Yep, I get it. You LOVE yoga. It’s changed your body, your mind, and quite possibly your life. Lately, you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a yoga instructor. It seems like such an ideal way for you to focus on your passion for healthy living while making a living in a way that is of service to the world. Perhaps you are feeling stuck in your current career and feel ready to make a shift. Or maybe you’re looking for a side hustle that will be fun as well as lucrative. You might even be in a career where yoga seems like a complementary service such as massage therapy.
But are you really ready to take the plunge, commit to 200 hours (or more), and shell out thousands of dollars for a yoga teacher training?
After working with hundreds of aspiring and new yoga teachers over the past decade, I’ve noticed some common traits among the teacher training participants who become successful yoga teachers vs the ones who drop out of training or never teach once it’s done. I compiled this list of essential questions to contemplate BEFORE you sign up for a yoga teacher training based on my personal experience training yoga teachers.
Be warned: this is no shallow listicle – these questions dive deeply into the potential benefits and challenges you might face in a yoga teacher training.
5 questions to ask yourself before signing up for a yoga teacher training.
1. Is your body ready?
A yoga teacher training is an intense physical experience. If you are in good physical condition, a good teacher training will be an incredible experience of humility, revelation, and ultimately empowerment. However, if you have significant injuries or you have ignored your physical body for most of your life, you may benefit by taking time to heal and/or get stronger first.That is not to say that people with physical limitations cannot or should not do teacher training. It really depends on the person, the training, and the specific situation. I have witnessed many people thrive under the challenge of completing a yoga teacher training despite physical limitations such as missing limbs, Parkinson’s disease, spinal fusions and more.
On the other hand, one of my dear friends recently put off the teacher training she had started after just two sessions because she recognized that it was more than her body could handle at the moment. A hyper mobile mother of 5 children, she had not focused on caring for her body as much as her children for the past two decades. At first she thought of the teacher training as the motivation to finally commit to her physical health. However, in addition to the physical pain of moving her body in new ways she started experiencing intense emotional releases. She shared with me that she now understood why she had been neglecting her body, that she had been hiding from these feelings. In the end she decided that she needed to approach her physical reawakening in a slower and more methodical way and plans to complete the training at a later date.
2. How is your mental health?
Another common reason that people drop out of teacher trainings in that intense physical and mental exercise can bring about mental health crises if you are in a fragile state. Much like the story of the physical work of the training being too much for my friend, I remember another trainee who was struggling with anorexia at the time she started a teacher training. She was hoping that the training could be a component in her healing process. However, most teacher trainings are not led by people with mental health credentials and they are not specifically designed as therapeutic for mental health conditions. She ended up dropping out after a few months in consultation with her therapist as the pressure and intensity of the training was more triggering than healing for her.
While many people experience yoga to be an excellent complementary therapy for their mental health issues, it is important to understand the limitations and scope of practice of yoga teachers. If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, please consult with your trained and licensed care providers to determine whether or not yoga teacher training is an appropriate environment for you.
If you have mild depression that you notice is improved with yoga practice, it is unlikely that teacher training is going to be problematic. However, if you are under the care of a mental health professional for any reason it is very important to thoroughly investigate the possible challenges and benefits with your support team as you select a training and definitely before you sign up for one.
3. How stable is your life?
Yoga teacher training is an intense period of physical and emotional transformation and no matter the state of your mental health, it is important to make sure that you have structures in place to support you through whatever challenges come up. Try not to plan for any other major life changes during training such as moving, changing jobs, or having a baby. Things happen of course, but within the realm of your control give yourself the gift of being able to focus fully on the transformative experience of yoga teacher training.
4. Do you have grit?
Grit is defined as ‘courage, resolve, or strength of character’. While some people sign up for teacher training with starry eyes imagining hours upon hours of meditative bliss, the truth of teacher training is a lot, well, grittier. There is the physical challenge of moving your body more than most people are accustomed. There is the mind bending studying not one, but often two new languages (Sanskrit and anatomy). And of course there is the sometimes transcendent but often painful process of self-realization. Make no mistake, yoga teacher training is not for the faint of heart. And it is absolutely worth the effort.
If you have a pattern of starting things and quitting when it gets hard, you may benefit from seeking out extra help before and during your teacher training. This could come in the form of counseling, mentorship, or coaching. If you already have a relationship with a counselor, mentor or life coach, you can ask them for their thoughts on helping you through teacher training. If you don’t, you might seek out a more experienced yoga teacher or a life coach that works specifically with yoga teachers. If hiring a professional to support you is not possible on top of the cost of teacher training, you could even ask a few trusted and reliable friends to be ready to keep you on track if you need them. Either way, set yourself up for success by lining up your support team before you get started so that they are ready to step in if you hit a wall part way through.
5. What is your financial situation?
Whether you plan to teach or not, a teacher training is a several thousand dollar investment at least. (Some trainings cost up to $10,000!). If you can swallow that cost by dipping into savings, asking for a gift from family, or simply cutting back on expenses you’re in a great position to take a teacher training. However, if you need to put it on a credit card, get a loan, or a second job to pay for it, think in great detail about what that will look like on the back end.Inquire from any trainings you are considering about scholarships and your chances of getting one so you can get a clear picture of the true cost. Also ask if there are extra expenses such as books or other supplies and if yoga classes are included with the cost of the training.
If you plan to earn money teaching yoga it’s easier to justify putting it on a credit card or asking for a loan. However, as with any investment, it is important to do your research. Talk to as many yoga teachers as you can in your area a to get a sense of what yoga teachers earn and how easy or difficult it is to get a teaching job.
If you (for example) get paid $30 per class and teach one class per week it would take you two years to earn enough to pay back a $3000 teacher training. And that’s not counting gas for your commute, taxes, and any other expenses that might come up. On the other hand, if you manage to land (and have time for) 5 classes per week at $50 per class, you could make $3000 back in 3 months.
Also bear in mind that the 200 hour training is just the basic training. It may be enough to teach a class or two on the side, but to create a successful and profitable yoga business you will likely need to invest in further trainings, marketing, and supplies.
Knowing that the benefits of completing a teacher training go way beyond the financial, I’m by no means trying to dissuade anyone who can afford it from completing a teacher training on financial grounds. However, I do want you to sign up for one with your eyes wide open.
Ok, so now you’ve asked yourself all the relevant questions, done your research and some calculations, what do you think? Are you ready to take a yoga teacher training? Let us know in the comments below.