Yoga Instructor Careers

Learn About the Different Types of Yoga Instructor Career Paths

yoga instructor helping student with pose

If you thought all yoga instructors taught basically the same thing, think again. From ancient traditions to modern interpretations, there are many different ways to teach yoga. Some yoga teachers emphasize chanting or breathing. Some yoga instructors use props. Classes can be slow and gentle or fast-paced and aerobic. They often incorporate dietary or spiritual device, and yoga poses.

When you're considering a yoga teacher training career path, it's important to take some time to explore the many approaches to yoga and think about which one suits your personality and interests—especially because most yoga instructor schools emphasize one particular style of yoga. The following is an overview of the most popular disciplines being taught by yoga teachers today.

  • Hatha. Originally introduced by a sage in 15th century India, Hatha yoga is the foundation of all yoga styles. It incorporates postures, breathing techniques and meditation. Hatha yoga instructors typically teach at a gentle pace with a focus on basic poses and time for meditation at the end of each class.
  • Vinyasa. This more vigorous form of yoga focuses on coordinating breath and movement. Vinyasa yoga teachers keep students moving constantly, building classes around variations on the traditional "sun salutation" series of poses.
  • Iyengar. One of the most popular yoga career paths, Iyengar yoga prioritizes correct body alignment to maximize benefits and avoid injury. With a gentle pace and extensive use of props such as cushions and straps, Iyengar yoga instructors make yoga accessible to virtually anyone, including the elderly, sick and disabled.
  • Kundalini. This form of yoga seeks to free energy in the lower body and allow this energy to move upward. Kundalini yoga teachers teach their students to coordinate all postures and movements with the breath. Poses are rapid and repetitive, and classes often include call and response chanting.
  • Bikram / Hot Yoga. This modern interpretation of yoga was developed by gold medal Olympic weight lifter Bikram Choudhury to emphasize the development of strength, endurance and cardiovascular health. Bikram yoga instructors teach in rooms heated to 95 to105 degrees to increase flexibility and detoxification benefits, while also preventing injuries.
  • Ashtanga and Power Yoga. Ashtanga yoga careers require profound fitness and stamina. This highly athletic style of "flow" yoga involves moving continuously through a set series of progressively more difficult poses with synchronized breathing. Power yoga is a related style that is inspired by Ashtanga but may not follow the specific Ashtanga series of poses.
  • Anusara. Developed by John Friend in 1997, this relatively new form of yoga centers on a gentle spiritual philosophy of opening the heart and connecting with the goodness in all beings. Physical alignment is also emphasized. Classes are welcoming and accessible to students of all ages and abilities.
  • Jivamukti. Inspired by Ashtanga yoga, this style of yoga was developed by David Life and Shannon Gannon, owners of Jivamukti (appropriately named for their yoga discipline creation)—one of the most popular yoga studios in New York City. Jivamukti yoga teachers combine vigorous flow yoga practice with instruction on chanting, meditation, music, vegetarianism and ancient Sanskrit scriptures.
  • Forrest. California yoga teacher Ana Forrest developed this emerging yoga form, which uses vigorous yoga sequences to release painful emotions and promote healing. Forrest yoga integrates deep breathing techniques with strengthening poses that emphasize the abdominal core.
  • Kripalu. Known as the "yoga of consciousness," Kripalu is a gentle yoga style that teaches three stages of increasing concentration and inner awareness. The Kripalu yoga center was founded by yoga teacher Amrit Desai in Massachusetts in the 1960s.
  • Integral. Yoga careers based on the Integral style follow the example of Sri Swami Sachidananda, who founded the famous Yogaville Ashram in Virginia, as well as many other Integral Yoga Institutes. Integral yoga incorporates gentle postures, breathing exercises, meditation, chanting and self-inquiry.
  • Sivananda. This yoga style is similar to Integral yoga and features five core principles, including proper exercise focused on twelve key yoga postures, proper breathing, proper relaxation, a vegetarian diet and positive thinking combined with meditation.

Sources: About.com, MatsMatsMats.com.