It’s completely natural to have questions about your yoga journey and which yoga experience if right for you. Yoga teacher training is big investment of time, energy and money so it's important to find one that's the right fit for what you’re needing - physically, mentally, emotionally, financially. With so many trainings on offer, how can you choose one that is worth your investment and 200 hours of your precious time?
As a yoga teacher trainer myself, I've sat thousands of hours of training all over the world with various teachers. Most have been amazing, but some have been really negative experiences. I remember one specific teacher training where my anxiety got so bad I simply couldn't complete my teaching assessment. I was supposed to lead a yoga class open to the public and 30 minutes before that invisible boot started to press on my chest, my throat started to constrict, I felt like I couldn't breath and tears started to flow. The teacher trainer overseeing assessment on this particular day was not our main teacher trainer (out of our 300 hours we'd had zero classes with her and so I had no real relationship with her). She made me feel horrible telling me I was "letting everyone down". It reduced me to tears which resulted in a panic attack. I didn't teach for my assessment, had to take the remainder day off training to calm down, and I left that training with a lack of confidence and a sense of shame. I won't name the organisation or teacher. But it was the worst. She was the worst.
Anyway, my point here is that yoga teacher trainings can be a mixed bag! As a student you want a space (and someone who can hold this space) to show up and be vulnerable. So these are my top tips to find one that's right for you.
1. Make Sure It's Yoga Alliance Certified
Be sure your training academy is a fully certified 200 Hour Registered Yoga School (RYS® 200) with Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance is the international governing body, have set standards for teacher training programs, and their certifications are recognised anywhere in the world. If you hope to teach yoga in the future, most (if not all) yoga studios will require for you to be certified by the Yoga Alliance. There are other certification organisations e.g. Yoga Australia. However, just be mindful that these are not as well recognised as Yoga Alliance and some employers may still require for you to undertake further Yoga Alliance Certified training.
2. Learning Style: Part-Time vs Full-Time
If you are swamped with work, study or raising a family, then a local part-time yoga teacher training on weeknights or weekends may work in best with your schedule. For others, leaving behind distractions of home life and fully dropping into full-time learning with an intensive-structured, retreat-style training may be more effective (and fun!). In this case, also be mindful of travel, climate, accommodation, spare time during training and food being served. It's important to consider how best you learn, what best suits your lifestyle right now and go from there.
3. Student-Teacher Ratio
Just like a school classroom, you’ll receive more individual attention, tips, and feedback in a smaller group size. A teacher training with a good student to teacher ratio will mean more personalised learning, one-on-one care and less of a 'cookie-cutter' training method. Generally, a small to medium group size of 9-15 participants or less is great for a personal and individually-tailored bespoke experience. This also means enough minds and bodies to create interesting discussions and to form close relationships with.
4. Go Ninja-Researcher on the Training Syllabus
All Yoga Alliance certified trainings are required to meet minimum hours for Yoga Humanities, Anatomy, Philosophy, Asana etc. However trainings can still vary greatly as teachers emphasise different areas. The type of training you attend strongly influences what you take away and the type of teacher you will be. Whether you're looking anatomy-focused training, a program that dives deep into spirituality and philosophy or more of a heart-centred and healing vibe, be sure to comb through every syllabus description. If the training doesn't advertise the syllabus and/or schedule, then get in touch with the organisation and hopefully they can shed a little more light. Take the time to find program that sounds like it's made for you.
5. Research The Lead Yoga Teacher and Exactly How Many Contact Hours You Have With Them
Each yoga teacher brings their own style to teaching. So it's important to find a teacher that resonates with you. After all, you'll be spending 200 hours with this teacher. You'll want this experience to be with someone who you vibe with, can be vulnerable with and learn a lot from. Things to consider:
Yoga teacher's certifications and how many hours/years they've taught and studied yoga;
Check the yoga teacher is current in the industry and teaches recent and ongoing successful classes, workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings. You want a teacher that is a current hands-on practitioner with industry knowledge and know-how. Not a teacher that used to teach;
If the teacher is leading the yoga for business component, you'll want to learn from someone with industry hand-on experience. Make sure they run a successful business;
Check out the yoga teacher on social media, what they share and their vibe;
Attend a few of the yoga teacher's classes online or in person;
Your first yoga teacher training journey is an individual experience that needs to be unique to you. Take your time, do your research and get excited for the journey ahead!
Reach out to this teacher and ask questions. How helpful they are before training is indicative of how helpful they'll be during and after;
Ask exactly how many contact hours you have with the lead teacher and what parts of the training they will be leading. Yoga Alliance requirements here are 65 hours with lead teacher so as a bare minimum it should be this.
Bonus Tip: Get The Learning Support You Need
Sad to say I've had some really negative experiences attending teacher trainings that were not a supportive environment. I've sat quietly at the back holding in questions because it was frowned upon to ask and I've watched as students struggled to learn due to singular-style of teachings offered. First off -- teacher trainings should be a space where you can be a student, be vulnerable, learn, and feel safe to ask questions and discuss controversial topics openly. Communication between students and teachers should always be compassionate, kind and supportive. The teacher's goal should be to help you succeed, pass assessment, prepare you for after training and help you create the very best yoga teacher you can be. We know this environment is the best learning environment possible! Teacher's should also help minimise stress around assessment and take into consideration the seven different learning styles. So always ask the teacher if questions and discussions are encouraged during class, what learning styles are supported, what happens if you fail assessment, if they offer to work with you for any supplementary assessment, and what support they offer after training has finished. Find a teacher or organisation that is willing to go the extra mile to support your learning needs.
Your first yoga teacher training journey is an individual experience that needs to be unique to you. Take your time, do your research and get exited for the journey ahead!