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Gone are the granola-washed days when enrolling in a yoga teacher training program singled you out as the hippie-nouveau in your circle of friends.
Finding a teacher training program these days is as simple as a Google search or a leisurely scroll through your social media feed.
While not the only way to become a yoga teacher, but by far the most common option for teacher training is to enroll in a 200-hour yoga teacher training with a Yoga Alliance recognized Registered Yoga School (RYS). Yoga Alliance (YA) still remains the largest non-profit organization representing the industry.
While these RYS 200-hour trainings are held to a set of curriculum standards, training programs vary as much by style and focus as the studios where they are held.
Given the proliferation of training programs and the continued growth of Yoga as an industry, the question is no longer, “where can I find a teacher training?" Instead, it is, “which one is right for me?”
Knowing your investment is not only 200 hours of your time and energy, but also a significant investment of often $2k - $5 or more, it’s important to find the right fit.
Here are five questions to consider before you take the deep, and incredibly rewarding dive, into yoga teacher training.
1. What type of yoga class do you enjoy taking?
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to consider whether or not they will actually enjoy their time in practice during training. Instead, many prospective trainees skip ahead to considerations such as the program’s popularity, admiration for the Lead trainer, or pricing.
It is important to know that a significant portion of any RYS 200-hour program is spent practicing, and 'practice-teaching' the school’s particular style of yoga.
According to the Yoga Alliance standards, RYS curriculum must offer a focused perspective on yoga as opposed to a survey of the many styles or paths. With that in mind, no matter how well-liked or well-priced the program is, if you don’t enjoy the school’s style of yoga, it’s not a good fit.
2. What do you want to do with your certification?
No one can answer this question for you, and likely this will change (more than once). But having a good idea of what you want to do with the certification after you graduate can focus your training search. For starters, do you want to teach public yoga classes?
Yes, all yoga 200-Hour training programs technically qualify you to teach, but not all yoga programs emphasize being ready to teach public class the moment you graduate.
Yoga schools are able to model the practical teaching component of their curriculum to fit the perspective and style they offer, and have hours outside of minimum recommendations that can be used for elective emphasis.
For example, some are very focused on building strong teachers that guide public classes, others hone in on personal development, and others are focused on private clients and even yoga in non-traditional settings.
If you have a strong instinct for what you want to do with your certification, discuss this with the school’s owner or syllabus manager. They should be able to tell you how their curriculum can help you meet your goals. A syllabus manager should also be open and willing to offer a redirection if their program is not the right fit for you.
3. Will this training provide a predetermined sequence or will I create my own?
There are pros and cons to both learning sequencing within the structure of a set sequence and learning principles of sequencing without a set sequence to memorize.
How you feel about practicing the given style and its sequences, as well as your personal learning preferences, will help you decide one way over the other.
Set sequences can be tremendously helpful for your first few years teaching. It gives you a trusted container wherein you can hone your skills without worrying about the added stress of creating a new class plan.
This strategy is common for trainings as there are entire systems of Yoga-asana that revolve around a series of set sequences. You will gain a lot of confidence by being able to offer a sequence that has proven, over time, to be effective.
That being said, I have coached many teachers for two and three years out of a set-sequence training program who have felt stuck or unsure of how to evolve their classes into something more personal.
To those teachers and any teacher, I recommend continued education, regardless of how their 200-hour training was structured.
4. Are willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable?
The marketing of Yoga may make it seem serene. While samadhi (bliss) may be an aspiration of the 8-limb path, the journey of self-inquiry is not an easy ride.
Yoga asana practice is really the tip of the iceberg, a gateway in, for an entire system of living. Physical, mental and emotional work is done to uncover a more authentic life or Self.
The process is anything but easy, and the intensity of a 200-hour training is often downright uncomfortable. Add on top the rigor of practice, study, reading and practical application, and get prepared for a dynamic, holistic shift that requires discipline and commitment.
But hold on it’s not all drudgery, and there are some great ways to prepare.
Physically, prepare yourself for the demands of a 200-hour experience by committing to your practice. Asana was intended to train the body and mind to sit (most often on the floor), listen and absorb information for long periods of time without losing your 'ish.
The time spent in consistent personal practice allows for any concepts you have learned to meld with individual experience, making for a much richer, customized understanding. Ultimately, you will know that you are physically ready for the demands of the training itself.
Mental, and emotional preparation are equally important. The system of Yoga journeys deep into the layers of our own humanity along with its peaks and its pits.
As teachers, and teachers-in-training, we must be open to examining our own experience in order to hold good space for future students.
So, how can you mentally prepare for the hours of asana, meditation, practical work, feedback, lecture, and reflection?
Consider your own support systems. I find that trainees are most successful when they acknowledge where they draw strength.
Who will cheer you on when you decide to enroll? Have you shared your desire with your partner, loved ones or friends? What are your methods for self-care and restoration? Lean in for nourishment.
All of these will mentally and emotionally prepare you for the journey you have ahead.
5. Why do you want to enroll?
This question should arguably be the first question you ask, but saved for last because it is the question that you will continue to ask yourself over and over and over again throughout training and after.
Why you want to dive deep into yoga, and why you want to share your learning is hands down the most important thing to consider when embarking on a significant training.
The answer to this question will inform you on how you teach and what your future students will receive from you (if you choose to teach at all).
While the ‘industry’ is currently enjoying the glamour of sun-soaked Instagram yogis posing on beaches and Hollywood celebpreneurs repping their favourite leggings, the reality of being a yoga teacher is much less glamorous, definitely, offers no guarantee of sizeable income, and is way more rewarding than demonstrated.
The truth for many is working as a yoga teacher means clocking non-traditional hours, combining initially low-class wages with other jobs to piece together an income, and committing to a path (and the investment) of continued study and growth.
So, if your ‘why’ includes aspiration of Insta-fame and a quick, fat wallet, you may be disappointed.
But, if your ‘why’ is focused on empowering yourself and other humans to take interest in their well-being, sharing in a system that offers an avenue for peace, connecting with others in authentic, challenging and joyful ways, then a yoga teacher training may be the soul-nourishing outlet you seek.