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Ashtanga Teacher Certification/Authorization Is Rubbish?

Today, I saw a comment where someone said, “yoga does not belong to anyone. Certification and authorization is rubbish.”  Lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Being authorized or certified does not guarantee that a teacher knows what they are doing but having no standards doesn’t guarantee it either. Certification and authorization says that, the Jois family, who are the lineage holders of Ashtanga Yoga, feel that this person seems to have a good enough understanding of the practice to teach it.  It does not mean that they own yoga or that the certified/authorized teacher owns it either.  It is just a way for students to know that this person has knowledge of Ashtanga Yoga that comes directly from the source.

The Jois family does not own yoga. As a matter of fact, here is a quote from Sharath Jois in conference,


“No one owns Yoga,” said Sharath Rangaswamy, the grandson of the late Ashtanga Yoga guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Sharath paused comfortably, sanguinely sitting in lotus. He looked around the room, and then continued, “You don’t own it. I don’t own it. No one owns it.”- LA Yoga Magazine


Lets take it out of the bubble of yoga. If you need a brain surgeon, are you going to call the dude that has  the credentials to prove that they have some education on the subject  or some dude who has no credentials but has a lot of great testimonials on the brain surgeries he has done? Okay, so yoga is not brain surgery, but you get the point.  For a true aspirant, yoga is the biggest journey they will ever embark on. They will dedicate their whole entire life to it. Doesn’t it make sense to have standards for the teacher you will spend your whole life practicing with? Why do we have a higher standard for the plumber we hire then we do for our yoga teachers? We will pick a random name on a schedule for a yoga teacher, but if we remodel our home, we will ask for credentials, references, and interview numerous contractors before we will make a decision. We won’t let just anyone remodel our house but we will let just anyone touch our body and give us spiritual advice.



I teach Ashtanga  yoga. I am not certified or authorized by the Jois family. There are no certified or authorized teachers in my area. There was a need and I filled it. I have been practicing for 13 years and I have dedicated my life to yoga so I stepped up and took it on. I am not against unauthorized teachers…clearly.    I have great respect for those who are  certified/authorized because they spent years of their life traveling back and forth to India to learn directly from the source. To keep their certification or authorization, they will continue to travel back and forth to India for the rest of their lives. That is not an achievement to be down played, scoffed at or dismissed. The dedication that it takes to stop your life for 6 weeks every other year is tremendous and it is not rubbish.

I totally understand that many people feel that the authorization and certification of Ashtanga teachers leaves much to be desired. I get it. I do.  However, to throw out authorization and certification because, “yoga does not belong to anyway” does not make sense either. So anyone who wants to teach Ashtanga should teach it? So if someone takes a few Ashtanga classes, buys a book and starts teaching Ashtanga, is that better then being certified or authorized by the Jois family? Really? For you maybe, but not for me.



Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail [email protected]