According to UN news, there are over two billion people around the world doing yoga. The statistic was collected in 2016, and I can only imagine the number has increased tremendously since then. For many people, yoga is a hobby for relaxation and body conditioning; for others, yoga is a way of life. Perhaps right now, you are considering turning your yoga hobby into something more serious. Maybe you’re thinking of quitting your 9 to 5 job and becoming a yoga teacher. Does the thought of ditching your pantsuit and heels, fly away to a secluded island doing yoga and drinking matcha excite you? If so, I think you’re ready to execute your dream plan.
Personally having taught and assisted over twenty yoga teacher trainings around the world (and attended well over ten teaching programs), I am here to offer some tips on how to choose the right yoga teacher training for YOU. Keep in mind that these are just opinions I’ve gathered from years of experiences. I am now dispensing them in hopes that you will not spend your money in vain and best yet to sign up for the program you’d hope for.
So here they are, 10 tips on how to choose the best yoga teacher training for you:
1. Identify your objective
This may sound like a no-brainer. But trust me, identifying why you’re attending a yoga teacher training in the first place will help you, in the long run, to stay on task and keep your eye on the prize when things get hard or foggy. Ask yourself whether you want to become a yoga teacher or simply to advance your yoga knowledge but not necessarily go on teaching afterward. Once you’ve identified your objective, it will make your search for the perfect yoga teacher training a lot smoother.
2. Style of Yoga
Nowadays, there are many forms of yoga ranging from Hot yoga to Acro yoga (not to mention Beer Yoga and Goat Yoga, seriously people). Obviously, not all styles of yoga are suitable for you. For the physically-inclined bunch, Ashtanga, Power, and Vinyasa yoga are great choices; for the less physical individuals, Yin and Restorative might be a better fit. There are also yoga styles that focus more physically like Acro and less energetically like Kundalini. So if you’re at the beginning of your practice, go and explore many styles of yoga and see what works for you.
Also, learning one particular style definitely doesn’t exclude you from teaching different styles of yoga – it simply lays rock-solid roots from which the rest of your learning can further blossom. Remember, when it comes to yoga, each style is a world unto itself, and you could spend decades studying a particular aspect of yoga. Your first 200hr teacher training is going to provide you with the ‘building blocks’ for the rest of your learning throughout your life, so it can be a good idea to focus on a mainstream style of yoga to begin with, and keep an open mind whilst exploring other styles during your training.
3. How Experienced Is The School?
So now you have decided on which style of Yoga to train in, the next question is who are you going to train with?
When you’re choosing a course, remember that a training organisation is like a waterfall – everything you’ll learn will flow down from the top. It’s important to choose a school that’s reputable, and one that is experienced in offering courses. Nowadays there are thousands of new schools offering trainings every year, and in the yoga industry the only pre-requisite to register a training course is an E-RYT200 – that’s just two years of teaching! A teacher training is a significant investment, both in terms of your money and time, so it’s in your best interests to distinguish between reputable schools with a proven track record, and new kids on the block who may not have a great deal of experience offering trainings.
An experienced yoga school should be able to boast several hundreds of graduates, and should be able to provide plenty of genuine testimonials from students who have recently graduated. The more graduates a yoga school has produced, the more feedback they have received and taken on board (and you can often locate this public feedback on the school’s website, Facebook business page reviews, or Google reviews) and the more they have improved and updated the program and delivery style to meet the needs of their students.
It also pays to look closely at the finer details of the curriculum being offered – is there an equal balance between theoretical learning, and putting the course material into practice? A good training course should provide a mix between content sessions, yoga classes in which you can practice as a student, and practice teaching sessions in which you’ll be weaving all your learning together by actually teaching your peers on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with the school with specific questions – if you want to know what the daily schedule will be, just ask! There’s no such thing as a silly question, and any training organisation worth its salt will be more than happy to talk you through the finer details of their courses.
4. How Experienced Are The Teachers?
When you’re learning to teach, it goes without saying that your own teachers will become a pivotal role model and source of inspiration. The teaching team at a training school should be the schools’ biggest asset, and it’s good to look for schools that offer a co-teaching approach – you’ll benefit hugely from the differing points of view that different teachers will offer. Read up on the teaching team for the training course you’re interested in. How many years of combined experience does this teaching team have? Are there guest teachers for specialised modules such as anatomy and philosophy? Ideally, each teacher on your training will be an internationally recognized expert in their particular yogic discipline, and will work with the other teachers to provide you with a well-rounded yoga education.
This is a big one. Yoga teacher training is a heavy investment ranging from USD 2000-5000 depending on the location and school. Remember that amount is just tuition exclusive of accommodation, travel cost, and food. In the past, I have paid up to USD 10,000 for a teacher training in New York City (it was worth every dollar, but again- it’s a matter of perspective). Here’s the thing, not all low tuition schools are subpar compared to their expensive counterparts. Schools price their tuition based on various factors such as geography (India vs. London), business structure, taxes, so on and so forth. The bottom line is, finding the school that fits your budget will help you down the road financially. Freshly graduated yoga teachers do not make a lot of income. Many teachers struggle to find a steady paid job, and a lot of them succumb to living off their savings or taking on another part-time job. Thus, it’s not recommended to take out a loan or borrow from friends/family to pay for your tuition knowing that it is unlikely you will return that money anytime soon. Solutions? Look for schools that offer scholarship programs, early bird discounts, and payments by installment.
6. How Many Students Will Be In The Course?
Just like a school classroom, you’ll receive more individual attention, tips, and feedback in a smaller group size. A group of 25-30 students or less is perfect – this means enough minds and bodies to create interesting discussions and practice teaching asana, but not so many that your individual voice can’t be heard, or your questions go unanswered.
Ideally you’ll be looking for a medium-sized class, enabling you to form close relationships with your peers in a hands-on, intensive learning environment. However, ideally the class size will be large enough to provide examples of many different body types – this will help you in your understanding of practical anatomy and adjustments – and to provide group teaching opportunities throughout the course.
Normally a 200hr yoga teacher training ranges from 24-28 weeks. However, I have seen many yoga studios packing these hours into different formats. Some studios divide the training over six months to a year, and students come only on the weekends. Other studios would shorten the training into two weeks top, but you’ll be in the studio 12-15 hours straight. None of these program styles are more superior than the other. You have to find the schedule that works for you. For people who can only take two weeks off work, the intense 15-hour day program sounds like a match made in heaven. For others who are taking a year off traveling around the world, spending 24 days in Thailand doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
8. Where Does The Training Take Place?
It may seem trivial, but the actual location of your training has a big influence on your ability to absorb new things. After all, our external environment often dictates our internal environment, so it makes sense to give yourself a head start on your learning journey by removing as many distractions as possible!
If you’ve decided to choose an intensive training, take a look at the location and work out if it’s a place you’d like to visit. Some training courses feature beautiful beachside shalas, others are situated high up in tropical rainforests with views of the surrounding rainforest. Remember, you’re making a financial investment – so why not experience somewhere that you’ve always wanted to travel (Bali and Thailand are both beautiful!), and enjoy a new environment on your days off?
9. Training Credentials
So far, Yoga Alliance (YA) is one of the most recognized yoga institutions around the world. Many great yoga schools are Yoga Alliance accredited, but likewise, many great yoga schools aren’t. Whether or not you should pick a registered school goes back to point number one (identifying your objective). If your goal is to become a yoga teacher, I suggest you go with a school that is accredited. Many yoga studios request their teachers to be Yoga Alliance certified, mainly for credential and insurance purposes. Being a certified yoga teacher will help your job hunting a lot easier down the road.
10. A Well-Rounded Training Curriculum
Although Yoga Alliance sets a standard for what should be included in a training curriculum, some schools emphasize certain areas over another. For example, when I did my first 200hr training, I did not have any anatomy lectures and very minimal philosophy lectures. That training focused a lot on practice teaching and techniques. My biceps definitely gotten a lot more defined, but I’d appreciate the missing knowledge. So when you’re searching for a school, ask for their curriculum, see the daily sample schedule, and read the testimonials online.
At the end of the day, your first yoga teacher training adventure is an individual journey that will be unique to you, and when it comes to choosing a course, you’ll ultimately end up going with your gut and trusting your intuition. Remember to take your time when making a decision about where and with whom you’ll undertake your first yoga teacher training – and most importantly, once your training is booked, start getting excited! The road to yoga teacher training will lead you to greater self-awareness, better health, and a world of self-discovery – so congratulations, you’ve already taken the first step!