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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 few trainings to get their bearings.
10. Very few reviews
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.