I shot out of bed one morning and decided I needed to do yoga teacher training. It was a silly idea; something only young flexible people do. But I did it anyway! Lucky for us yoga is a booming business. According to the study “Yoga In America” conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, 36.7 million people attended yoga classes in 2016. With all those people taking classes, more and more people (even inflexible ones like me) are considering becoming yoga instructors. Which brings up the question: what should you look for in a potential yoga teacher training? Obviously most people look at price, schedules and location but there are some other super important things to consider that you might have overlooked.
1. Look for a teacher with some history:
Be sure that you research the school you plan to attend and the main teacher who is running the school. Believe it or not, yoga teachers in Texas (I can’t vouch for other states) are not required to obtain any sort of licensure. The same goes for yoga schools. Most yoga teachers and yoga schools do obtain a certification from Yoga Alliance (a nonprofit 501(c)(6) membership professional and trade association). This is a good starting point; however, not all schools who get the certification are necessarily “good” and not all “good” schools choose to get certified.
A Yoga Alliance stamp of approval lets you know that a basic curriculum has been developed and that specific topics that the yoga world finds important (anatomy, the history of yoga, etc) are covered. You should look deeper than that though. For instance, is a yoga teacher who has no additional training really qualified to teach anatomy? I would look for yoga teachers/schools who have people who are also Physical Therapists, medical professionals, or at least carry a degree in a related field. Wouldn’t you prefer to learn anatomy from an ex-doctor yoga teacher than ex-plumber yoga teacher (no oﬀense to all the hard working plumbers out there!)
2. Visit the studio A LOT:
Most yoga schools are housed out of a yoga studio. Some are run by the owners of the studio and others are not. Either way, check out the studio because you will be spending a big chunk of time there.
I had a dear friend who participated in a great teacher training at an aerial studio with a group of single, 20 year olds. It would have been a perfect fit if she wasn’t a thirty something with a spouse and kid who really preferred her yoga on the ground. In spite of the wonderful training, there were some times where she really felt like she didn’t fit in. Make sure the studio fits with your personal lifestyle and your yoga style.
Most important, find a teacher training that allows you to be yourself. The best yoga teachers are ones whose personality shines through. Some teacher training involves learning a set script with no variety in poses. It’s hard to show your personality that way so be wary.
3. Yoga is a Business, too:
While you are at the studio, ask around about the management. If the management isn’t running the studio well, you can probably bet they aren’t running the yoga school well either.
At some studios, graduates from the yoga school are first in line to work at the adjoining studio. If you want to teach sweaty fast paced Vinyasa, you might want to shy away from the studio that teaches mainly chair yoga.
4. Prioritize face to face contact:
I struggle to see how you can learn to teach yoga from behind a computer screen. I know some programs that combine face to face time with online and that seems like a good combo but I would err on the side of finding a local studio where you can engage with your teacher and other students for most of the training.
The teacher training experience can be transformative and having a cohort of people you see the entire time can really be a gift. There is a lot of adjusting, movements and physical manipulation that occurs when you are learning that simply can’t be done over a computer screen.
5. Practice Teaching:
Be sure that practice teaching is part of the curriculum. You should get ample opportunity to practice teaching at every step of the training. ACTUAL.TEACHING.TIME. I know that scares many students but it is better to get lots of teaching time in training than to graduate from training with zero teaching experience.
During training you will get lots of feedback that will help you grow into an amazing teacher. If you are nervous about teaching, that’s even more reason to make sure that teaching time is big part of the curriculum.
6. Watch out for yoga "cults":
This sounds crazy! But I have heard horror stories about people who took teacher training that included long hours of physically tiring yoga practice. There are stories about people being shamed, humiliated or taken advantage of by their teachers. Your yoga teachers should never bully or intimidate you. I’m not trying to scare you oﬀ.
Just remember that no matter how much money you spend or how much respect you/the community has for a teacher, you should never be put into a compromising position. Walk out, demand a refund, report the school, talk to the studio owner, do whatever you need to do to make it right but never stand for this behavior from anyone. And know that most yoga teachers are amazing people!
No matter where you end up, jump in to teacher training head first. It can be an amazing experience full of growth, accomplishment and fun but only if you commit to it. As with all yoga, do yoga teacher training with tons of curiosity, no judgement, zero regret and you’ll do great! Namaste.
Written by: Lora Brandt BSW, RYT