So you love yoga and you’ve decide you’d like to train to be a yoga teacher! Now the big question is where and with whom should you train? There are a lot of yoga teacher training programmes out there. Here’s our top 5 tips on what to consider when making your choice…
Is the yoga studio/yoga teacher trainer the right fit for you?
Most yoga teacher training programmes are run by studios and the vast majority of them are offering courses as a means to develop yoga instructors to teach for them. As all studios have slightly different styles and ethos, and the studios will want their trained instructors to match that, you should always check out a studio before enrolling on a programme with them. Go to a number of different classes, speak to the yoga instructors, find out where they trained, did they enjoy it, would they recommend it?
As a general rule yoga teacher training programmes are delivered by the most senior yoga teacher on the staff, often the studio owner. If it’s not the studio owner, find out who the yoga teacher trainer is. Take classes with them, introduce yourself, say you’re interested in enrolling on their programme, get to know them, do you like them, would you like to teach like them? You will be spending a lot of time with this person, so it’s important that you’re going to get along and that their style of teaching yoga is one that you like and could aspire to.
Is the yoga teacher training course accredited?
An accredited course with a professional body such as Yoga Alliance or the British Wheel of Yoga will give you an assurance that a certain standard will be met by the yoga teacher training programme. Yoga Alliance, for example, sets minimum standards for the amount of time that needs to be spent in key areas of your training e.g. yoga practice, anatomy and physiology, yoga history and philosophy. It also requires that the senior yoga teacher delivering the course (e.g. the person they have accredited and deemed to be of a high enough standard in their own yoga teaching to teach others to teach), spends the largest amount of time with you and doesn’t leave all the training to others, putting their name to the programme and little more. Finally, there are set parameters on how much of the course needs to be conducted face-to-face (called “contact hours”) and how much can be completed as homework or self study.
What do you want to get from the yoga teacher training programme?
Most people begin a yoga teacher training course unsure as to whether they will teach at the end of it, and for some that intention is never there. A yoga teacher training programme can be a great opportunity to simply learn more about yoga and improve your own practice. That said, if you do want to teach, make sure the programme gives adequate support for you to do that.
In our experience yoga teacher training programmes can fall into two categories; ones that teach you how to pursue a yoga path in life (improving your physical practice and also equipping you to be yogic in other aspects of your life) but can be light on teaching you how to teach, and those that spend more time on equipping you to stand in front of a group of people at the end of the programme and deliver a class, but can then be less intensive on the personal practice and lifestyle aspects.
Don’t under estimate the difference between knowing how to do a yoga pose and how to teach a pose. If you are interested in teaching make sure your programme dedicates adequate time to ensuring you understand the yoga postures you’re instructing, are able to teach them verbally and not just physically so you have the confidence to get off your mat, walk around a room, give adjustments etc. At the studio we meet a lot of yoga instructors who can only teach a class by showing people what to do. While this is one way to teach, being glued to your mat at the front doing the poses with your clients will limit your ability to assist people during class. It will also put constraints on how many classes you can teach in a day as you’ll be expending a large amount of physical energy each time. Not great if you’re trying to earn a living from yoga teaching.
On the flip side, if your intention is to simply immerse yourself in the world of yoga and have no intention of ever being a yoga teacher, a yoga teacher programme which is heavy on practice teaching might not be the right choice for you.
If you do hope to instruct yoga, another key consideration is what you’d like to teach once you’re a certified yoga instructor. In general, if you’re going for a Yoga Alliance accredited course, you’ll start with a 200 hour foundation. This will be in a certain discipline e.g. Hatha, Vinyasa, Bikram, hot yoga etc. So, if you want to be a vinyasa yoga teacher, then opt for a 200 hour vinyasa teacher training course. However, if your end game is to teach yoga to the elderly or for pregnancy, for example, there is little point in training in vinyasa as this dynamic style of yoga won’t suit your clients. It would be better to opt for a more generic Hatha yoga teacher programme and then do additional training in the specifics of teaching these groups after you’ve completed your 200 hours.
How will the yoga teacher training course fit in with your lifestyle?
Yoga teacher training courses differ in how they are delivered. Some will be intensive for a month (home or abroad), others will comprise some intensive part (maybe a couple of weeks abroad) with weekends, alternatively they will be weekends only, either one after the other or spread out over a greater length of time. The big question is what best suits your lifestyle and other commitments? All programmes will require homework, this could be in the form of yoga practice, practising teaching people, completing journals, reading, researching, writing essays etc. If you’re on an intensive course there will be less time to complete these additional activities on top of the time you’re already spending in training. Spreading the training over a longer period would give you more time for these ‘out of hours’ activities but you may lose momentum and, of course, qualifying to teach yoga will take a longer period of time.
What other support is offered as part of the yoga teacher training programme?
Embarking on a teacher training programme is hard. There will be times when you need a friendly ear or a shoulder to cry on. Look into what other support is offered outside of the contact hours. While you’re likely to make great friends on the programme, every now and then you may be thankful of an opportunity to talk to someone outside of that group. In addition, your senior yoga teacher may be stretched in terms of the time that he or she can give to you, given their commitment to all of the participants on the programme.
If you’re interested in the potential paths you could take once you’re a certified yoga instructor, take a look at our case studies of past graduates; Zoe, Jules, Claire, Kristina, Kelly and Lisa have gone on to teach classes for studios and set up their own classes independently.