If you have been practising yoga for a while, you may feel you want to take your practice to the next level, as well as learn more about this beautiful discipline and perhaps teach one day. And there is no better place to do this then a good yoga teacher training course. But, with so much on offer, it's important to pick the right fit for you. If you pick right, your teacher training can be one of the most memorable experiences of your life, it can help you change, grow and build good foundations for becoming a teacher, but if you don't take time to research, it can be a very disappointing one. It's your time and hard earned money, make sure you take your time with this.
But, amongst so many teacher training courses, how do you pick the one that is right for you?
I get this question a lot, coming from students, friends, friends of friends etc. who can't attend my training but, often confused, reach out to me to help them choose. And I can understand why; there is so much on offer out there and so much choice can be overwhelming. I am always happy to help and I do, but mostly with tips on what to look out for, and not choosing something for someone. At the end of the day, this is a very personal choice and one no one can make for you.
I wanted to write a blog about this for a long time now, but being a teacher trainer myself, I was always worried that some of my peers might take some things they don't agree with, personally. This is not my intention at all of course, and everything I will write here is just my opinion, nothing else. Some is based on my beliefs and some on my experience. But, as a yoga teacher, I feel my responsibility lies in serving the community, and that is my intention with this post. I hope it serves and helps some of you reading it.
Pick the right method
I had a student on one of my retreats who wanted to do a Vinyasa based teacher training, but not much was available at the time in her city, so she contemplated other methods as well. In the end, she picked a Zen yoga teacher training which is very much rooted in the Chinese yoga tradition, not much in Indian, and is very different from what she originally wanted. I never heard back from her about whether or not she was happy with her training, but I remember telling her one thing. If you love the Portuguese language and dream of living in Portugal one day, learning German or even Spanish doesn't make much sense. If you love and practice Vinyasa, and you feel one day you would like to teach it, pick a Vinyasa TTC. But a good one;).
I have heard many stories, some funny, some not so funny, some even traumatic. Do your research and be smart.
To Yoga Alliance or not to Yoga Alliance
Now that you know what you want to study, you started to google different schools and have found yourself confused with the school's association. Yoga Alliance, European Yoga Federation, European Yoga Alliance etc, I'm sure there's many more... Some schools are not even linked with an association, I guess because they feel they are big enough, but unless they promise they will find work for you after, this I would be very careful with.
American Yoga Alliance under which I have registered Spanda Yoga School is by far the largest directory of yoga teachers and schools, as well as most internationally recognised. Does this mean that Yoga Alliance accredited school is better than others? Absolutely not. Does this mean that saying you are a Yoga Alliance certified teacher will help you find work more or less anywhere in the world? Maybe. Does it mean it will be easier to run workshops, and one day your own yoga teacher training? I think yes. Number one question I get from someone inquiring about the TTC is - are you registered under Yoga Alliance.
Yoga Alliance has been very smart lately; they have added YACEP registration (Continuing Education Programme) for experienced yoga teachers, meaning that one day you can offer workshops, and YA registered teachers can count those hours towards their Continuing Education requirements. They have also upped their standards, a much-needed change, so now the School's Lead Teachers need to have ERYT 500 mark, meaning they are 500 hours certified experienced yoga teacher etc. I believe they are generally working towards better standards for yoga schools which is very important.
Also, eventually you will need to check the local laws in your country and what you need to do to be able to teach.
Pick the right teacher
Now that you know what you want to study and you know what association you would like to one day be certified under, it's time to pick a school, or rather, the right teacher. Each school has a school and curriculum director, and this is the most important person to check out as this is the person who usually creates, is responsible for, and leads most of the programme. Of course, check the credentials of the rest of the teaching faculty as well.
I always believed the best teachers or generally, specialists in their respective field, are those with knowledge and experience. Lead teacher should have a good knowledge in all required fields covered on the TTC, not just the part which they are teaching, should continue to learn and be informed about the new research of the body / mind field (anatomy, for example, is a science and new evidence emerge daily) as well as many years of experience in teaching teacher training courses. Both should be outlined in the teacher's professional biography. If not, you can always ask directly, especially about the experience part.
And lastly, choose someone who resonates with you and with what you believe Yoga essentially is. If you see yoga as a spiritual path, pick a teacher who believes the same is true, will inspire you and teach you that asana, pranayama etc are only the tools, and will show you how to use those tools to reach a real goal of yoga - liberation. If all this sounds too spiritual for you, pick a teacher who is more into the physical aspects of yoga. Nowadays, there are many great asana teachers, very knowledgeable in their field, creative in their sequencing etc, but don't teach yoga as a spiritual practice and this is ok. To each their own.
Not all that glitters is gold
I have to shortly mention what not to do as well. If you are serious about picking good training, you need to be a bit more flexible. Meaning, it might not be around the corner or exactly in December when you planned your trip to Thailand. Beautiful location is a plus, but shouldn't be the primary reason behind your choice. It may not be in India simply because it’s a birth place of yoga. Also, the best training for you might not conveniently be located around the corner from where you live. Location means nothing in this case.
And, even though you can learn something about the teacher following their posts, don't allow pretty pictures to cloud your judgement. The number of IG followers a teacher has means absolutely nothing in terms of their ability to actually teach. It only means that the person has put a lot of time and effort into their IG account, but certainly not that they have the knowledge and experience needed to guide you through this experience. Also, in order to teach you how to teach, your teacher trainer does not need to be hyperflexible or super strong. In fact, hyperflexibility is not healthy and I would personally steer clear of teachers showing this off on their social media. But, this is a new topic altogether…
Few things to avoid
Large groups - you don't want to be lost in a mass. It's nice when a teacher knows you and knows your name not only during the teacher training but years after as well. Groups of 30 or 40 students are, in my opinion, way too large. I try to keep mine under 20, both for my and my student's benefit.
No prerequisites - just last week a student of my friend wanted to go all the way to Costa Rica to attend a two week course with NO pre-training and NO prerequisites. Basically, they told her in an email that she doesn't need practice experience to join in. Wow. Everything is wrong with this story and I am happy she reached out to my friend and was warned in time.
Assistants teaching - Lead teacher or teachers (it can be two) should, under new YA 2020 standards, teach 70% of the curriculum and should both be ERYT 500. But, on many YTT's programme director, or the teacher who's training you came to attend, is not much around and so the majority of the programme is taught by assistants and other faculty members. Make sure this doesn't happen to you. Apart from not being aligned with standards (if the school is registered under YA) it’s not right.
Do your research, ask questions, send a hundred emails if you need to. You have the right, just like with everything else, to choose right for you.
Hope this helps.