reading, Pennsylvania, which was the home of the organization’s only salaried employee. It remained there until 2004 before relocating to Clinton, Maryland, where the staff grew to seven members.

2006 – A Quick Company Snapshot

Yoga Alliance’s longest-serving employee and Assistant Vice President of Marketing Administration, Jackie Gray, joined the organization in 2006. “The office had four suites within the office, and only two people could fit into each of the suites,” she recalls. “…Our file room outgrew us… That file room started to grow from a corner, to the hallways. We could barely pass up and down the hall.” According to Gray, a “good month” would include seven school applications and about 20 to 30 teacher applications*.

*For perspective, at the end of 2019, Yoga Alliance was acquiring roughly 150-180 school applications and 2,500-3,000 teacher applications per month.

2007 – Yoga Alliance Goes International

2009 – Yoga Alliance Offices Move to Arlington, VA

2010 – Introduction of Online Teacher Registration

Ten years after its founding, Yoga Alliance advanced Registered Yoga Teacher (RYSs) applications and registrations online. Doing so allowed for the number of applications to skyrocket, expanding the membership base and adding to the global yoga community. Online applications and registrations for Registered Yoga Schools (RYSs) soon followed.

2010 – Launch of Specialized Credentials for Children’s and Prenatal Yoga

2010 saw a rapid increase in popularity and need for children’s and prenatal yoga education. In response, Yoga Alliance created brand new Registered Children’s Yoga Schools (RCYS), Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS), Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher (RCYS), and Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT) credentials to ensure safety and quality in these yoga classrooms.

2013 – Yoga Alliance Foundation is Formed

Recognizing the need for member programs and services that went beyond the scope of a 501c3, on January 22, 2013, Yoga Alliance received tax-exempt status as a separate 501c6 organization to serve as an association for yoga schools and yoga teachers. This also served as the official founding of the Yoga Alliance Foundation as the non-profit arm of the organization, leveraging yoga for social impact and fostering an expansive, accessible, and equitable yoga community.

2013 – Introduction of Member Benefit Programs

To consistently benefit, strengthen, and support the livelihoods of RYSs and RYTs, Yoga Alliance began to introduce member benefit programs in 2013. These benefits include(d) discounts for liability insurance, education, yoga apparel, travel, legal services, electronics, and more, and continue to enhance our members’ lives today.

In addition, members gained access to a library of educational programming which, at the time, included 70+ workshops from thought leaders and experts in the field of yoga. Today, members enjoy a robust Video Resource Archive full of Continuing Education workshops, Community Events, Community Sanghas, and Master Classes to enhance their yoga professions and personal practices.

Modern benefits also include strengthened standards punctuated by the Ethical Commitment, advanced advocacy efforts, directory visibility, enhanced resources via yourya.org, and more.

2013 – Yoga Alliance Advocacy

2013 is also the first time Yoga Alliance stepped into advocacy work, including influencing the regulation of yoga in many states, taxation for yoga classes, and more. Today, our advocacy works extends to ensuring all members are abreast of timely legislation that impacts their livelihoods so that they are best equipped to expand their professions and businesses.

2016 – Creation of the Continuing Education Provider (YACEP) Designation

For years, members had been asking Yoga Alliance for a simpler way to find qualified continuing education providers. In 2016, we introduced our Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider (YACEP) designation and the only Continuing Education Directory for yoga teachers.

Here, the yoga community and members alike can research and find local YACEPs suited to further advance yoga teaching in their communities.

2018 – The Standards Review Project

In 2018, Yoga Alliance embarked on an 18-month-long quest to review and improve their credentialing standards based on the feedback and input from its membership and the broader yoga community. We called this the Standards Review Project.

This initiative brought together thousands of people, listening to the voices of yoga teachers, practitioners, not-for-profit and for-profit business leaders, field leaders, wisdom holders, and expert advisors all exploring eight key areas of inquiry (Scope of Practice, Code of Conduct, Inclusion, Core Curriculum, Teacher Qualifications, Integrity, and Online Learning).

In addition to a 12,000-respondent survey, the SRP utilized a listening tour, series of virtual town halls, working group sessions, and other extensive feedback channels to gather the important, necessary information Yoga Alliance needed to better facilitate the teaching of yoga. The end result was absorbed and condensed into our Elevated RYS Standards and set the foundation for the member-wide shared Ethical Commitment.

November 2019 – Yoga Alliance’s 20th Anniversary

February 2020 – Strengthened Standards, Applications, and Commitments

Using the Standards Review Project as a guiding light, Yoga Alliance launched new RYS 200 standards, a strengthened RYS application and review process, and a shared Ethical Commitment, which unites members around an enhanced Code of Conduct, new Scope of Practice, and shared responsibility to equity in yoga.

March 2020 – COVID-19 Pandemic

In early 2020, the world experienced the extreme health crisis of COVID-19. Referred to as the coronavirus pandemic, this event forced many communities to follow “stay at home” orders and social distancing standards in order to slow and stop the spread of transmission.

Facing a new norm, many yoga classrooms closed their physical learning spaces. With this, Yoga Alliance recognized the need to pivot its approach and service to its members by quickly establishing timely, credible resources to help protect and maintain yoga professions. This included establishing a dedicated COVID-19 website—yourya.org—which provided updated news, events, and tools as they pertained to the pandemic and robust Digital Event programming. Today, this website is used in response to the timely and pressing circumstances of the yoga alliance community, industry, and our membership.

The Yoga Alliance Foundation also established an Emergency Relief Fund dedicated to providing monetary assistance to yoga alliance professionals facing extreme economic hardship due to COVID-19.

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives