Embarking on the yoga teacher journey can be the transformative experience of a lifetime. In yoga teacher training (YTT), you immerse yourself in the study and practice of yoga, the science of self-realization. As you learn how to help your future students, you also learn how to help yourself. Your knowledge grows, your practice blossoms, and the depth of your understanding deepens. Yoga teacher training can create a bond that results in a lifetime of mentorship and growth. It can also help you to build friendships with other participants who support you in your professional journey. When you choose the teacher training that is right for you, you leave with a firm foundation from which to grow not only your own practice but the practice of others as well.
However, there is another side to teacher trainings. It is possible to attend a teacher training in which teachers-to-be do not receive the skills they need to be successful or in which they are traumatized, discriminated against, and othered. There are overcrowded trainings with facilitators who are unavailable and cliques that are unbreachable. While you cannot always predict the outcome of your YTT, you can use the information I’m going to share with you to make a more informed decision so you have a better chance of investing your time and money in the right program for you.
1. Don’t settle.
It is tempting to choose a training just because it is inexpensive, fits your schedule, or is close by. Better to save your money, vacation days, and frequent-flyer miles and attend the training that really resonates with you than to settle for what might be an unsatisfying or even bad experience. Yoga is always there for you. You can still study and practice on your own while you get all your ducks in a row so you can do the training of your dreams.
2. Do your research.
Go to the training website and also the facilitator’s personal website and social media pages. Attend their classes and workshops to see if their teaching style is for you. Schedule a consultation or attend an information session to learn more about the program. If possible, get references from other students. If you know someone who completed the training, contact them and ask if they will talk to you about their experience.
3. Pick a facilitator who aligns with your values, beliefs, and held identities.
Teacher trainers teach from the lens of their own beliefs, lineage, training, and personal experience. A training that doesn’t align with your values can be triggering and deeply traumatic. It is important to choose a training that is in sync with the identities you hold. For example, if devotion is essential to your practice, a facilitator who focuses mainly on the physical aspect may not be a good fit. A friend of mine who is gay traveled 30 hours to study with a teacher who turned out to be homophobic. Subjects like sexual orientation, race, gender identity, and faith are difficult to bring up, but not doing so and ending up in a training that doesn’t honor who you are and what you value can be even more difficult.
4. Pick a training that is geared toward the populations you want to teach.
If you want to teach in treatment centers, for instance, try to choose a trauma-informed training. If you want to teach to older populations, look for a training that focuses on accessibility. Do keep in mind that these are not as available as general vinyasa trainings, andyou can always take a specialized program later. However, if you find a specialized training with a facilitator you love, go for it.
5. Don’t pick a teacher training solely based on price.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most yoga teacher trainings cost $3,000 USD or more. If you find one that costs less, ask why. However, there are ways to reduce training costs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most trainings have moved online, cutting out expensive studio fees and reducing overhead to the cost of a Zoom account. Some programs are supported by charitable givers who subsidize the price or award scholarships. Lastly, some facilitators drop the price to make it more accessible to BIPOC communities, who historically don’t have the same access to funds as white people.
Some reasons for a questionably inexpensive training that may be deal-breakers for you: material that is entirely prerecorded with no live support or mentorship; incredibly large classes; inexperienced facilitators; lack of affiliation with any lineage or accrediting body.
On the other hand, if the program is more expensive, don’t count it out. Programs may be more costly if they are held at a retreat center with full amenities or if the facilitator is world-renowned or highly sought out. Do your research and determine if celebrity status or retreat luxe is worth the price tag.
If you determine that it is indeed worth the price tag, consider asking about scholarships or payment plans. Yoga teacher trainings don’t always advertise financial aid. Call the studio or facilitator, explain your situation, and see if they can work with you.
6. Consider where you want to teach.
Many yoga studios and fitness facilities require a 200-hour certification from a program registered with Yoga Alliance. Some studios only hire if you are trained through their lineage. For instance, if you want to teach in an Ashtanga studio, you may have to get authorized or certified by the Jois family in India or do a direct mentorship with the teacher at the Ashtanga studio. Some studios only hire teachers who do their training at their studio, in their particular style. Pick the route that sets you up for your own teaching success.
7. Ask if it is “one and done.”
Some teacher trainings have additional steps like mentorship or require another training to get all the skills you need to actually teach. For example, I spoke to a teacher whose training did not cover sequencing. Her facilitator explained that a separate training was required to learn that. Make sure that the training you pick will, indeed, provide the skills you need.
8. Check the schedule and workload.
While two trainings may have the exact same hours, those hours may be packed into a few weeks or drawn out over a year. Generally, the more frequently you meet, the more intense the training will feel. Teacher trainings often require homework, exams, reading, community outreach, and class observation projects outside studio hours. You are responsible for all of this within the time frame of the training. On top of that, most teacher trainings have rigorous physical practice schedules. It is not uncommon to work on yoga poses all morning, have a break, and return to work on yoga poses all afternoon as well.
If you have a full schedule already, it may be best to choose a program with a more leisurely pace, for example, one that meets one weekend a month over the course of a year. If you know that your life tends to speed up at a certain time of year, it may be better to take a shorter training at a different time of year. If having more time between practice sessions for recovery, processing the inner work, or absorbing information serves you, a training with more time between sessions is probably what you should look for.
Shopping for the perfect YTT does take time, but that time is an investment in what is likely to be one of the most transformative experiences of your life, and it can be exciting. So, don’t get stressed! Just do your due diligence, and prepare yourself to become the amazing teacher you want to be.