Picking a Yoga Teacher Training That’s Right for You

In yoga, you’re never done. The well of poses from which to draw from is endless, ranging from the most basic and modified to the super advanced where you find you’ve got one leg behind your head and your arms bound behind your back in a twist you never imagined possible. When it comes to picking a yoga teacher training, like your yoga practice, the possibilities are endless when it comes to finding the one best suited to your individual wants and needs.

teaching yoga class

While there is a measure of mindfulness and intuition that enters into picking the right teacher training, there is also a heavy dose of logistics and realism that goes into it, too. The intuitive aspect can be a very “clicking into the rails” moment. You’ve encountered a teacher who is speaking like a laser beam straight to your heart and you know that you need to absorb everything they know. This can be a powerful feeling, but then the timing, cost, and even the location of the teacher training could prove a real downer on your yogic high.

Timing and discipline.

Oftentimes, people frequent a studio enough that the natural progression is to go through the teacher training offered at that studio. Most studios specialize in specific style of yoga, such as the wider umbrellas of Vinyasa or Hatha under which the more specific styles like Bikram, Anusara or Ashtanga reside so it might be important to consider what style you’d like to immerse yourself in.

Marie, for instance, is a long-time practicing yogini who has recently discovered and fallen in love with Baron Baptiste’s style of Power Yoga. She also has a full-time career, a husband and a child at home. In the last few years, she’s been contemplating a teacher training, and although she is loyal to a studio that only features Baptiste Power Yoga, ultimately, timing will play a larger factor in whichever teacher training she chooses.

The amount of time you are willing and able to commit to a teacher training should factor into your decision. Teacher trainings can be condensed into a few weeks or they can be spread out over a number of weekends. Those weekends can be twice a month for six months, or once a month for an entire year. Deciding your level of commitment and working within your limitations, be it a job or a family, as are both the case for Marie, should be realistically considered, as a teacher training can be demanding both physically as you learn and dissect asanas, as well as mentally as you learn meditation techniques, pranayama and thousands of years’ worth of philosophy boiled down into a concentrated 200-hour teacher training.

Location, location, location.

Location and cost seem mutually exclusive when it comes to a teacher training program. They take place in almost every neighborhood yoga studio or gym, but they also take place in exotic locales like Hawaii, Bali or Costa Rica. Tuition prices can be high, no matter the training, climbing as high into the $4000 range. While retreat-type teacher trainings such as those in the aforementioned exotic locales generally sit on the higher end of the cost spectrum, accommodations and meals are usually folded into the tuition price. Schools want to make their teacher trainings as affordable and as accessible as possible so many offer discounts for early registration, or offer payment plans. Some locations break up their teacher trainings into separate modules that can be taken altogether or individually, with the cost separated out as well. The Laughing Lotus in New York City, for instance, has done exactly that, breaking their 300-hour training into three 100-hour trainings spread out over a period of six months. People interested in obtaining their 300-hour certification can take all three or they can take individual modules toward gaining continuing education credits.

Another option to explore is an online teacher training. This is great for people who don’t live near a good yoga studio or a yoga studio, period, although, in this day and age when yoga studios are cropping up like Starbucks are on every street corner, that seems somewhat hard to imagine. These trainings can be more cost effective and allow you to work at your own pace.

The potential downside to choosing an online program, however, is that they only allow you to fulfill your non-contact hours. Every teacher training curriculum is made up of contact hours and non-contact hours. Contact hours include asana, anatomy, philosophy and ethics, as well as a minimum number of hours spent under the tutelage of the curriculum’s primary teacher.  Non-contact hours include things like group work, reading, written assignments and class evaluations. Of course, a lot of these criteria are dependent upon whether the studio or online program is certified by Yoga Alliance.

The great Yoga Alliance debate.

In perusing yoga studios’ websites, you’ve probably seen RYS-200 or RYS-500 stamped somewhere on the studio’s site. This means the studio is a Registered Yoga School (RYS) with Yoga Alliance, the premiere organization in the United States recognized for setting and upholding a uniform set of standards, as well as ensuring safe instruction through their approved curriculum. Each Registered Yoga School follows a list of standards for both 200- and 500-hour programs and allows graduates to register with Yoga Alliance as a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT).

There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not to go with a school that is Yoga Alliance certified. If you plan to make yoga a vocation after graduating, going with a registered school may be something you’ll want to take into consideration. Gyms tend to look for the Yoga Alliance seal of approval more so than studios who know that being a Registered Yoga Teacher does not necessarily a good yoga teacher make.

Fiona is a 500-RYT who owns her own small studio. She provides a teacher training, but she is not a Registered Yoga School. She says she has not given some students their diploma because she didn’t think they were ready. With her training, students have two years to complete the training. With a Registered Yoga School, students have a year. People learn at different paces and teacher trainings are loaded with information. For some, a year is an unrealistic timeframe, especially when students may go on to teach and, therefore, will be responsible for the own students’ welfare.

Cost, as it is for yogis trying to find the right teacher training, is a huge factor for studio owners. Fiona says the fees she would incur to be a Registered Yoga School far exceeds the money she would bring in over a three month time period. If she were to tackle those fees she would have to then pass them on to her students, which she is not willing to do. She says she hasn’t heard of her students running into problems, and while she has had some people who have not taken her training because she’s not registered with Yoga Alliance, she’s also gotten people taking the training with the sole purpose of deepening their practice. A solid teacher training should provide the tools toward making you an excellent teacher. Whether the studio is certified by Yoga Alliance will depend upon what you intend to do with your certification and where you intend to do it.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Not everyone decides to take a teacher training with the goal of teaching in mind. Some people have the goal of deepening their practice.  An offshoot of that goal can be choosing a teacher training because an aspect of that program scares you.

Diana lived in Colorado at the time she decided she was going to go through a teacher training. She hailed from Pennsylvania but lived in Colorado and her decision came down to two studios – a Bikram studio in Colorado and a Vinyasa studio back in her hometown. Diana had been a die-hard fan of Bikram. She attended classes at the Vinyasa studio on visits home to see her parents, but when it came time to pick a teacher training, the one back home intimidated her. “That studio was a little more spiritually based than I was used to,” she said, “and up until that point, that wasn’t a major part of why I stepped onto my mat.”

When Diana met with the studio owner in Colorado, she voiced her fears, and the studio owner told her, “Maybe that’s why you should go with that teacher training.” Then, once Diana met with the owner of the studio in Pennsylvania, her decision was practically made for her. What the studio owner had to say, coupled with the positive energy of her surroundings – Diana knew she was where she needed to be.

Bring your focus and awareness inward and ask yourself what factors are most important to you in finding the right teacher training. Concentrate on what it is you hope to get out of becoming certified to teach yoga, be it to make it your vocation or to deepen your practice. If you take the time to turn your attention inward and listen to your heart, the right answer will surely present itself and help guide you toward exactly where you need to be.