8 Questions to Contemplate When Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training
If the thought has crossed your mind, your next step is to choose a good program – which can be tricky seeing as there are so many out there. Most people want a solid curriculum, a clear methodology (you learn to teach good, safe classes), a program that honors the spirit of yoga, and reflects your own values. So, I put together a checklist to help you in your search to find the right fit for you.
Here are 8 questions to contemplate:
1. Who do I want to teach?
Do you want to teach friends, family, kids, people with certain health conditions, in a fitness setting, in a senior center, at a hospital? Think about what kind of person you want to teach and where you want to teach them. It can be useful to write a profile of your perfect student – age, gender, interests, work, experience, reasons for studying yoga, etc. If you are clear that you want to teach in a studio setting, then a training from a studio might be your best option. However, if that studio has several teacher trainings each year…well, how many teachers do they need to fill their schedule? Doesn’t take a degree in rocket science – it can be quite competitive. Here are some compelling stats – about 36 million people in America are doing yoga regularly, most at gyms or yoga studios. That market has plenty of teachers and is well served, especially in cities. But there are nearly 300 million people who aren’t doing any yoga at all. Many of them have health challenges and could benefit from yoga if it was offered in a venue where they felt welcome, included and safe. If you choose a program that teaches you how to teach people who already go to yoga studios, you will most likely not learn how to teach at community centers, hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers or the health department. But if you choose a program that focuses on those populations, you will be prepared from the get-go.
2. What do I want to teach them?
If you want to teach at a fitness center or yoga studio, and you want to teach people who are already into exercise, then a program than emphasizes strong, fast, and/or hot asanas may be the best fit. But again, the market is saturated with those teachers – many who have been at it for 10 to 15 years or more. If you are willing to teach seniors, people with health challenges, church congregations who like to do things together, university students, people with specific health conditions, etc., you will have a better chance of creating a sustainable yoga business – and enjoying the wonderful rewards of sharing yoga with people who may have never considered walking into a yoga studio. A program that teaches you how to offer lots of modifications, that doesn’t see difficult poses as the goal of practice, that teaches you how to use trauma informed yoga, and that helps you understand the full, integrated system of yoga beyond asanas, may be a better choice.
3. How do I learn best?
Are you the kind of person who learns quickly and can take in lots of new information? In that case an intensive might be the right format for you. Or, do you prefer to let knowledge simmer for a while? Then you might want to consider a training that meets one weekend a month for several months. Do you value purely physical learning or are you also interested in theory and philosophy, history, science and the full range of practices of yoga? Do you want a supportive group setting or are you a solo learner? Do you want to learn about breath centric movement, alignment, or a combination of both? What about meditation and pranayama? Ethics? Service? Make sure you investigate exactly what curriculum is offered in the training you are considering.
4. Where do I want to take my training?
Many people end up taking trainings because they are close by, but you may not have to travel very far to find a training that more accurately suits your needs and interests. Don’t hesitate to check out trainings in other cities, especially if they are only a few hours away. Some trainers will even help you secure low cost accommodations. While a tropical vacation may sound like an exciting place to do a teacher training, remember that you are going to be in class most of the day and if you don’t have time to tack on some relaxation before or after your training, you may end up regretting that you only had a chance to peek at paradise.
5. What do I want to do when I finish?
Are you pursuing a teacher training because you want to teach yoga full time, part time or not at all? Some people choose trainings because they simply want to learn more about yoga and deepen their personal practice. Others are interested in supplementing their existing career. And others want the whole enchilada – to be full time yoga teachers. If you are in the latter category, you should probably plan on completing a 300 hour program on top of your initial 200 hour training to get an RYT500. If you train with the intention of attaining a broad, holistic understanding of yoga and of becoming a quality teacher, then you can always follow a more specific discipline or style with continued, deeper trainings.
If you think about it, you wouldn’t expect to become a dental hygenist or a pastry chef with 200 hours of training. So why would assume you can make a full time career out of teaching yoga on that much training? You know how good your favorite teachers are – believe me, they didn’t get that way over night.
So if you are going to go for it, get serious. Find a serious program that can give you the knowledge base you need to really make a career out of it. If you already have skills in an area – health care, teaching, corporate experience, etc., yoga training can be an excellent way to capitalize on that experience and bring yoga to your existing contacts and circles without quitting the day job.
6. How will a teacher training facilitate my personal growth?
I think this is one of the most important questions you can ask. You have contemplated the idea of a yoga teacher training, but why? What is it about yoga that has touched your heart? What makes you want to go deeper? How is doing a training going to help you find happiness, benefit your relationships, make you a better person? When you read descriptions of teacher trainings or talk to the people involved in running them, who speaks authentically to these issues? Put some energy into weeding out the New Age marketing hype from what is deep, true, grounded, authentic and honest. Run the program by a friend you trust and ask his or her opinion and be objective about the answer.
Whatever you do, don’t make an impulsive decision – that is a sure fire way to wind up on regret street. Instead, meditate on the questions. Take time to be present with the options. And then decide. Most of us wouldn’t buy a house or get married on a whim, why should we make hasty decisions about something as important as a yoga training?
7. Who are the lead trainers?
Check them out. What is their training? How long have they been teaching? How long have they been leading trainings? Remember that there are at least three different skills sets to consider: practitioner, teacher and trainer. Being able to do beautiful asanas is a different skill set from being able to teach yoga, which is an entirely different skill set again from being able to teach others how to teach. How much experience does the lead trainer have? Are there several different teachers? Do they all have similar training or are they coming from different backgrounds (which typically means they are likely to contradict each other and create confusion)? Are they rigidly attached to their own methodology (which may red flag you in the other direction)? Have you taken classes with any of them? Or at least watched videos or heard them give talks?
8. How can I swing this financially?
The fact is that these things cost money and you need to figure out where that’s coming from and what kind of return are you going to get on your investment. Does the training have a good business and marketing module and who teaches it? Do you have money saved up? Is the training affordable? Does the institute offer payment plans and scholarships? How quickly do you think you will be able to recover your investment? Does it fit in with your work schedule?
I hope this list is helpful for you! If you follow these tips, you will be able to make a great decision!