Last Updated: December 31, 2017
It’s been almost 20 years since Yoga Alliance was founded and our long and winding journey continues. Sprouted from humble beginnings, Yoga Alliance is now the largest international nonprofit association in the yoga community, and we’re proud and honored to serve our diverse community.
Our history is but a glimpse into some of the milestones that have shaped our organization. For more information about our programs and plans for the future, read our annual publication, the State of our Union.
1997 - 1998
American yogis spent years debating whether there should be national standards for training yoga teachers that would apply across all yoga disciplines in the United States. Yet it wasn't until May 1997 that yogis from across the country finally turned talk into action and started developing voluntary guidelines for teachers and schools.
At a Yoga Journal conference in San Francisco, California, yogis from a variety of lineages and traditions began discussing the idea of developing standards for yoga teacher trainings. Some of the attendees began exchanging emails and phone calls, putting together a loosely affiliated group called the Yoga Dialogue, facilitated by Christopher Baxter and initially comprised of about two dozen people.
In the fall of 1997, group members dubbed themselves the Ad Hoc Yoga Alliance and later held its first in-person meeting at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They delivered a presentation about standards, at an October 1998 Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, Colorado.
Some members of the Unity in Yoga board of directors attended that same conference and saw the presentation. After a January 1999 meeting between the two groups, Unity in Yoga offered to roll its 10-year-old charity, organized as a 501(c)(3), completely over to the Ad Hoc Yoga Alliance.
Now a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting yoga, Yoga Alliance developed a voluntary registry to recognize yoga teachers and schools whose training met the designed Standards.
Yoga Alliance 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.
"Our significant growth, now serving 9,700 Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT®s) and 380 Registered Yoga Schools (RYS®s), necessitates we expand our space," wrote then-executive director Sandra VanOosten in an October 27 "Yoga Matters" newsletter, citing the Washington, D.C.-area's large, non-profit-experienced labor pool as a main factor in relocating.
"The office had four suites within the office and only two people could fit into each of the suites," recalled Meetings and Special Projects Manager Jackie Gray, who joined the organization in 2006 and is our longest-serving employee. "And 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."
In 2006, a "good month" would include seven school applications and about 20 to 30 teacher applications, according to Gray. "After that, applications started doubling and tripling." It took four staffers to assess the daily work load before the company moved to Arlington, Virginia in 2009.
Applications began to skyrocket in October 2010 with the advent of online teacher registration.
Recognizing the need for member programs and services that go beyond the scope of a 501(c)(3), on January 22, 2013, Yoga Alliance received tax exempt status as a separate 501(c)(6) organization to serve as an association for yoga teachers, schools and studios. Currently, the two organizations, Yoga Alliance and Yoga Alliance Foundation, operate in partnership to support the yoga community.
Yoga Alliance introduced member benefit programs in 2013 for yoga teachers and yoga schools that include discounts for liability insurance, education, yoga apparel, travel, legal services, electronics and more. Throughout 2014 until the present Yoga Alliance continues to support its members and the yoga community.
2016 – Present
For years our members have been asking 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.
Today, Yoga Alliance represents thousands of teachers, schools and continuing education providers worldwide.