Most students who are embarking upon their first yoga teacher training have already been practicing for at least a couple of years. They may not realize, however, that in addition to a regular yoga practice, there are a number of other things that will help them prepare for their “YTT” experience.
If you’re headed for a teacher training, read on for ten steps you can take to feel confident and prepared—helping you to get the most from your training.
1. Build Your Support System
A student of mine recently told me that she’s about to start her yoga teacher training this summer, while I hadn’t realized she was interested at all in YTT. “I haven’t really told anyone yet,” she explained. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with holding your dreams close to your heart, it can be important to seek support when starting a new adventure. Let your family and friends know that you’ll be taking part in a rigorous, life-changing experience. Explain the expectations of your program, and allow those in your support system to understand how they can best help you as you move through it.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with holding your dreams close to your heart, it can be important to seek support when starting a new adventure.
2. Visit Your Program
If you’re experiencing any nerves or anxiety, or even just curiosity, ask the director of your YTT program if you can come for a visit prior to starting. If they’re currently running another session of YTT, it may be possible for you to observe one of those classes. This will give you a chance to see the environment firsthand. By knowing what to expect, you’ll feel less anxious.
3. Talk to Recent YTT Grads
Identify someone who has recently completed your YTT program and reach out to them. Having someone who can answer questions for you during the course of your YTT will be invaluable. I was lucky to have a close friend who had completed my YTT program a couple of years earlier, and she was a tremendous source of support and encouragement during the training. Each program is different, and lead teachers and trainers can come and go, so speaking to a recent graduate will give you specific information that will help you determine if a program is the right fit for you.
4. Study the Scriptures
Most students who begin yoga teacher training are familiar with asana, the physical aspect of yoga. However, many other strands of this ancient practice will be covered in your training—such as pranayama (breathwork) and the yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines and observances). Broaden your view of yoga by taking the time to study some yoga philosophy in advance. Many trainings make use of the Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita as scriptural foundations, and there are various translations available for each. And if your program is rooted in tantric philosophy, Georg Feurstein’s Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy is an excellent foundation.
5. Manage Your Time During Your Training
In addition to attending teacher training sessions, you’ll likely be required to study various texts and practice asana outside of class, in addition to completing a teaching practicum. In short, you’ll be very busy. Consider investing in a daily planner, and map out session dates and requirements, along with any personal and family commitments. Having a clear plan for how you’ll invest your time will help you stay on course—to complete all requirements and graduate on time.
6. Attend a Variety of Yoga Classes
There’s no substitute for experience. In the weeks and months leading up to yoga teacher training, make time to practice with a variety of teachers, either in person or virtually. You’ll not only diversify your personal practice, but you’ll start to develop your own teaching instincts. For example, notice how teachers manage their classes, listen to the cues they choose, and observe their use of themes.
7. Start a Journal
Many YTT programs require journaling as part of the program. Even if they don’t, consider starting a yoga journal to help you process your journey. Take a few minutes each day to write about your yoga practice or to jot down any questions that arise. You’ll be amazed at the insights that develop throughout the teacher training experience. Writing things down will enable you to process your feelings about this very important experience, and will also provide you with a deeply meaningful memento of that experience.
8. Take a Photo to Mark the Start
The morning of my first yoga teacher training session, I took a selfie—pigtails and all. I knew that I was about to embark on one of the most important experiences of my life. Make time for a quick picture of yourself that you can look back on after graduation. I still glance at that picture once in awhile, and it always fills me with happiness and hope.
9. Prepare for Shifts (and Sometimes Earthquakes)
Yoga teacher training is not just about learning how to perfect alignment in physical postures. While your asana will definitely change and grow, it’s important to also prepare yourself for the spiritual and emotional changes that will take place. In my own experience, my relationships with people, food, alcohol, clothes, money, and many other things were transformed during and after my YTT experience. Accepting the fact that change is inevitable, talking to your YTT leaders and fellow students about any challenges you face, and gifting yourself with a healthy dose of self-acceptance are all strategies for navigating the changes.
While your asana will definitely change and grow, it’s important to also prepare yourself for the spiritual and emotional changes that will take place.
10. Take a “Yogamoon”
When new parents are about to welcome their little one into the world, it’s a tradition to take one last vacation before his or her arrival. It’s referred to as a “babymoon.” Your YTT will be intense and life-changing. Consider taking a break from work and life responsibilities before it begins. Think of it as your “yogamoon.”
Yoga teacher training is not merely a step toward a possible new career—it’s also an opportunity for physical, emotional, and spiritual transformations. By taking some time before training begins to prepare yourself for what’s to come, you’ll be able to gain even more insight and value from your upcoming YTT experience.
Have you completed yoga teacher training? If you have, what other steps would you recommend to new YTT students?
For a PDF version of this checklist click here.