So you want to be a yoga teacher, which yoga teacher training is the best anyway?
There are so many options and I wanted to take some time to jot down the things you should look out for on a yoga teacher training and what are the things you need to decide to find the one that’s the perfect fit for you. I will also finish by telling you about the yoga teacher training I’m teaching on and who it is best for but first some general useful information about all yoga teacher training, what you can expect and what kind of things you can look for in a great course.
How long should the course be?
A basic thing to look for in any training course is how long it is, length does not guarantee quality but you can bet you’ll learn more over 200 hours than with a two weekend online recorded course. Also to be recognised as a yoga teacher by most accrediting bodies you will need to have done a 200 hour basic entry level course.
Entry level courses – Is this course 200 hours?
Something that is not obvious at first glance is that different course providers and accrediting bodies give different amount of “contact” hours, that is hours where you are with the trainer in class either live online or in person. One course advertised as a 200 hour course could only give you 140 contact hours with your teachers whereas another studio might offer 180 contact hours. Both courses would give you a certificate at the end but 40 hours less of actual classes with a trainer is quite a big difference. It is worth finding out at the start how many of those hours are contact hours.
Your non contact hours will be your own yoga practice, any teaching practice you’re doing and reading yoga books and completing assignments. On that note if you don’t already have an established self practice where you do regular yoga by yourself this is something you could start doing now and you can check with your course provider if they have support and guidance for this. For me it is an important part of teacher self care, and an essential source of inspiration for my own teaching and exploration.
If you are looking for a 200 YTT hour course and now you have to decide how to fit those 200 hours plus of yoga teacher training into your already busy life.
Until recently YTT 200 hour courses were offered in these first two ways but now we have online options.
- Intensive yoga teacher training – Take three or four weeks off and do your training all in one go, often in a foreign and beautiful location like Thailand or India.
- Weekend teacher training courses in the studio – Do one weekend a month for roughly a year as a part time option.
- Online yoga teacher training courses – Online offerings where you can follow pre-recorded lessons to study and practice in your own time online from home with varying amounts of supervision and accountability versus flexibility.
- Live online yoga teacher training courses or virtual YTT – These are courses, usually on zoom, where you are online in real time with your trainer and your class. You can see them, they can see you. More about this later.
- Hybrid courses which offer a combination of the above.
What will suit me best?
There are advantages and disadvantages to all three.
The idea of an intensive yoga teacher training on the beach somewhere with fresh tropical fruit, sunshine and the community that forms when like minded people are living together and learning together is very appealing. You get to escape the everyday and really immerse yourself in all things yoga. There is a power to showing up everyday, all day and practicing and yoga has the power to transform, there is no doubt about it. I have taught on intensive courses in Spain, France and in Dublin, they are intense, transformative and memorable. There have been tears and laughter on every one. The practice of Yoga has a habit of pushing people out of their comfort zone, old beliefs are questions, people meet their edge and it can be challenging. Friendships are formed, memories made and the group energy can be quite amazing.
One of the pros, and the cons, is that intensives don’t include a lot of time off as there’s a lot to cover, so there’s often not a lot of down time between sessions to take it all in. You might have just one day off in seven and early starts each morning for pre breakfast meditation. That can force you to break through your old limits, but it can be exhausting, and you don’t often get much time for self practice and study until you get back home.
Another downside is that all of the teaching practice on the course tends to be with the other trainees, which is so different to teaching beginners and you don’t get a chance to practice teaching yoga to real students until you finish the course.
Some teacher training courses don’t do much teaching practice and take huge numbers of trainees so you can be one of many, this can give it a great atmosphere and a chance to meet lots of yoga lovers from lots of different
places but it can make it hard to get started when you get home, back to “real” life and are no longer in that yoga bubble. I have met a number of yoga teachers who finish, come back home and find it very hard to keep up their own practice, re-create the buzz of their intense yoga experience and gain the confidence to go and teach in their own communities. That said many people do their training this way, really enjoy and get on great once they set up their yoga routines at home.
If you are looking for an intensive course, ask about the time table, assignments, class numbers and what kind of support there is for setting yourself up as a yoga teacher when you get back home. Pack your sun cream and enjoy every minute.
On the other hand weekend courses have the advantage of time between weekends to incorporate what you are learning on the course into your daily life. If you have small kids or family and work commitments, they may suit you better and the good news is they are still transformative and amazing, you will still make memories, new friends, share tears and laughter and practice lots of yoga.
The big advantage is they give you time to really develop your own home yoga practice and to practice teaching friends or other non yogis as your guinea pig yoga students. These start up practice classes can be a great chance to figure out who, where and how you want to teach, they build your confidence in yourself as a teacher and give you a chance to practice all aspects of teaching from the simple co ordination of your classes to your skills on the mat as a yoga teacher. My first yoga classes were main up mainly of friends I’d taught while I was training to be a teacher.
On the downside, when you are working Monday to Friday and possibly have kids at home or other responsibilities it can be hard to switch off at the weekend and get up and into the studio for two days of yoga. Although it is always worth it when you get there. We tend to have super busy lives and there still will be intense moments. Every course I’ve ever taught on a course there have been tears shed, as well as laughter but at home there are more spaces in between to work through things, read things, practice things, let it settle and to ask the tutors or your peers. If you choose a weekend course try not to fill your weekend evenings and lunch times with commitments, maybe take a little time at the end of the day to journal or just sit and meditate as a chance to digest the yoga day before you head back into other duties and commitments.
Online, pre recorded courses are not my area of expertise as a trainer but as a student I have done some specialist yoga teacher training in this way. On the plus side they are certainly convenient and it is very valuable to have recordings you can re-watch and fit into your day. At the same time it can be hard to stay motivated when you don’t have to show up with your tutor watching you and you miss out on that personalised feedback from your tutor, and that relationship that you build with a tutor over the course. Something I would say is really important at least for the start to allow you develop your own understanding of your personal alignment.
You also need to be pretty self motivated to get the most out of them. For me another disadvantage is missing the chance to meet other students and the fun dynamic of having people practicing together.
Live online is different to pre-recorded. I have been teaching this since March 2020, reluctantly at first I have to admit but now I am a big fan. With live online you do get feedback from your trainer and a chance to meet and make friends with the other people on your courses. You can also get the recordings to re-watch parts of the class. You don’t need to commute or worry about parking or getting out and back for lunch on time and I have found people more relaxed at home in their own space. It also gives you powerful motivation to set up your yoga space at home as your tutor will be seeing you in it and prepares you for teaching online as well as in person.
At the beginning I worried about issues around wifi but honestly after over a year of teaching I have only ever lost connection once (husband accidently turned off the router). I feel this compares favourably to the kind of issues and delays with in person teaching for example when I was teaching live in person, more than once I was locked out of the studio (I forgot keys or the person who should open up wasn’t there). Several times students arrived late on public transport or in one instance missed the whole morning due to car trouble. I would say the zoom students are 100 % better at arriving on time in the morning and after lunch breaks.
One disadvantage is the power of touch and physical adjustments. I honestly think this topic could use a whole other blog. Personally I love good physical adjustments. That said, bad physical adjustments are probably the worse thing that you can have in a yoga class. There is a lot of debate around when and how and who should be physically adjusting their students and for a 200 hour entry level course I feel it is a lot to expect of trainees to be giving good physical adjustments by the end. You need to have a very good understanding of alignment and what you are looking for in each pose, as well as being a good communicator sensitive to your students’ needs. Verbal adjustments are a safer option and I have found by asking and directing trainee teachers into better alignment online in asana workshops it can open conversations about alignments and the poses. It takes more time at the start but you are clearer on finding it again for themselves and the whole group benefits from exploring the pose and the alignment options in this way. Often what we see in one trainee is something that will come up with our students when we go out to teach so it is well worth the investment.
So if you think a live online course will suit you then have a look at my mindful yoga teacher training program. If you are going for another online course find out the trainers policy about cameras. If a course does not require you to have yourself visible on camera, I suspect that their trainers are not going to give you individual feedback. Then you may
as well be watching them on video. Also ask if they do group work, practicing in groups of peers is undoubtedly daunting at first but it is so valuable as a safe place to try out new skills, get practice in and get feedback from peers and trainers.
Is this YTT an accredited course?
Yoga alliance is probably the most recognised name as an accrediting body for yoga teachers and many people enquiring about courses ask if they are yoga alliance approved teacher training courses but did you know that there is more than one yoga alliance?
Yoga Alliance Professionals Uk seems to have the highest standards and they require yoga teachers and trainers to send their certificates in to prove the qualifications that they have. Their 200 hour accredited programs need to be 180 contact hours minimum and their accredited trainers need to have at least 5 years teaching experience and 4000 hours of teaching under their belts. They are based in Scotland. 80% of the course must be delivered by accredited
senior yoga teachers and they check the syllabus.
Yoga alliance international, based in India, and they require one senior person who oversees the course to send in certs and agree to run the course following the ethics of the yoga yamas and niyamas (ethics of living). This may mean that less experienced tutors are teaching on the courses and the over seeing person may not be involved in the actual teaching on the course.
Yoga alliance.org, based in the U.S. They use the acronym, RYT to mean registered yoga teacher and they have a lot of resources for teachers. Their lead trainers need to be experienced yoga teachers, which means they need to have done a minimum of 500 hours of their own training and the lead trainers need to teach at least 150hours of the 200 hour course. They work on an honours policy in that yoga teachers or trainers are not actually required to send in their qualifications to gain accreditation.
None of these bodies actually visits yoga schools to do inspections. However they can tell you something about the commitment of the yoga school in getting registered and the experience of the trainers teaching on the programs.
What kind of yoga do I want to practice and teach?
So important, not all yoga is the same and depending on your own preferred practice, how physical you want to get, whether you like to flow or hold poses and what you think you would like to teach there is a huge variation in the training you can do. If you have been happily practicing with your own yoga teacher for a while it is worth asking them what style of yoga they are doing and what they recommend for you.
Meanwhile here is a brief idea of what some of the different styles involve.
Hatha – I’m totally biased but I think this makes a great foundational training as it is so broad. It tends to include flowing sequences for limbering and warming up, a bit more stillness with some of the standing poses and then a nice relaxation at the end. There’s lots of scope to be creative and do stronger or gentler classes depending on your students and your style.
Vinyasa – Flowing with the breath, usually quite dynamic. Relaxation included at the end.
Ashtanga – Very dynamic, lots of beautiful sequences, can be physically demanding, watch out if you are hyper flexible. If you love sun salutations and flow it is a fantastic practice. I have found it can be a little serious and some of the advanced ashtanga yoga demands a lot of arm balance and concentration.
Iyengar – Very precise when it comes to alignment, the training is demanding and not for the faint hearted, the standards are high and expectations on trainees are too. Have your props ready, and clear lots of space in your calendar for practice.
Bikram – The official hot yoga, you learn to teach the same 26 poses in the same sequence and repeat.
Hot, dynamic and physically demanding, great if you want to sweat but not much yoga relaxation and not much space for creativity and you have to “re certify” every three years.
Mindful yoga – Based on hatha yoga and mindfulness this is the form of yoga I am teaching, it involves exploring how
we are each day in each pose. There are 40 classical poses taught on the course and the principles of feeling each pose out and adapting it to fit the person mean that after the course you can teach any pose and create your own classes to fit your own style, practice and your students best.
(There are so many styles of yoga so this list is not complete, deep apologies if I’ve left your favourite out and please feel free to add it to the comments with a brief description. You will also find YTT that incorporate more than one)
No matter what course you pick you should be able to see a copy of the syllabus beforehand. This will give you a chance to see where the emphasis is placed. Do they include yoga philosophy? What about anatomy? Pranayama? Is there a module on teaching skills including lesson planning and teaching practice, what about the business side of it? In my view these are essential, even if they are not all your favourite and you just want to get stuck into the asana
(poses). Will there be meditation and mantra? What about yoga Nidra (relaxation). I was surprised and disappointed when I went to a slow flow class and there was no yoga relaxation at the end, don’t assume, it is worth asking and if the syllabus is written in yoga jargon don’t be intimated. Ask, if you knew it all already you wouldn’t be looking for a course, good teachers love questions.
How many trainees are accepted on the course?
Unlike other education settings where there are guidelines for how many students per class, in yoga there are none. Especially with online classes that can mean some courses have no upward limit. Some trainers I have come across hold the belief that an experienced teacher or trainer can teach large groups effectively and while an experienced teacher can definitely hold space and share wisdom if the teaching on the course is mostly delivered in traditional lecture type style, yoga practice and teaching is incredibly skill based. To get supervised practice and individual feedback there is a limit to how many people even a very experienced teacher can reach. For this reason it’s worth asking how many people will be on the course.
Personally I have an upward limit of 16 per group and work a lot with smaller groups in the break out rooms. We also facilitate one to one mentor meetings so even the shy people get a chance to spend some time with a trainer.
Yoga tutors / trainers -What are they like?
In my experience yoga teachers and trainers are great! That said, they are human and it doesn’t matter how much experience or how great a tutor’s knowledge is if you don’t click with them. They need to be able to share it in a way that you can convert it into your own learning. If you are planning to invest this much time and energy into yourself and your yoga, try and meet at least one of the tutors beforehand or at least find out what their students are saying. Look for testimonials, follow them on social media or go to their regular classes. Maybe they have an open day especially for people who want to do teacher training.
Here’s my que to plug the Mindful Yoga teacher training. Check the website for the next open day, free yoga and meditation, a chance to find out more and have your questions answered. Absolutely no obligation to join the course if you don’t feel you are ready or if it’s just not for you. To register go to www.yogawithclare.com home page and the details are there.
Finally, it might sound cheesy but trust your intuition, is it for you? Can you trust that the practice of yoga itself is your own best teacher and take a leap? For the questions that google can’t answer, take it to your yoga mat.
I hope you’ve found this useful. Please contact me with comments or questions. I love to hear from you or better still meet you on your mat one day soon.