Before I shifted to practicing psychotherapy and offering coaching & mentorship full-time, I was a yoga for 10 years. I was regularly asked a lot of questions about yoga teacher training by students, clients, and even strangers. Sometimes, people would even want to know which yoga teacher training I would recommend. This is a very difficult question for me to answer.
As a little background, I have been practicing yoga for nearly years and have been a certified yoga teacher since 2007. During that time, I have taken four yoga teacher trainings—three 200-hour trainings, and one 500-hr advanced training. They were all very diverse, rooted in Siva Raja, Anusara, Shamanism/Mysticism, and Iyengar-Ashtanga-Anusara-blend, respectively. One was in India, one in Guatemala, another in Western Canada, and yet another in the southern U.S. Based on my diverse experience, I feel that I have a lot to offer in response to someone’s inquiry about what yoga teacher training to take, but the answer is complex – and very personal.
I have a vested interest in prospective teachers finding the right training, so I will always take the time to give people the information they need and point them in a good direction for them. However, rather than deal with each inquiry on a case-by-case basis (which is time consuming for me), I will share what I know here.
The following are the most important points I have learned in selecting the right teacher training.
Timing and Format
Timing of Yoga Teacher Training is a priority for many people. Unless you are not working or have a
flexible job, do not have a family, and don’t have too many obligations, it’s probably going to be very important to you when the training is—and what format it’s offered in. Some trainings are month-long intensives, some are spread out over several months or a year. One training I did was a week at a time, spread out over 4 weeks throughout a year. Some are just on weekends. It will be important to find a training that suits your schedule, your needs, and the needs of the people in your life who you are responsible to.
There are many styles of yoga out there: Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Bikram, Moksha,
Anusara, Jiva Mukti, Kripalu . . . and those are just some of the more common ones. Many yoga teacher trainings today are a blend of styles. Consider your yoga background—what have you been practicing? What style of yoga do you like? Maybe you don’t really know . . . in which case, which teachers do you practice with regularly? Ask them what their style is, find out who their teachers are, and what lineage they studied in. In most cases (but not all), you won’t be bound to teach a certain way based on the training you take, but it’s really nice to take a training that teaches the style of yoga you most resonate with.
Where do you intend to work?
I find this one often gets overlooked. It is important to ask yourself where you intend to teach after you
get certified. If you plan to teach for yourself, either in your home, private lessons, or open your own studio (which I don’t necessarily recommend if you are a brand new teacher), then this may not be as relevant. However, some yoga studios are particular about the training you have. If you have your heart set on a certain studio, then you might consider asking the owner or manager what training they recommend. Of course, you will have to balance their response with what works for you and decide whether this is actually the best fit for you.
This is probably the one I caution people about the most. I think the Yoga Alliance is better now than it used to be at regulating Yoga Teacher Trainings, but in my opinion, the process of becoming a Yoga Teacher Trainer has not been well regulated in the past.
Nearly anyone with a 200-hour training and a certain amount of experience can be designated a Yoga Teacher Trainer and run a 200-hour training (with the exception of certain styles such as Iyengar, Bikram, Moksha, Ashtanga). It is vital to do your homework here. Sometimes schools have many trainers, and their ‘interview’ processes vary, or teachers just start their own school without a lot of checks and balances to ensure they are appropriately trained.
Find out who the trainers are for the training you plan to take and do your research on them. A simple google search and perhaps an e-mail or two, should get you the answers you need. Find out their qualifications, number of years practicing and teaching—perhaps you can even find an online video or article to give you a sense of whether you resonate with them and what they have to offer.
I always recommend doing reference checks on schools and on trainers. Any reputable school or yoga
teacher trainer should have no problem sending you some names of their past and current students who can give you the scoop on their experience and what the training was like for them.
Something I do regularly when I’m doing a background check on programs or specific trainers, is do a web search for any negative reviews as well as positive. These have to be taken with a grain of salt of course, because everyone and everything has their critics—but it should help you at least get a more comprehensive picture.
Yoga Trainings are generally not cheap. They also range significantly in cost. The cheapest training I
have ever heard of was $999, ranging up to $15,000. The average Training runs $2500-$3500 but it varies greatly depending on location, school, how many teachers there are and who the teachers are, whether food/accommodation and so on is included, etc.
Sometimes, the “you get what you pay for” adage applies, other times, not. So, do your homework on that one. But more importantly, decide ahead of time what your budget is and plan accordingly. Find out if there are any additional costs. Many times the advertised price is just the base rate, and you may have to pay extra for the manual or props. Also take into consideration lost wages on your behalf for time off work, cost of travel, accommodations, food, etc., where applicable.
In order to teach at most studios, and sometimes even to get appropriate insurance, you need to be certified by the Yoga Alliance. There is the International Yoga Alliance, as well as a Canadian one, so that is worth checking into. There are 200-hour trainings out there that are not recognized by the Yoga Alliance and they won’t necessarily tell you this up front.
I’m not saying not to take a training that isn’t Yoga Alliance certified—you may have your own reasons for wanting to do this. But if you plan on applying at several studios, or using your certifications in a diverse way (or you don’t really know yet what you want to do with it), I recommend double-checking that your intended school is Yoga Alliance certified.
There are yoga teacher trainings offered all around the world. Do you want to take one in your
hometown? In the city you intend to work in the future? In an exotic location? If you haven’t done much traveling, this could be a great opportunity to do so. There are trainings offered in most countries in the world—India, Indonesia, Australia, Europe, South & Central America, of course across Canada and the U.S. too. Where you take your training may be more dependent on the school and the trainers you choose, but sometimes a particular school offers trainings in different locations. Perhaps you will decide to wait a while longer to get the training you want, in a location you’ve always wanted to go to.
If you are taking a training away from your hometown, remember to factor in airfare, accommodations (if not already included), and other travel requirements like getting a Visa, any health shots, special items to bring, and so on. One piece of advice if you are looking at a training overseas—is to double-check the language it is taught in. I had a friend once register for a training in Guatemala which she assumed would be taught in Spanish (her native language)—but it was in English, which was her second language, and posed a real challenge for her.
This one might be the least obvious, but possibly the most important. What is your gut telling you?
You’ve found a training that suits you, done your homework on it, and now you’re ready to make a final decision. When you sit quietly and think about it, how do you feel? Is your skin crawling with excitement? Is there a lightness in your chest? Perhaps a nervous anticipation in your stomach? A slight grin on your face or twinkle in your eye? Whatever it is for you, your intended training should give you a really good feeling. If it doesn’t, go with that . . . this is an important part of being a good yoga teacher, learning to use your intuition and listen to your body.
It is unlikely that you are going to find the perfect training … but taking all of the above criteria into consideration is a good way to start. And your journey as a yoga teacher doesn’t end with your first 200-hr certification.
If teaching yoga is something you plan to do as an important part of your life, it is going to be an ongoing process of exploration, self-discovering, and new learning. Think of your first 200-hr teacher training as the beginning — not the end.