What is the Yoga Alliance?:
The Yoga Alliance is an organization dedicated to yoga outreach and education in the United States. Though the Yoga Alliance is involved in many programs, including Yoga Day USA, it is best known for setting recommended standards for yoga teacher training programs.
Registered Training Programs:
You often see references to yoga teachers or studios being Yoga Alliance certified. This is a misconception, as the Yoga Alliance does not certify teachers, but rather registers teacher training programs that meet its minimum standards in the following categories: 200-hour, 500-hour, prenatal, and children's. For example, at the 200-hour level, the Yoga Alliance breaks down how many hours should be spent on each part of the training, including teaching methodology, physiology, philosophy, etc. If a yoga studio's teacher training program meets these standards, they can register with the Yoga Alliance.
Once you have completed your teacher training with a Yoga Alliance registered program, you may register yourself as a teacher. Many assume that this happens automatically, but you must contact the Yoga Alliance directly in order to be registered. You may then use the acronym RYT, which stands for Registered Yoga Teacher.
Is the Yoga Alliance Relevant?:
Once the difference between certification and registration is clarified, many wonder if it matters whether a program or teacher is registered or not. The answer is yes. Even if the Yoga Alliance is not in the business of certifying anyone, their minimum standards still provide the baseline amount of training that you would want a teacher to have. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, including those certified in a specialized area of yoga, such as Ashtanga or Anusara (in which case you can be sure they have far exceeded the 200-hour standards), but the RYT is very useful way of identifying that a teacher has completed a well-rounded program and put in at least 200 hours.
For more information, see the Yoga Alliance website.