I thought about pursuing a yoga teacher training for about 7 years before I actually decided to do it. There always seemed to be other priorities (or excuses) that got in the way. When I finally decided that the time seemed right, I was still scared to take the first step. When I met with the director of the yoga teacher training I was interested in, she told me that if I had come that far, I was ready. It’s now been almost a year since the first day of my yoga teacher training, and I know she was right. Chances are if you are reading this article and beginning to research teacher trainings, you are ready too. Now, what next?
Reflect on your goals
What do you want out of the experience? If you aren’t sure, take some time to reflect or meditate on what you want. Writing it down can help as well.
Generally, most teaching positions will require at least a 200-hour training. Some may also require Yoga Alliance Certification. If you complete a 200-hour training that is registered with Yoga Alliance, you can become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT). Although this is the gold standard in yoga teaching, the credential may or may not be important to you. If your goal is to teach at a gym or recreation center, the requirements to teach might be less strict, and maybe a weekend course is the way to go.
You may be willing to invest more time and money into a program that will train you not only how to teach but also how to market yourself as a yoga teacher if you’re contemplating a career change. On the other hand, if you want to deepen your practice or test out a teacher training before committing, training programs such as YogaWorks and YogaFit offer shortened trainings of 12 to 20 hours to give you a glimpse into a teacher training. If you decide to go for the full training later, those hours won’t be lost.
Know what you’re getting into
The program I chose was the self-proclaimed “Harvard” of teacher trainings. I didn’t know that I when I signed up. Was that necessary for my goals? Maybe not.
Here is where research really is important. Your regular studio may offer a teacher training, and it’s an easy choice, but you may need to visit other studios, talk with directors of the programs, and attend classes to get an idea of what the program is really like. Ask to talk to former students if possible. Take the time needed to research your options before diving in. The process to finding a teacher training is different for everyone. My search began with Google, but that was truly only the beginning.
Consider various styles of yoga and whether you need specialized training to teach that style. If you know for sure you want to teach Bikram yoga, then it makes sense to complete a Bikram-style training. Regardless, be familiar with the content of the trainings you’re researching. Are you more interested in asana and anatomy, or do you want to learn about yoga history, philosophy and the other 7 limbs of yoga?
Go for it, but be realistic
Immersion courses are appealing because they allow you to complete the training in a short time period, and you can truly devote your time and energy to the task at hand without too many distractions. My dream teacher training was a month-long intensive program, but I would have had to pay for housing and take time off of work. In the end, the sacrifices did not outweigh the benefits for me, so I kept looking. I ultimately chose a weekend course so I could continue my full-time job while completing the training. It worked great for my schedule, but with classes, homework, and daily yoga practice, it was still a huge time commitment. Be realistic with how the teacher training can best fit into your life. What works for you?
Online trainings can be a great option. When I began contemplating doing a yoga teacher training, I asked my favorite yoga teacher at the time where she completed her training. She enthusiastically told me that she completed hers online. At the following week’s class she brought me tons of materials about her program and a coupon! It ended up not being the right fit for me, but great yoga teachers have diverse backgrounds and experiences.
You will most certainly consider the financial commitment you are making. Teacher trainings can vary from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand (or more).
Trust whatever is leading you to this journey, and don’t be afraid to take that final step toward pursuing a yoga teacher training.
Remember to approach the journey to becoming a teacher in the same way you approach your yoga practice: with acceptance, openness, and self-compassion. If you are getting stressed out, take a step back and reassess. Is now the right time? What is causing your stress and what, if anything, can you do about it?
Regardless of what you think you’ll get out of the experience, expect to be surprised with how you will grow and change. I knew it would deepen my practice, but I did not expect to what depth it would go. I thought it would be physically challenging, but did not anticipate the spiritual challenges that came with self-study. Everyone will experience different gifts from yoga teacher training, so open your heart and mind to what may come.
Jannan Poppen currently lives in Tempe, Arizona where she advises university students who are preparing to study abroad. She has lived and studied in Latin America and Europe, and she first discovered yoga while studying in France. Jannan believes in the transformational power of both travel and yoga. She also loves to hike, bake and eat local food.
A few fun pictures from Yoga Travel Tree team member Sarah's yoga teacher training in 2011.