For many of us, discovering yoga was a lot like falling in love—the surrender, the glow, the longing for more. If you’ve arrived at that point where you yearn for a deeper commitment—you want to become a teacher or to explore beyond the boundaries of 90-minute classes—you may be thinking about attending a teacher training program.
But how do you choose when there are currently more than a thousand training programs registered with Yoga Alliance? To clarify, Yoga Alliance (YA) is a national organization that supports yoga teachers and establishes education standards. Though you can become a “certified yoga teacher” in as little as a weekend, such programs do not meet YA’s standards, now considered a benchmark by many studios hiring new teachers. YA standards include a minimum of 200 hours covering asana technique, anatomy, yogic philosophy, and other subjects.
“Is your program registered by Yoga Alliance?” This is the most common question prospective students ask, according to Sydney Pinkerton, who often fields questions about teacher training in her role as manager of 7 Centers Yoga Arts, Sedona, AZ. Because yoga training is a serious commitment in terms of time and money, there are many questions to consider. Does tuition include books, materials, and required workshops? Is the program residential or do students need to arrange housing? Are meals included? How much will travel expenses add to the final cost? Does the school’s lineage require personal or financial commitments after graduation?
Though core requirements and costs may make training programs appear similar, each has its own a distinct flavor. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges,” according to Pinkerton. To decide which program is the best fit for you, she suggests beginning by identifying your needs and goals. Do you want to teach? Where? Is teaching in a particular style of yoga (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kripalu, Anusara, Jivamukti, Bikram, etc.) important to you, or would you prefer a program that offers a broad foundation? Do you want to complete training in a single, intensive month of study or spread it out over several months?
The most likely disappointment, according to Pinkerton, happens when a training program doesn’t meet the student’s expectations. To learn more about what to expect from a program, she recommends asking the school for a list of recent graduates so that you can talk to them about their experiences. It’s a good way to find out what a typical training day or week is like and how you can prepare yourself mentally and physically. It’s also a good way to find out more about the program’s teachers, adding to what you learn from the bios and resumes posted on the school’s web site.
Pinkerton believes that one of the most important—but often unasked—questions concerns a program’s contact with students. While YA standards require a certain number of contact hours during trainings, the quality of “teacher time” is harder to measure. Does the program offer the level of mentoring you need? Will your teachers continue to offer support after you graduate and take on the role of teacher yourself?
Because no matter which program you choose, one of your biggest realizations during teacher training will be the moment when it dawns on you: This is merely the beginning. Like life itself, the vastness of yoga demands continuing evolution. And even as a teacher, you will always be a student.
Are you ready? (Take our yoga teacher training quiz to find out!)