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Yoga for fitness and fashion - Don't forget insight and serenity

YOGA is so popular that many people want to become instructors. Teacher training and certificates are now offered by Y+Yoga Center, but it's not easy to make the cut, writes Nie Xin.

More and more people are passionate about yoga, especially white-collar young ladies who do the exercises for health, flexibility, a nice figure, relaxation - and because it's part of a fashionable lifestyle.

There are other reasons, however. Yoga is a Hindu discipline aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquillity. Its different systems of exercise promote control of the body and mind to that lofty end.

There are yoga centers around Shanghai, and many yoga classes are held in gyms.

Many yoga lovers, however, don't pay much attention to the credentials of their instructors. To most learners, a comfortable and clean environment, relaxing atmosphere and reasonable price seem more important than their instructors' credentials.

Xu Chenyuan, 25, has been practicing yoga at a gym since 2006. The public relations assistant for a luxury fashion brand usually takes the beginners' classes to avoid possible injury. Regular advanced classes are also offered at her gym.

"I've never thought about the certificates of yoga instructors," says Xu. "To me, they all are professional as they can perform these very difficult movements.

"Since I don't expect to become an expert, I just want to relax and stay healthy. I think I can protect myself from injuries by avoiding some difficult movements," says Xu.

There are only a few accredited yoga schools with certified instructors in China, and even fewer institutes that are qualified to train yoga teachers. There are different kinds of professional international certificates, and it can be difficult to evaluate the level of professionalism.

Certificates recognized by the Australian NSW Government and US Yoga Alliance are very popular in the international yoga credentials system. They cover 150 hours, 200 hours, 320 hours, 500 hours and upward.

"Generally speaking, a 200-hour/500-hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certification is one of the best credentials for yoga instructors," says Yu Hengliang, founder and CEO of Y+Yoga Center.

Established in 2003, it's one of the high-end yoga centers and is well known as an educational hub for both veteran and new yogis. Proper accreditation courses for instructors are offered at Y+Yoga Center.

"When we decide to hire a yoga teacher, we consider all the credits he/she has, together with teaching experience and style," says Yu.

American Bill Arce has been working in Y+Yoga as the senior instructor leading Flow Yoga and Hot Yoga since 2003. Arce is registered with the US Yoga Alliance as a professional teacher, with a 500-hour EYT (Experienced Yoga Teacher) certificate, and a 500-hour RYT certificate. He is a certified Bikram (hot) Yoga instructor.

Arce has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 25 years, and has worked worldwide, teaching in Mexico, South Korea and China, as well as in the US.

Some practitioners want to turn their passion into a career, but it's not easy to become a teacher.

Liu Bin, 32, has practiced for more than five years, since he began studies overseas in the UK.

After he returned to his hometown Shanghai, Liu considered becoming a professional teacher.

"I started to attend a training course in a yoga center, but due to poor guidance, I was injured during practice," he recalls. So he gave up and now works in a government office, and yoga becomes his leisure-time activity.

As one of the most respected centers, Y+Yoga has joined with Inspya, one of Asia's most respected yoga teaching institutions. Since 2006 they have jointly granted certificates, including 200-hour RYT and 500-hour RYT.

After obtaining certificates, teachers need continuing education courses to keep their certificates valid.

Early this year, Y+Yoga began offering China's first Y+500 RYT training and continuing education course.

Michelle Lou Lan, a popular new yoga teacher in Y+Yoga, is the lead instructor for Hot Core Yoga and the assistant instructor for Flow Yoga. A former professional dancer, Lou began to teach yoga after she finished Y+ RYT training and received the 200-hour RYT certification in 2006.

"There are many difficulties to overcome in the training course. It's not easy at all to be a yoga teacher," says Lou, who is now enjoying her new career.

To be eligible to even take an instructor's course, trainees must have considerable experience already. The 200-hour RYT through Yoga Alliance requires a minimum two years' continuous study and practice, or a minimum one year's teaching experience. Trainers will test students during the course to determine whether they are making progress and will be able to get the certificate.

Not everyone makes the cut.

For more information about Y+Yoga, call 6433-4330 or visit


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