yoga teacher training

10 Red Flags To Look Out For When Choosing A Yoga Teacher Training

Are you dreaming of becoming a yoga teacher ? Before signing up, it’s crucial to know that a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training is not just a place to learn how to lead yoga classes. It should be a sacred space for you to explore your practice, deepen your understanding of yourself, and stretch into your infinite potential.

Sadly, with the rising emergence of yoga teacher trainings around the world, it is difficult to decipher which are the high quality programs and which are not.

Ideally , before committing to a program, best is to research about the yoga schools and your future yoga trainers. Make sure you value their knowledge and experience. Most importantly, do you resonate with their personalities and vibe? Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time with your trainers during teacher training, you’d want to be able to relax and have a good laugh with them at the end of a hard day.
red flags yoga teacher training infographics

Here are the top 10 red flags to look out for when choosing a Yoga certification course:

1. The yoga school is not Yoga Alliance registered.

Let’s clarify something first. Being a Yoga Alliance registered school does not warrant a high quality yoga program. This is due to the fact that anyone can apply by submitting an online application and quite easily get approved. This being said, there are some recent changes in Yoga Alliance and the new approval process is tightening up, which means schools and trainers will need to meet and adhere to a level of standard.

Nevertheless, for all existing registered yoga schools, there is a level of transparency where you can look up their curriculums, read reviews, and find out who the trainers are. When a school is unregistered, there is almost zero screening and transparency, which means your source of information could boil down to the school’s website and social media platforms which can be biased and misleading.

2. Big group size

yoga teacher training

In his book ‘David and Goliath’, Malcolm Gladwell pointed out that the ideal group size for optimal learning is between 18-24. Anything less and you lose the unique excitement that comes from a critical mass of engaged students; anything more and you lose the intimacy of personal feedback and attention. Of course, inside the book he also mentioned the ideal group size depends on the makeup of the class, various learning needs of the students, and teaching styles.

From my 10 year experience of leading 200 Hour yoga teacher training, it is noticeable that the optimal teacher training group size is somewhere between 15-24. In a training with 25 students or more, you might start to feel like just a number. There may also be less personal attention or individual contact time with your teachers, as well as time and opportunity to ask questions, express your opinions, and make sure you understand everything.

Important Note
Having a large group size, it will be harder for you to form close connections with your fellow trainees. Furthermore, you wont receive much personal guidance from the teacher. It also suggest that the school is more profit-driven rather than focusing on providing you the best learning experience possible.

3. Very short duration

On average, it takes at least 22 to 24 days to complete a 200 hour yoga teacher training.
Under Yoga Alliance policy, a 200 hour teacher training requires 185 contact hours (in-person or online) and 15 non-contact hours such as reading assignments and practicum. This is to assure that the majority of your training hours go to real interaction with your trainers where you’ll get feedback and ask questions.

When a training duration is shorter than 22 days ( there are trainings that are only 14 days), it is impossible to cover all of the hours or the days will be extremely long and you might end up too exhausted to learn anything.

4.Too many trainers or unclear teaching faculty

Sometimes you might come across schools with dozens of ‘lead trainers’ listed on their website. At first, the diversity of teachers might impress you into thinking more is better. Why not learn from them all? But, it generally doesn’t meet the expectation you might conceive.
Here are two potential culprits in having a large faculty team:

The first culprit of a large teaching team is that there might not actually be a big team at all.

Often, Yoga schools hire different trainers for their programs throughout the year. The school provides a fixed curriculum and the trainers simply deliver the content. Not all trainers teach the training but since there are so many of them, they just list everyone for convenience. Some trainers might be more experienced than others, this leads to inconsistent results making it hard for you to tell whether the school is good or not.

For example, throughout the years, I have received many applications from Indian Yoga teacher ready to work for very low cost or even for free. The issue is that, usually, they never taught Yoga class to a Western audience and therefore doesn’t understand Western bodies limitations and best methodologies for Westerner minds.

Secondly, ever heard of the phrase too many cooks in the kitchen? Often all of the trainers come from different yoga backgrounds, hence have their own way of seeing how yoga works. Therefore, when there are too many trainers, conflicts may arise due to crashing opinions, emotional volatility, and a lack of leadership.

Important Note
The lead trainer is the heart of the teacher training. Like a captain of a ship, your trainer sets sail to your transformative journey despite rough seas and challenges. If you are checking out a teacher training with many trainers, try to find out whether it is a cohesive team with strong leadership.

5. Only one trainer

As opposed to the previous point, having only one lead trainer in your 200 hour teacher training can also be a huge red flag. Even if this trainer is very experienced, the fact that there is only one teacher would be worrying because as humans we learn best by being exposed to different experiences, backgrounds and teaching styles.

Moreover, with only one teacher to hold space for your entire group, it takes a lot of mental and physical energy which most teachers find exhausting. Having a second lead trainer or supporting teachers will help alleviate the stress. In addition, you might not receive as much personal attention and feedback for having only one trainer as there are just too many students to tend to.

6. Not focusing on teaching skills

Although yoga is a subjective experience where as teachers to-be, you need to fully immerse yourself into the practice. Nevertheless, watch out for schools that focus too much on direct experiences and not enough attention on developing your teaching skills. These are schools that often provide an ‘ashram-like’ experience, where you spend many hours doing asana (physical postures) on the mat, meditating, doing karma (selfless) services like cleaning the shala or cooking meals. Keep in mind that these activities are wonderful and should be integrated into your teacher training curriculum, however, they should not overshadow the hours that need to be dedicated to actually developing your yoga teaching skills.

Over the years, I have taught many students who already had completed a yoga teacher training but didn’t learn to actually teach a well rounded yoga class with confidence and safety.

It takes tremendous skills to teach Yoga. Verbal cuing, alignment, physical adjustments, public speaking, timing, scripting, holding space and sequencing are few example of such abilities needed to deliver a transformative yoga class. These are important skills to learn in depth and become confident with in your 200 hour yoga teacher training. So check the school curriculum and find out if they focused on the art of teaching and have the right methodology and hours to deliver it professionally.

7. Too many days off,break time or cultural activities.

While this may sound like a good thing, the problem with too many days off, break and cultural experience, is that it becomes more like a holiday than a 200 hour yoga teacher training. Unlike yoga retreats, a yoga course shouldn’t have too many days off or relaxing hours within a teaching day. Trainees should be focused with right amount of time off to relax the mind and recuperate the body.

Important Note
Like most other professions, training is to be taken seriously with a daily schedule and learning objectives. When a school offers too many days off and cultural activities, it’s a red flag that either the program is incomplete or the school lacks overall discipline to help trainees achieve their goals.

8. Multiple styles of yoga

“Jacks of all trades, master of none.” When a yoga school offers multiple styles of yoga inside a single training, their students end up excelling in none of them. This being said, there are complimentary styles like Vinyasa and Yin yoga that when taught properly provide trainees more knowledge and tools. However, when a program offers five or six styles of yoga, it becomes a yoga buffet with too much information or shallow depths of teaching that either leave the students feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied.

9. The trainers are not dedicated yoga practitioners

Your teachers should be a source of inspiration and role models for you on your yoga journey. Therefore, it would be a red flag if your trainers don’t take time for their personal practice. A personal practice doesn’t have to be physical postures on the mat. It could be meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), mindfulness living, and reading scripture.

The point is, if your trainers do not dedicate their time to deepen their spiritual and physical practices, it would be doubtful that they will inspire you to develop your personal practice. At the end of the day, to become a good yoga teacher, you must do the practice. Yoga teachers who find inspiration from their personal practices are often those who lead a long lasting career. You want to start your journey with trainers who help you set up good habits.

It is also important to find out how experienced your trainers are in leading yoga teacher trainings. According to Yoga Alliance, any yoga teachers with two years of teaching experience are qualified to lead their own courses. Since there is a definite difference between teaching classes and leading yoga trainings, most experienced teachers find it tricky leading trainings in the start and need a fewadvanced yoga trainings to get their bearings.

When choosing your 200 Hour yoga teacher training, best is to look for lead trainers that have a decade of experience in teaching yoga classes and at few years in leading yoga trainings. It’s the great indication that you will receive great knowledge and insights on teaching Yoga.

10. Very few reviews

yoga teacher training

This is a very big red flag – the more students a school graduates, the more feedback they would receive (and hopefully improve the training accordingly) as well as experience in what works and what doesn’t. If there aren’t very many reviews or testimonials available, this implies that the school is either very new and hasn’t trained many people yet, or that it hasn’t received good enough feedback that it is willing to share. Although seeing negative reviews is not necessarily a bad thing at all, because it shows a level of honesty and transparency from the school. For as long as the school demonstrates what it has done to change or improve things, having bad reviews is not a deal breaker.

Interestingly, many positive reviews don’t always imply a high quality school either. Depending on where you see these positive reviews, many schools only share their most positive feedback raving their success. Your best unfiltered place to check on reviews is Yoga Alliance. It’s the equivalent of TripAdvisor where you get more transparency and decide for yourself whether this school is good or not.

When a school has very few reviews, you need to think of how long this school has been running for, what experiences do the trainers have, and what is it about this school that attracts you despite few testimonials. It’s not about not giving new schools a chance, but at the same time, yoga teacher training is a huge investment and you want to do your diligent research before signing up.

So here you go! These are the top 10 red flags to look out for when choosing a yoga teacher training. Becoming a yoga teacher is truly one of the most transformative experiences in the world. Yoga provides you a wealth of knowledge and direct experiences where you get to know more about yourself and the world around you. Choosing carefully a yoga teacher training will assure you the proper education you need to embark on your spiritual journey!

About Annie Au

E-RYT 500, Writer

Annie is the lead trainer of the Yin Yang Yoga Teacher Training at All Yoga. She is also the creator of the Soulful Yin Yoga Method, the only Yin Yoga teacher training that specializes in the emotional side of yin yoga and Chinese meridians. Annie embarked on her spiritual journey over 10 years ago. Struggled with anxiety most of her adult life, Annie was tired of living life in chronic fear & despair, she searched for ways to reclaim her happiness. In the last decade, Annie traveled around the world leading yoga teacher trainings while exploring her own spiritual path.

From studying Taoism and Chinese meridians, Anne recognizes the intrinsic connection between our body and emotions. If our physical health declines, it directly affects our mood and therefore affects how we make choices in life. This finding has propelled Annie to create a course that helps others to connect with their emotions so that they can cultivate balances in life.

Applying the decade of experiences and knowledge Annie has acquired, her signature Soulful Yin Yoga Method is designed to help others become a master of their own emotions so that they can be in tune with their truest selves.

Annie holds a Bachelor Degree in Human Kinetics from the University of British Columbia. She is trained in Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) and specializes in yoga anatomy. Annie’s approachable teaching method helps students understand their body and practice more intelligently.

Currently, Annie lives in Sri Lanka with her husband and travels to Thailand several times per year leading 200hr Yin Yang Yoga Teacher Trainings.

For free yin yoga, Chinese meridians, and emotional healing tips, follow her on Instagram here.

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