In 2011, while still living in Bangalore, India, I was on a search for my first Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) Course. Not knowing what to look for, I relied heavily on a friend’s review of her recent yoga course experience. Within one week, I was registered for my first YTT course at a school near home.
Since then, a lot has changed in the yoga scene – both personally and within my local and distant communities. I have completed several yoga teacher trainings in a couple of different styles, cities, and countries. A few years ago, I moved from South India to Seattle and began running my own studio – Aham Yoga in Redmond, WA. I now plan and conduct my own YTT Course at Aham Yoga in Redmond, WA and a YTT Course in Bangalore, India. I am always reminded of my initial days as a student hunting for the best schools and teachers but not really knowing what to look for. To aid in helping others find a YTT that is the best fit for them, I have listed 5 tips for any practitioner when looking for a YTT program.
1. Determine which style of yoga interests you?
Here in the US, we are grateful to have so many styles of yoga to choose from – we can pick from a variety of hatha, vinyasa, power, hot, yin, acro, and many more. While this can initially seem very intimating, learning different styles and understanding which of them appeals to you is key in finding the best style you would want to teach. What worked for me is training in a style that I was familiar with and comfortable practicing. I assessed what my YTT goals were and then analyzed the different YTT programs to determine if their outcomes matched my goals and needs.
2. How experienced is the primary teacher?
A primary teacher is the individual who leads your teacher training in its entirety or a major portion of it. For me, it has always been about the teacher. Even today, though my teachers are literally thousands of miles away, I still return each year to train with them. Even though I am not with them every day, they still influence all my classes. If I can consider myself a reasonably successful teacher today, it is because I spent the time looking for primary teachers that I would want to continue learning from for the rest of my life. Here is how I found a primary teacher who resonated with me.
Research the teacher
I started by reading about them online; viewing pictures, videos, testimonials, blogs, and anything else that I could find that might give me more insight on who this person was and how they taught. Bear in mind that the first page on google is not the complete answer. Researching online just gave me a glimpse of what to expect. Reading the bio helped me understand what schools or styles of yoga are their forte, what drew them to practice and teach yoga, and how they continue to make yoga a part of their life. I wanted teachers who were dedicated to the practice and to their students.
Attend their classes
Once you’ve completed your online research, look at the teacher’s class schedule and attend a minimum of 2 weeks of classes consistently (the more the better!) with him/her. This will give you an insight that no online source can provide. In class you will see the teacher work first hand with students. Take notice of his/her alignment and breathing cues, how he/she accommodates all levels in a class, and if their full attention is given to each participant. Some questions you may want to ask yourself are, “Did you feel like you were taught, accommodated, and aligned correctly?” Take all of this into account and see if their style of teaching resonates with you as a practitioner and future instructor.
For me it was important that the teacher was approachable, friendly, and warm towards all the students equally. I took note if they knew the names of their students, and took care of their needs while not being overly friendly, chatty or casual. In other words, does he/she inspire me? You will be spending a lot of time with your primary teacher, and maintaining and good relationship with them is crucial. Real time interaction will tell you more than any review, testimonial or website.
3. What is the schedule or format of the teacher training?
A teacher training is not a yoga vacation or retreat. It is serious business. You need to put in lots of class hours, complete assignments in and out of the classroom, master the art of teaching, understand anatomy, yoga philosophy, learn Sanskrit terms for postures and philosophy, understand how to sequence and lots more! It is no walk in the park. One of my trainings started at 5am and ended at 8pm. All schools and/or studios will have an itinerary for training. Finding out the duration and frequency of training is helpful before signing-up for program.
Choose what suits your current lifestyle best. Allow time to complete assignments, practice teaching, catch up on reading, and continue with your normal life as well. For example, if you know your children have activities on weekends and you need to drive them around, figure out how you will manage that before signing up. Most trainings run for 6 to 8 hours a day, so be prepared!
Next, understanding the time allocated to each topic – asana, philosophy, teaching methodology, practice, etc. Many schools run through some sections much faster, while spending extra time on other areas. Search for one that is well-balanced and gives equal importance to all topics. It is easy to delve deeper into one or more topics, and neglect others – but you want to emerge as balanced graduate.
Most yoga schools offer an open house. Usually a couple of hours long where you meet with the primary trainer, review the training manual, get your questions answered, maybe do a short yoga practice, and get a real feel of what is expected from the training. This gave me great insight in to whether it appealed to my sensibilities or not. However, be warned that open houses can sometimes be deceptive. So, use open house sessions to understand the course’s structure, it’s strengths and weaknesses, while still recognizing that it is an opportunity for a sales pitch.
4. How much does it cost?
An average 200-hour training should range from $2,800 to $4,000. The most common figure I have found is $3,000 with a couple of discounts for early bird sign ups, bring a friend, etc. You will find some teacher trainings priced as low as $1,000 or $1,500, but be warned that while it is a great price the quality of the training may not be great. To put it in context, a regular yoga class would cost you an average $12-15 per hour, and a teacher training involves at least 180 contact hours (as prescribed by the Yoga Alliance) so a $1,500 course is about $8 per hour, and includes manuals, home work, individual attention and a whole lot of preparation on behalf of the teacher. So, what gives in that equation?
On the other hand, there are also some schools of training that try to set themselves apart by over-pricing their product. For example, some trainings cost $10,000 or more and market themselves as unique and exclusive. Decide if it really adds that much more value to you to spend that sum of money. Finally, it comes down to your budget and how much you are willing to spend.
5. How many trainees do they accept?
During teacher trainings, I expect personal attention from my primary teacher. Most teacher trainings have a limit on the maximum number of students they accept in a batch. A smaller focused group is preferred for teacher trainings. So, when you looking to enroll in a teacher training course, check the maximum number of students that they accept. Being a part of a smaller class size will give you more time to practice teaching and have your questions answered.
Finally, realize that no training in the world can give you all yoga knowledge in 200 hours of training. At best, it will help set a strong foundation about yoga practice and philosophy. To be a successful yoga teacher you need to constantly study, practice, and update your skill set. My first training was the one that started a wonderful journey that lead me to find some amazing teachers. While I do not constantly look for trainings anymore, the above framework helps me ensure that the ones that I do choose to spend my time and effort on are totally worth it.
I hope that this list will help you too in your quest for a yoga course. Good luck!
If you enjoy Arundhati’s articles, read her Yoga in India vs. Yoga in America article which compares and contrasts yoga in the east and the west.[Photo by Laura Burbaite | CC BY]
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