So you are considering doing yoga teacher training.
Perhaps you don’t even want to be a teacher, but you’ve got that deep sense inside you that you’d like to know more about yoga. Or perhaps you know if your gut that you can make it as a teacher and that it is your life’s calling.
Either way, choosing your 200-hour teacher training is a huge, exciting, life step. You’ve probably visited dozens of websites already, but it’s really difficult to know what a program is really like. So, how do you know what program to choose?
Step 1: Get clear about what you want to get out of it.
Your intention will determine what kind of training you should choose.
A transformational experience
Are you wanting a transformational life experience? Choose a training in Bali, Thailand, India or somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit, and turn it into an adventure. I highly recommend setting aside a couple weeks after to travel as well. I recommend traveling after, because you’ll likely meet lots of friends in your training to travel with. You also don’t want to be exhausted when you begin your training.
Admittedly I am a little biased because I own an international yoga studio, but I feel all things considered this is the best option for many reasons. Mainly:
- You get way more for your money – for the same price as a yogaworks training you get full accommodation at a resort and all your food for 1 month.
- The teachers are typically better and more connected. There’s simply a different resonance for teachers who live in tropical areas, doing nothing but teacher trainings. You go deeper with them.
- The group dynamic is stronger. Something about being in another country on the teacher training brings people together. It kind of feels like being on the MTV show real world, in the best way imaginable.
To teach professionally?
If you want to teach professionally, I highly recommend figuring out where your dream studio is to teach at and do your teacher training there. The best way to get a job at a studio is to first be an enthusiastic and dedicated member of that community.
Large studios like Yoga Works & Core Power often require that teachers take their own teacher trainings before they teach there, so it’s best not to waste time training somewhere else. The best way to get a job at a studio is to be an enthusiastic member of their community.
Tip: Ask the studio how many of their own graduates teach for them.
To go as deep into yoga as possible
If you are a bit on an extremist who has a sense that going to the ultimate depth is right for you, I recommend going to India, or to find a native Indian teacher. As someone who went through this myself, it truly is like night and day training with someone from India.
I started the East West Institute because I wanted to give people this experience without having to go all the way to India (traveling in india can be a nightmare).
Do you want to deepen your connection to your local community?
If this is the case, I recommend doing your training at a smaller, local studio. You will make new friends, get to know your local teachers, and get involved with the local yoga community. Teacher trainings are an important source of revenue for small studios, and your participation will help to foster the spread of yoga in your own community. Teacher training is also a wonderful opportunity to nurture relationships; what better way to strengthen your ties with like-minded people in your hometown?
The down-side of doing it at a local studio is something the programs are not managed as well. Often times just basic professional expectations are not met and they can feel disjointed.
Are you a passionate learner who wants the best education around?
If you want a little of everything, then it’s time to do some research. Each teacher training program will have a different lineage and focus, so you have to find your personal best match. What inspires you most: asana, meditation, philosophy? Follow your intuition. If you know what you want to focus on, search for courses that focus on your passion.
Step 2: Learn as much as possible about the program you are signing up for
Though they are often marketed similarly, not all teacher training programs are created equal. With thousands of new teachers becoming certified every month, there’s an oversaturation of trainings, but very few quality ones.
Here are the questions to ask to see if you’re going to get your money’s worth:
“Are you registered with Yoga Alliance?”
Yes, Yoga Alliance does not truly regulate quality yet. There are great trainings that are unregistered, and terrible trainings that are registered. But it does set a bar, albeit a low one. To their credit, they are becoming increasingly strict in their requirements and now post reviews of teacher trainings on their site.
Tip: Student testimonials can be shady. Testimonials are often taken on the final day of training when everyone is full of excitement and brimming with love. In other words, one student’s enthusiastic testimonial may not provide you with an objective snapshot of the program. I recommend asking to speak to other graduates about their experience one on one for a more complete picture. Some great questions to ask: How did you spend most of your time in the course? What are the skills you learned? Did you feel prepared to teach after the training?
“What lineage is the program based in & who are the teacher’s influences.”
If they don’t have a clear answer to this, you should stop your conversation on the spot. The trainers should be able to give you a clear answer for this. For example, they should know if the training is inspired by Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, or Tantra. India should be included somewhere, as yoga was invented in India. If the founders can’t name its practices and techniques back to a lineage from India, then it is probably missing the true heart of the practice.
“What are the learning objectives for students of your course?”
Many trainings are taught by great yogi’s who actually are not good teachers at all. It’s one thing to be able to do yoga, but teaching others is another thing altogether. Teaching yoga and teaching people to teach yoga are two different things altogether. Often, great yoga teachers don’t have the structure, skills, and basic professional expectations to run a course effectively.
“What kind of teachers are you creating?”
The school should have a clear mission statement and be able to clearly articulate their vision for their students. They should know exactly what kind of skills they want their trainers toleave with. For example, a school might prioritize creating teachers who can facilitate asana-centered, alignment based, structured practice. Other trainings will create more heart-centered teachers.
“What is the typical day like in the training?”
There is a huge variance in the way trainings set up their daily schedules. Some have you waking up at 5am with strict, hour-by-hour structures, others are more relaxed. There should be some sort of planned organization. Any vague answers to these questions is a red flag.
Other good questions do ask:
- What pranayama practices are shared and how often?
- What are the book and texts you will use in the training?
- How many hours of asana practice is there each day?
- What is the teacher/student ratio?
And of course, you want to make sure you like the actual teacher trainers. So google them to find as much as you can about them. Get a sense of what they focus on and see if that aligns with you. Take their classes online or in person if available to you, and make sure you get a good feeling before you decide to spend a month with them.
Step 3: Ask “Which course structure is right for me?”
There are 200-hour courses (this like undergraduate college) and 300-hour courses (think of this like grad school). After you take both from registered schools, then you are eligible to become a 500-hour certified teacher. If schools market as a 500-hour training, it means you’re getting the 200 and 300 packaged into one. Unless you are working in a very competitive area (like NYC or LA), most studios only require you to have a 200-hour certification to begin teaching there. However, the more competitive studios often require the 500-hour certification.
Program Types: Intensives vs. Weekends
Some programs are intensives that last about a month. Others are spread out over six months on weekends. Neither are better, it completely depends on what you are seeking to get out of it. If you’ve got a full-time, year round job, it’s likely going to be hard for you to do the intensive training.
Both types have their advantages, so it’s a matter of preference. I highly recommend the intensive experience, if you can get away from your life. It brings you into a depth of practice that you don’t receive when doing it only on the weekends.
Some parting thoughts: If you are inspired to be on this path, it’s likely the 200-hour training will be the first of many, and set your foundation for practice. Everything you learn will be layered on top of it, so make sure you make a very considered decision. Don’t be afraid to spend the extra money for a better program, rather than getting the dirt cheap one. You will not regret it!