Scope of Practice
Last Updated: February 27, 2020
Yoga Alliance™’s Scope of Practice (SOP) applies to every Yoga Alliance Member. The SOP provides a clear, responsible, and non-lineage-specific description of yoga teaching, practice standards, and professional responsibilities for all Yoga Alliance Members of any kind (now known or unknown), including the Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT™), Continuing Education Provider (YACEP®), Yoga Teacher Specialist (RCYT™, RPYT™, etc.), and others. The SOP sets out acceptable, recommended, required, and prohibited practices by which Members agree to conduct themselves. The Member must adhere to the SOP while teaching yoga. It is based upon core values intrinsic to the practice of yoga.
The SOP is an integral part of the overall Ethical Commitment to which a Member must agree, along with Yoga Alliance’s Code of Conduct and all other Yoga Alliance policies.
Terms in bold are considered key terms and are defined here.
Yoga Alliance™ and the Yoga Alliance Foundation™ envision a world in which access to high quality teaching and practicing of yoga is equitable for all and elevates collective wellbeing and human consciousness. The purpose of the SOP and the overall Ethical Commitment is to foster safe and respectful guidelines for the Profession of yoga and to assure that Yoga Alliance Members maintain a high level of teaching ability and accountability.
By defining and requiring high standards of professional and ethical conduct, Yoga Alliance seeks to promote confidence and respect for Members throughout yoga communities and the public at large. This includes: (a) broadening the public understanding of the role of the RYT; (b) ensuring and upholding professional behavior within the Yoga Alliance community; (c) developing and encouraging high standards of professional conduct; and (d) promoting and protecting the interests of the profession of yoga teaching and of the Yoga Alliance members we serve.
Yoga Alliance™’s SOP provides a set of robust standards, policies, and procedures for the profession of yoga teaching. Towards that end, Yoga Alliance recognizes that there are many lineages, styles, and methodologies and believes that the teaching of yoga must respect that diversity. Yoga is a polythetic system1 of physical, mental, and spiritual practices and disciplines which originated in ancient India and South Asia. Throughout history, various groups in India, and in other cultures, geographies, and religious and secular contexts, have defined and redefined yoga according to the differing circumstances, passions, and goals of diverse individual and cultural traditions. The colonization of India by Great Britain, the globalization of yogic understandings, and a combination of other worldwide cultural exchanges, appropriations, and natural evolutions have also influenced what is defined today as yoga. While acknowledging the limitations of any single definition of yoga—and wholly rejecting the idea that yoga can be reduced to any single framework or understanding—for the purpose of Yoga Alliance standards, the Sanskrit word “yoga” includes and additionally describes both an optimal unitive state of consciousness as well as the techniques, philosophies, practices, and lifestyles that bring one to such a state
Yoga Alliance Members make a commitment to high standards of competency and ethics; this SOP is part of that commitment and provides a non-lineage specific description of yoga teaching for all Members.
This Scope is not intended to limit a licensed healthcare practitioner or certified professional from practicing according to their respective Scopes of Practice.
Scope of Practice (SOP) Table of Contents
1. Follow the Yoga Alliance™ Code of Conduct
2. Teach Yoga
3. Adjust Posture or Practice with Explicit and Informed Consent
4. Share Yogic Philosophy, History, and Anatomy
5. Advise and Teach Within Permitted Scope
6. Maintain Relevant Credentials
Guidance for the Scope of Practice
SOP Principle 1 — Follow the Yoga Alliance™ Code of Conduct
SOP Principle 1 requires Members to follow the Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct, which consists of the following eight principles:
- Adhere to applicable law.
- Follow the Yoga Alliance Scope of Practice.
- Follow the Yoga Alliance Anti-Harassment Policy.
- Follow the Yoga Alliance Sexual Misconduct Policy.
- Do no harm.
- Actively include all individuals.
- Respect Student-Teacher relationships.
- Maintain honesty in communications.
SOP Principle 2 — Teach Yoga
SOP Principle 2 allows Members to teach yoga and to offer instruction and education on yoga practices and principles that responsibly reflect the level of yoga education, training, and experience of both the Members and the Student(s). Members may teach yoga in a group, in a one-on-one setting, or online.
Members must limit teaching to practices and learnings that align with yoga philosophy and the lineage, style, and methodology for which the Member is qualified and in accordance with the competencies described in the Yoga Alliance Common Core Curriculum Standards.
SOP Principle 3 — Adjust Posture or Practice with Explicit and Informed Consent
SOP Principle 3 allows the Member to adjust posture or practices only with Explicit and Informed Consent. All physical adjustments of any type are intentionally limited to situations where there has been prior Explicit and Informed Consent. Previous consent does not imply future permission or allow for future physical adjustment or contact.
“Explicit and Informed Consent” is narrowly defined as overt permission for a specific Teacher to use hands-on contact that has been granted by the Student. This permission can be given verbally, in writing, by an unambiguous gesture, or via a consent indicator. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent.
SOP Principle 4 — Share and Cite Yogic Philosophy, History, and Anatomy
SOP Principle 4 requires Members to properly cite sources when providing instruction in yogic philosophy, history, and anatomy. This may include teachings, studies, and the Member’s own personal commentary or opinion from many sources, including those listed below. In conformance with the Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct, Members must accurately disclose the source of the information, commentary, or opinion.
- Yoga texts
- The teachings of direct yoga Teachers of the Member
- The teachings of specific lineage traditions within a historical or contemporary yoga tradition
- The work of degreed scholars of Religious Studies, Indology, Sanskrit, etc.
- The work of degreed scholars of Anatomy, Physiology, etc.
SOP Principle 5 — Advise and Teach Within Permitted Scope
SOP Principle 5 prohibits members from advising or teaching in areas where the Member does not have appropriate credentials and competence. The goal of Principle 5 is to provide guidance in cases where Members may encounter situations beyond the scope of their credentials, experience, or abilities.
- Members must not provide advice or services for which they are not properly and currently licensed, during any program, including residential or immersion. Members may, at their own discretion, provide referral lists of locally available resources for Students, including but not limited to: medical and mental health professionals, law enforcement, suicide prevention hotline, sexual abuse hotline, and Yoga Alliance.
- Unless the Member is both competent and properly credentialed in the specific field in which they seek to provide services, advice, or products, the Member must (1) gain competence and proper credentials, (2) engage the services of or refer the Student to a competent and properly credentialed professional, or (3) decline to provide such service or advice.
- Yoga Alliance credentials must never be used to imply competency or to promote the Member in fields not specifically included in the Yoga Alliance Scope of Practice.
SOP Principle 6 — Maintain Relevant Credentials
SOP Principle 6 requires Members to maintain relevant credentials including compliance with any registration or continuing education requirements. Members must:
- Maintain and comply with all relevant Yoga Alliance credentials, including all qualifications and corresponding continuing education requirements;
- Agree to follow all other Yoga Alliance policies and procedures.
1 A Polythetic System is a system in which members of a group relate to or share a number of commonly occurring characteristics, yet none of which is essential for membership of that group or class.