From learning postures, the anatomy, to exploring traditions, masters and yogic principles, there’s an abundance of trainings to choose from across the world – where to start with so many options can seem a daunting task, so we have compiled here a go-to checklist for you to run through your criteria and questions, to help guide you in your search to find that ultimate life-changing experience.
With the myriad of options available to those of us interested in deepening our practice or teaching yoga to others, here’s a list of the most important things to consider and ask in your search to find the training that is right for you.
1. What curriculum focus are you looking for?
It’s important that the structure of the training is in line with your overall interests. A study will include a balance of hours in anatomy, asana (postures), philosophy of yoga, subtle anatomy and teaching practice.
And teachers will spend time focusing on additional subject matters. This creates the focus of the course. If, for example, you know for sure that you’re particularly interested in a subject area like yoga therapy, Ayurveda, meditation or anatomy, then look for the schools that offer that focus.
And there is the yoga style to consider. A good idea is to start by observing what classes you are drawn to and what interests you about them. Notice how the teacher, the style, the teaching philosophy, and the community fits for you.
2. Which style(s) of yoga to focus on?
Most people select their first teacher training in the style that they are practicing the most in and are most comfortable with at the time. But it doesn’t have to always be this way. Exploration can be very rewarding here.
If you enjoy the flow, Vinyasa and/or Ashtanga could be your choice, or if you enjoy the relaxation in your practice then maybe explore Restorative, Yin or Nidra. A good teacher training should introduce multiple styles of yoga in a 200hr Yoga Teacher Training. Advanced trainings could focus on one style of yoga. Not every program is considered equal, even when they are registered with governing bodies. Take a class, a workshop or a training with the schools you are considering.
It’s a great idea to explore all the options of styles by attending different studios, classes and teachers, to give you a good feel of all the different types and approaches out there.
Always stay true to yourself and what you’re passionate about. Choose a the style(s) that you love and truly speaks to your yoga heart.
3. What are your plans after with your certification?
Are you studying to deepen your own personal understanding of yoga and to develop a yogic lifestyle or do you want to teach yoga as a side hustle or a full time business. If you are not sure, talk to the director of the training about your goals and what you do know to see if you are a good match. If you want to study abroad, be sure to talk to teachers who have graduated from the program and ask to speak with the director or a lead instructor about the program.
Or it could be you have something specific in mind for your future teaching journey. For instance if you want to explore healing and anatomy then it could be that Yoga Therapy is something for you to explore, or a more technical instruction and alignment based training.
If a future life of teaching is the aim then your competence and opportunities will vastly benefit from completing the 500hr Yoga Teacher Training pathway, there are two routes to do this – the first involves completing the 200hr Yoga Teacher Training then following up with the 300hr Yoga Teacher Training. It is suggested that you teach for a period of time between the two trainings. This can be waived in some schools if you come from a background strong in one or more elements in your area of focus.
So it is worth checking if the school you are thinking of attending the first stage with offers advanced courses, because it is often the case that graduates create a strong bond with the trainers, their content focus and teaching philosophy.
Qualifying in both levels with the same school will make your whole journey consistent and comfortable for you. Otherwise you will have to complete the second stage at a different school that could feel like starting all over again or you may have to do additional modules to catch up to the others who have graduated from that program.
It’s worth noting too that to be a teacher on these certification courses you need the 500 RYT level and many years of experience teaching/understanding the style of yoga. This could become a consideration for you in the future. Think about what your long term plan is before investing the time and energy into this adventure and keep your options open.
If teaching isn’t a focus for you, or at least for the time being, and you are just looking to have an awesome time, meet new people and make a solid commitment to practice, go with the most comfortable yoga style(s), that way you just get expertly guided practice and a deepening of your understanding and technique.
If you are short on time then the idea of a introductory course is a good option, either as a short introduction to the experience, or as a way to learn more about a particular school and teachers, with a view to then committing to a more intensive investment of time and energy with them in the future.
4. What’s the experience of the teachers and the Director?
How long have they been teaching yoga? Look for schools that the director has been teaching for 10 years plus. How long have they been an instructor for trainings? Again a minimum of 5 years here. What are their personalities like? Voice, most surveys say that participants have a better time when they like the voice of the instructor. What is the teaching philosophy? Student centred or teacher centred approach to teaching. Either it is all about the student or it is about the student following the teacher. And style of teaching practice? What certifications do they hold or what specializations is the school known for?
Maybe attend some of their classes or workshops, if you can, to get a feel for their teaching style and the energy they bring to their students to make sure it’s a good fit for you. Also past graduate reviews are of great benefit here.
5. How much will it cost?
The cost for most teacher trainings start at around $3000 although you can find them cheaper and more expensive. Often the very inexpensive options are completely online, self directed using videos to teach. Make sure to check what you are getting for your tuition. Ideally, you are getting a minimum of 180 contact hours with your lead instructor. Ask about teaching experience, make sure that you get expert feedback and peer support in your teaching experiences. This is part of what you are paying for in a good yoga teacher training program. Online yoga teacher training should include at least 20 opportunities to teach in an observed, feedback situation with an experienced teacher.
Before committing you’ll need to know what the cost includes. Accommodation? Shared or Private? Food? Excursions? What textbooks do you need and how much do they cost? Will there be any workshops or retreats where your attendance is required?
Then there is the travel cost and this can change significantly based on the time of year too.
6. Where to attend?
Do you want to deepen your practice on a training near home? Or does the thought of getting out of your everyday environment and traveling to a location for an intensive retreat experience to take part in. Today, many schools have moved programming online and are offering completely online, hybrids of online and in person and completely in person. For the short term at least, consider what that means for you and your family.
QUESTIONS FOR SCHOOLS
7. Is the course professionally certified?
The Canadian Yoga Alliance (CYA) and the Yoga Alliance (YA) are non-profit organizations that represent the international standards for all yoga teachers and certifications. In order to become a Registered Yoga Teacher, students must participate in a teacher training with a school that is registered with the organization. This ensures your training and teaching experience meet the international standards and establishes your credibility.
If you are looking to eventually study yoga therapy choose a school that has at least one teacher/director who is certified with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).
8. How many students will be attending
To get the right amount of teaching attention and to also be part of a vibrant tribe that comes together for this one amazing purpose, it is worth finding out what the student numbers will be.
Best would be medium-sized, say 20 students or less is about right. Up to 30 absolute maximum. This way you get all the advantages of group teaching opportunities and enough people to create interesting and informative input and energy in the your classes and workshops.
Some schools offer independent learning plans. (ILP) for those who do not fit into a regularly scheduled yoga teacher training. You may know that you benefit by having a private or semi private tutor. Maybe you are briefly between jobs, coming off maternity leave, or can’t find a summer job or want to train so that you future summer jobs entail traveling and teaching yoga abroad, look for schools that have ILP options. Sometimes there is a surcharge for opportunities like this. Hybrids are also available. In a hybrid you work independently with your trainer and schedule group experiences as you are able.
9. How long does it last for?
Trainings can range from one-month intensives where you’re meeting everyday nearly all day, to being spaced out over 6-months or a year of weekends. Not everyone learns best the same way. Some of us learn best in an intensive, immersive experience and others of us prefer to take our time and digest the learning at a slower pace.
It’s important to consider your current commitments and work out what’s best for you, dedicate the time and focus you can to absorb all there is to learn, to allow you to enjoy your experience.
10. Practice and Study
Most of us benefit from choosing a well-rounded training program balanced between classes, workshops and reading up; it does depend on the yoga style too as something like Yoga therapy requires a lot of study. Find a course that strikes a balance and gives you what you are looking for, a good amount of time on the mat for teaching practice is always good.
11. Ask for Reviews
This is probably the best thing you can do in your research – read real graduate reviews and even speak to past students, maybe go by referrals from yogi friends at your local studio, at least for your research stage. The reputation of the school is important and you will be looking for an established school that has taught many trainings, certified hundreds of students, and is immersed in the world of accredited certification.
Lastly, what are your ultimate goals?
What do you hope to get out of attending your training? Are you interested in becoming a yoga teacher, to deepen your own practice, or simply having the most awesome yoga-focused break ever?
Ask all the questions you have, and ask as many as you like, in all the different locations that could interest you.
It’s a big adventure for you and so don’t be afraid to ask away and research all the possible trainings that could be potentially right for you. Just from the conversation you have with them you may well feel their vibe and approach. That alone could say a lot.
Bright Blessings, we wish you well on what could be the biggest adventure of your yoga journey. Trust your instincts.