You’ve decided you want to teach yoga. You’ve evaluated your reasons for wanting to teach, and you’ve set up realistic expectations for how much of your living you can make as a yoga teacher. Now, you need to choose a teacher training progam.
Yoga Teacher Training programs vary as much as yoga styles. They are big money for those who run them, and a sizable investment for those who take them. So research carefully and do not rush into this decision. Some training programs fill up quickly and you may feel pressured to put down a deposit to hold your space. However, it would be better to wait until the next time it is offered than to invest money and later decide it is not the right training for you. This guide will help you evaluate the yoga teacher trainings that you are considering, but don’t forget to use your intuition as well. If one just “feels” right or wrong for you, then it probably is. Even if you are getting a strong sense that you know which training you want to take, double check your intuition with this guide and see if any red flags pop up. Intuition is a powerful thing, but there are times when we can mistake desire or ego for intuition.
What style of yoga do the instructors teach?
If you do not know the teachers who lead the teacher training that you are considering personally, then it is important to research what kind of yoga they teach. A program may sound great on paper, but if you like gentle yoga and all the instructors teach power yoga, you may not get what you need out of their training. Some teacher trainings are very explicit about what style they are teaching you to instruct and they will include the style in the name and description of the training (ashtanga teacher training, Iyengar teacher training, Bikram certification, etc) If you are unfamiliar with the style of yoga that is being taught, read the description of it in my yoga styles guide to see if it sounds like something you would enjoy teaching. If you have never taken a class in that particular yoga style or are unsure, take at least one class before signing up for the training, ideally with the main instructor for the training. If you are not able to take a class with the lead instrucot(s) for the teacher training, you could ask a local teacher in the same style whether or not they have heard of this teacher and his or her training.
Do you feel a personal connection with the lead instructors?
Some teacher trainings do not list a specific style or offer a multi-style approach. If this is the case, then if at all possible, try to take at least one class or workshop with the main instructors. This may be difficult if you live far away and will need to travel to the training, but imagine investing thousands of dollars only to discover that you do not jive with the style of yoga you are learning to teach, or do not enjoy the personality of the person you are paying to train you.
How long have the lead instructors been teaching?
I would think very carefully about any training where the main instructors have been teaching yoga for less than 10 years and where any instructor has been teaching for less than five years (unless they are just teaching a part of the program that they have specialized training in, such as a massage therapist teaching the anatomy portion). Length of time teaching is not necessarily an indicator of quality, but it does take many years to amass enough knowledge and practical experience to train future teachers. Never base your decision to take a specific training solely on the experience of the teachers, your personal connection to them is far more important than how long they have been tHow eaching.
Is the training realistic for you financially?
While it may seem exciting to travel to study with a famous teacher, there are also many very high quality yoga teacher trainings that might be closer to home. If money is not an issue, then by all means study with whomever you please, but try not to be swayed by a big name and look at the teacher trainings of famous teachers just as closely as you would an unknown. If you are on a budget, look for trainings that are within driving distance of your home. You may not be able to find these trainings on the internet, so ask around. You may find a gem of a training that is small, personal, and affordable. If there is nothing suitable close to home, research the trainings available in cities where you could stay with family or friends.
Some people who live in very remote areas and don’t have the money to travel get certified through online yoga teacher trainings. This should be your last resort, only if there is not possible way for you to attend an in-person training. Do not assume that you will get nearly as much benefit out of an online self-study course as you will out of an in-person training. However, if an in-person training is not realistic for you at this time, don’t give up. There are many incredible teachers who never went through a teacher training at all. They studied with their teacher, practiced on their own with dedication, and learned how to teach through practical experience. This is a much harder way to learn to teach and takes a lot longer than a teacher training, but if you are sure that teaching yoga is your path, then you will find a way to make it happen. You might do the online training now, while you save up for an in-person training, or even as a supplement to your live training.
Is the training comprehensive enough?
With the proliferation of weekend certifications, it is important to evaluate honestly whether or not a specific training is going to give you the skills you need to teach a safe, effective, and inspiring yoga class. Even if you are a long-time yoga practicioner, the skills required to teach yoga are very different from those required to practice. There is only so much information you can absorb at once, so long term teacher trainings spread out over the course of several months or several years are preferable to weekend, weeklong, or even monthly intensives. The minimum number of hours required for Yoga Alliance certification is 200 hours, and this should be the minimum number of hours you look for in your training. If you are very sure that you want to teach yoga as a career, there are some programs that are 500 hours, ususally over the course of several years. These will be more expensive, but you will get a deeper knowledge base with a group of very committed students. If you are not sure whether or not you want to teach and are taking the training partly to find out if it is for you, then a shorter training is appropriate. Just be sure that if you do decide to teach that you go back for a longer training. You can never have too much training, but you can certainly have too little!