You’ve thought about it for months. Now, you’ve finally taken the leap and signed up for a yoga teacher training! You’re beyond excited and ready for this next phase of your life.
You may have already picked up some books from your training’s required reading list. You’ve even got a cute little journal with a lotus flower on the cover. But now what? What should you do to prepare in order that you can maximize the experience? And how can you make the most of your training while going through it?
As a yoga teacher of nineteen years, and a mentor with my studio’s teacher training Hatha and Hatha Flow programs, I’m often asked these questions. Here’s my insider’s guide to ensuring that your training will be the best it can be.
Before and During Training
In advance of your training, I recommend attending a variety of yoga classes. You’ll be taking care of your own movement and breath needs while, at the same time, learning about the yoga options available in your community.
If you do decide to become a yoga teacher, you’ll likely be asked about the differences between yoga types and styles, and it’s important to be able to answer based on personal experience. You may already be connected to one style or tradition, possibly pursuing your certification in that style, but it’s important to remain open as you continue your study and training. Yoga is a vast ocean and the farther you swim, the more you’ll bring back to shore. In other words, the more you explore, the more you’ll be able to draw from when you design your classes and talk to your students!
Figure out which instructors and styles you enjoy and why. Are you drawn to teachers who incorporate music? Do you enjoy teaching that involves chanting? Do you prefer classes in which the teacher includes inspirational readings?
Observe how teachers speak, how they move about the room, and how they assist students. Pay attention to the minutiae—how do they adjust the lighting, music, room temperature? Even these seemingly insignificant details can have a large impact on the overall class experience, and you’ll begin to get the big-picture idea of what goes into a successful class besides an awesome asana sequence.
For further research, explore the yoga section at your local bookstore and see which yoga-related subjects intrigue you. An interest in yoga philosophy may lead you to eventually study Sanskrit; an interest in anatomy and movement may spark an interest in biomechanics.
Keep an open mind and be willing to go where your curiosity leads you. You may also wish to peruse health-related texts that aren’t directly yoga-related. For instance, I bring a lot of neuroscience and psychology into my teaching from resources that aren’t found on the yoga shelf.
What to Bring to Your TT Classes
Your brain and body will need to be well fueled to support learning. Pack nutritious, satisfying snacks—foods with fiber, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Choose your best mode of note-taking. Do you prefer a laptop or tablet with note-taking apps that assist in saving information digitally? Electronic note-taking is a good option if you want to share your notes with other students and you like the convenience of easily adding and deleting information.
If staring at a screen doesn’t work for you, your adorable old-school lotus journal may well be a better fit. The important thing is that you have a way to record information that you can reference both throughout your training and after.
If your instructor is cool with it, make audio recordings of the asana-based classes so you can study the cueing, pace, and language.
Remember to take good care of yourself during what will often be long days of study. During lunch and other breaks, do a short yoga sequence or meditate. You may even benefit from taking savasana for a bit. Consider bringing a meditation cushion, therapy balls, or even an eye pillow to use during this time.
There may be days when your brain feels too full to take in more information. Know that you don’t have to memorize everything at once! You can go back to your notes, books, and other resources over and over. Even seasoned instructors do this. And what you learn in your training will become embodied over time.
And shhhh…I have a secret: There will be times when you get burned out and don’t want to learn one more Sanskrit pose name or anything more about what the scapula are doing in triangle pose or downward dog! Don’t fret. This happens to almost everyone.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, take breaks. Ditch the yoga occasionally and indulge interests outside of your training. Get outdoors. Invite your friends over for dinner. Go to a movie. You’ll be refreshed and probably more receptive to learning afterward.
Prep for Teaching
One very useful method to enhance your teaching skills is to video yourself when doing your own home practice. Talk through your sequence out loud as if you were teaching. Pay attention to how you speak to become aware of any strange or unintentional things you might say. We all have quirks like saying “um” repeatedly.
When you replay the video, I recommend that you sometimes turn your device face-down and simply listen. Students won’t always be watching, and you won’t always be demonstrating, so your words need to be very clearly instructive. Try practicing along to just the audio to see if the instruction still makes sense.
Keep in mind that your style of teaching will take time to develop and will evolve over time. Do what feels authentic at each stage and you can’t go wrong.
Dip your toes into teaching by instructing fellow teacher training students as well as your friends and family. You don’t need to be perfect. They’ll probably just be happy to be moving their bodies! Remember that your loved ones want to support you and assist in your growth.
The more classes you teach, the more likely it is that you’ll be asked questions you won’t know the answers to. Instead of making something up, or feeling insecure for not knowing, just respond honestly by saying, “I don’t know” and following with something like:
1. “I’ll research it and get back to you.”
2. “I know a teacher who is an expert in that subject! Here is their contact information.…”
3. “Hey, let’s both look into that! Let me know what you find out!” This empowers students to research and expand their learning past your classes alone.
Bravo, dear yogi, for embarking on this new path! Enjoy opening your mind and heart more deeply to yoga. And when you instruct right instead of left or forget part of your sequence, just know that you are in good company. Every teacher—even the most seasoned ones—have done this. And students still come back!