You’ve been practicing yoga for a while, have a desire to help people, or are searching for a change in direction. Taking a yoga teacher training might be the right option for you! However, you are not sure if you are ready for this transformational experience or have enough knowledge to embark on intensive training. These guidelines might help you in finding the right answer.
The fact that you might be asking yourself that question might already reveal more about you and your journey than you realize. However, knowing it may be a big (and life-changing) decision, there are a few factors to take into consideration when determining whether this is the right choice for you. Reflecting on whether you should take that next step in your yoga journey or not can also help reveal what type of training would be the best option for you.
First of all, what is a Yoga Teacher Training course (YTT or YTTC)? It is an intensive and immersive educational course that, upon successful completion, certifies you to teach yoga. There are a great variety of trainings, teachers, schools of yoga, and formats out there. Although yoga is not as widely recognized, especially in the West, as a healing or therapeutic practice, nor is it universally regulated, it has been the foundation of holistic healing and practices in the East for thousands of years. Together with other holistic practices and alternative medicine, such as Ayurveda, meditation, breathwork, and so on, it forms a complete lifestyle and healing practice.
Although yoga may not be universally regulated, there are Yoga trainings that are more comprehensive and yoga teachers that are more qualified than others. And you are, of course, searching for the best option for you!
What is Yoga Alliance?
The most recognized and well-known professional organization for yoga teachers and schools is Yoga Alliance (YA). If you are looking for a YTTC, you might have already seen a designation called “Yoga Alliance certified” when browsing courses. Although US-based, it awards international certifications that are widely accepted around the world. Here are excerpts from Yoga Alliance’s mission statement to give a better insight into its goals and practices:
“First, YAR’s voluntary school registry for teacher training programs serves the public by establishing minimum curricular standards relating to: yoga techniques, educational methodology, health and safety of the human body, and yoga principles and ethics. Yoga Alliance Registry advances education by developing, monitoring, and improving standards for high-quality yoga instruction and promotes health and safety of the public by providing a mechanism for aspiring yoga teachers to ensure that the training they receive covers fundamental health and safety basics as well as core yoga principles and techniques that are common to the diverse forms of yoga practice. […] Second, YAR’s teacher registry serves the public by providing them a way to find yoga teachers who have completed their training at schools meeting YAR minimum standards.“
As a founder of a Yoga Alliance RYS (Registered Yoga School), I personally recommend all my students and everyone looking into a Yoga teacher training familiarize themselves with YA’s practices. Some of the graduates of my school (Hari OM Yoga & Ayurveda) choose not to pursue further registration with YA or necessarily use their services; however, it is important for every yoga teacher to make that decision for themselves. Although it does incur costs, our school prefers to offer YA registration to our students. We are, in fact, proud that all our courses and workshops offer continuing education credits and education hours with YA. Our yoga school has also set its own standards based on years of experience and our education in courses and universities, standards which may go beyond YA and their basic requirements. In this way, we also offer a specific certificate from our school of Yoga and Ayurveda. You might find some other schools doing the same.
What should I expect to learn in a YTTC?
Regardless of whether a training is certified by Yoga Alliance, another third-party institution, or just by the school offering the course, every Yoga Teacher Training course should offer an appropriate number of classes and education necessary to prepare you on becoming a yoga teacher.
I find that many yogis embark on a Yoga course for themselves and their own personal path and aren’t necessarily aiming to teach yoga professionally. For those students, yoga philosophy (which includes the study of ethics, lifestyle practices, history, books and scriptures, spiritual practices, and much more) serves its purpose by offering an introspective and life-changing journey.
From personal experience as both a student and teacher, I believe every Yoga course should have a minimum amount of Yoga philosophy hours. Before I even became an RYT (registered yoga teacher), I actively practiced bhakti-yoga for years and graduated with a degree in Eastern Religions and Philosophy from the University of Wales. Although I appreciate every teacher, course, workshop, and webinar on the topic of yoga I have taken (although some were, of course, more impactful than others), nothing was as transformational as my experience in college. During that time, I also lived “like a yogi”, in an ashram, rising early, meditating every day, following a strict vegetarian diet, and so on. Not only was it transformational in many ways, but it helped me find my personal path, immerse myself in yogic philosophy and learn how to apply it in everyday life.
When I began studying yoga in order to become a teacher, I was surprised just how far modern (or western yoga) has deviated from its roots and what little understanding of philosophy and purpose behind certain practices. It is for that reason our school puts great emphasis on yogic philosophy, considering it the foundation of all courses. Back in the day, it was the foundation and its purpose why most yogis studied yoga in the first place. Philosophy is the foundation for anyone considering yoga as their spiritual practice or path as well.
What else to expect from a YTTC?
Learning about the anatomy of the body, as well as the prevention of injury, is a must for anyone wanting to teach yoga.
Understanding Yoga asanas (postures), their names, health benefits, and effects on the body is imperative for yoga teachers. It is basically impossible to create your own unique, creative, and inspiring sequences without proper knowledge of asana. More experienced and advanced yoga teachers know that their unique sequencing style sets them apart from others and is the reason why their students come particularly to their class. If you want to teach yoga in private classes, for special circumstances, in combination with therapy, or to a specific demographic (prenatal, seniors, etc), asana and sequencing knowledge becomes that much more important.
Anatomy, asana, and sequencing go hand-in-hand, and they are apparently the most lacking knowledge in those that aren’t professionally certified yoga teachers. One more reason why it isn’t recommended to teach yoga without proper certification.
Finally, every YTTC should teach you how to actually teach yoga. It may sound obvious, but unfortunately, it isn’t a fact. Many recently graduated yoga teachers can testify that they do not feel ready and qualified to lead an entire class on their own. Yoga Alliance itself only requires a minimum of 5 teaching hours in a 200hr YTT course, which for most may not be enough. In our Yoga school, it is this requirement that we have modified to our own standards and require teaching practicum basically every day of the course. Besides simply practicing teaching class, you should learn about voice projection, creating a class atmosphere, the seat of the teacher (as an authority and guide), how to observe and interact with students, and more. Sequencing your own classes falls under this category as well, as it is very easy to simply follow a sequence given by your school (or copied online) than knowing how to create your own, and modify it to your students’ needs.
How to know you are ready to become a yoga teacher?
Now that we have discussed in detail what a yoga teacher training is, and what you might expect from one, you may be asking yourself if you are ready for this journey. Every yoga school has its own admission standards, and these are the most common ones.
You should embark on an intensive yoga course if you have some experience practicing yoga already. Although we generally advise at least a year, setting a time frame may be difficult as there are people who know about and have practiced yoga on and off for many years but aren’t steady or dedicated. On the other hand, you may have a student who has only been practicing for 10 months but regularly and with determination, and that student, although still relatively new to yoga, might have a better understanding and affinity to it than the former.
A very common question you may be asking yourself is – Am I advanced enough for a YTTC? Or even doubt whether you are ready, as you do not have mastery of certain advanced yoga poses. For our Yoga school, it is not as important how “advanced” your asana practice may be. We teach all categories of yoga poses, including headstands and arm balances, and some students try them for the first time in the YTTC. However, we do not require students to have a certain level of advancement in that sense, nor do we force everyone to practice or master every pose – the students’ safety and comfort are always the priority.
What matters is whether the student has basic health and fitness to follow the program and whether they have a good sense of body-mind connection and listening to their body. Besides that, the more they practice yoga, the more familiar they become with the names of poses, their effects on their body, and so on. In this way, having fundamental prior experience is very valuable when embarking on a YTTC.
In summary, paying attention in class, learning as you practice, and listening to your body, are more important to our school than how good your handstand practice is.
Complete beginners might benefit from starting with a yoga retreat instead or a shorter course (such as a 100hr YTTC, weekend workshops, and similar) before embarking on a full 200hr YTTC.
Online or in-person practitioner
In modern (and covid/post-covid times) many of us are relying on online yoga classes. Although any practice is a valid practice, we highly recommend our students have experience practicing in person, preferably in a yoga studio, before embarking on a YTTC. Why? There are many benefits to a “real live class”, beginning with having an actual person observe your posture and give you personalized advice. I see a huge difference between students who practice in person and those who have exclusively practiced online in their form, attention, and overall attitude in class.
Depending on where you’ve been practicing, you might have extensive knowledge of certain yogic principles, be it philosophy, Sanskrit names of poses, anatomy, meditations, and more. On the other hand, even if you have been practicing a while but mainly online or in gyms (not necessarily yoga studios), you may only know the fitness part of yoga practice and not have much knowledge or experience in other aspects.
There is no doubt that what you will learn in a YTTC will be new to you, especially if you take a well-developed and advanced course, but there is a benefit in coming to a YTTC with some foundational knowledge. However, you can also communicate with your prospective YTT program and ask for study recommendations before embarking on the course. Many schools, including ours, send reading lists, suggestions, and actual homework to students before the course begins in order to prepare them for the journey – and I highly recommend you complete it!! There are definitely students that do not come prepared for the course, and it puts them at a disadvantage. We also recommend you to take the initiative and read some books, take workshops, and explore yoga in all its beautiful and rich practice on your own. You can only benefit from that undertaking, regardless of your final decision to take a YTTC.
Why do you want to take a course?
In the end, this is really the most important question and one every potential student has to answer on their own. While performing this inquiry, you can also explore what type of yogi you are.
The spiritual yogi
If you have a desire to deepen your personal practice, are looking for inspiration on your spiritual path, and have found yoga and meditation incredibly beneficial on a physical, mental, and emotional plane, then taking a YTTC is a good choice for you. You could attend retreats or workshops to satisfy your inquiry. However, nothing will be as profound as an immersive YTTC. In this case, a course focused on spirituality, philosophy, and the inner journey can be a good option for you. Of course, this depends on the school you choose since not every training explores the spiritual aspect of yoga.
The healing yogi
If you have a desire to help people have found yoga and its complementary practices helpful on your path, and you want to share your experience and knowledge, then a YTTC is a good option for you. If you have an affinity towards healing or nutrition or have found yoga therapeutic for your physical body, then you can look for a course with a focus on therapy, Ayurveda, or holistic health.
The IG yogi
If you’re inspired by wanderlusting yogis and want to share this practice while traveling the world, meeting people of all backgrounds, running inspirational events, or teaching yoga online, then you can look for a yoga training course that has a class on business and entrepreneurship. Learning practical tools on how to make your yoga practice manifest on a professional plane is important for those knowing they want to teach, as many people in the wellness world tend to struggle with the business aspect. It especially happens to those that consider business and yoga mutually exclusive (although rightfully so). Just remember to stay focused on the true meaning of yoga and that not everything you see online is exactly as it seems.
The dedicated yogi
You’ve been practicing for years, are BFFs with your yoga teacher, attend festivals or workshops regularly, and already know what your favorite style of yoga is? Then you are ready to seamlessly take the next step and begin teaching. Search for a course run by your favorite teacher or in your preferred style and school of yoga (Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar), and immerse yourself in this next portion of your yoga journey. Even if you are nervous, don’t feel confident, or aren’t 100% sure teaching is for you, you are sure to enjoy the process and all the benefits of taking an immersive course dedicated to you and your favorite pastime.
The transformation yogi
Maybe you’ve been yearning for a transformation, are going through a big change in your life, are in-between careers, and thought – maybe a yoga course would be a good option right about now? If you already have experience and have seen the benefits, then yes – go for it! Why not? Now might finally be the time to do that thing that you’ve always wanted or find the tools you need to achieve your next goal. In my experience running YTTCs, most of our students are going through some kind of breakthrough or transformative experience at the time of the training, which inspires them to take that next step. And I can attest to it myself – from my first course till now, whenever I’ve been at a crossroads or was seeking inspiration, I always turned to yoga and meditation for answers.
Yoga practice truly is for everybody, but a yoga course is not a journey to be taken lightly nor by just anyone at any point in their life. We have options such as retreats, wellness travel, events, and festivals for all yogis wanting to rejuvenate and seeking inspiration. But if you have a deeper desire for metamorphosis, and feel a genuine calling to share yoga, mediation, and holistic health, with the world, then you should seriously consider a Yoga teacher training.
The tools, skills, and experiences you will develop during such a course cannot be easily compared to any other educational experience. Friendships and connections that are formed during such events, with special people who finally share your unique love of ‘mystical’ things and alternative lifestyle, will last a long time and bring you joy. Finally, even if you are full of doubts and fears and do not feel ready (or even worthy) – know that you do deserve it. How often do you do something so big for (first and foremost) your own wellbeing? If you want to change the world, the best place to begin – is with yourself.
Good luck on your journey!
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