06 Feb how to choose a yoga teacher training course
choosing a yoga teacher training course could be one of the most important decisions you could make.
there have been numerous occasions where I have been asked by students to recommend a Yoga Teacher Training Course (YTTC). But honestly, it’s really difficult for me to recommend a YTTC to someone. This is not due to a shortage of good courses out there because there are countless amazing and joyful trainings that could be undertaken.
my issue with being asked to recommend a yoga training course is that it is kind of like someone asking me whom they should date or what they should eat for dinner. What I mean is, choosing a YTTC should be a really personal matter and ultimately, it’s not the right question to be asking anyone else.
a more useful line of enquiry is to get to the core of the matter;
what is YOUR underlying intention for seeking out a YTTC?
a possible but not exhaustive list of reasons could be:
- you seek an experience for yourself to delve deeper into yoga practice
- you’d like to make yoga your profession
- you intend to teach part-time to compliment your other pursuits or your lifestyle
- you seek peace and healing
- you seek a challenge or adventure
- you want to develop an existing specialism that you have, for. eg. in education or healthcare or dance
once you’ve identified your intentions, the next priority is to ensure that the courses which you consider all fulfil the basic requirement of sufficient accreditation by a recognised regulatory body which would allow you to get insurance to actually teach.
the standard requirement at foundation level is 200 hours of training. In terms of regulatory body in the UK, you’re looking at Yoga Alliance Professions (YAP), the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY), The Independent Yoga Network (IYN) and Register for Exercise Professionals (REPS). They are all self-proclaimed regulatory bodies with none bearing any more credential than any other. (Although this is something that has been hotly but inconclusively debated recently.) you can read more about the regulatory situation in the UK to-date here.
the similarities between the 200–hour certification
the standard foundational 200 hour course (YTTC 200) means that when it comes to course content, there is a standard and basic criteria which needs to be met. Therefore there tends to be a lot more similarity between courses than there are differences.
this means that despite all of the marketing and what the yoga industry may lead you to believe, there is arguably quite limited diversity in terms of course content between YTTC 200’s.
for a potential trainee this is actually a reassuring thing. You can rest assured that whichever YTCC 200 that you do choose, you are likely to cover the same topics.
broadly speaking, (discussion of ‘quality’ aside) there will be syllabus devoted to:
- yoga practice including; postures, breathing and meditation
- teaching methodology; the how-to of teaching i.e. training in techniques and postures plus practice teaching
- anatomy & physiology
- yoga philosophy
- yoga lifestyle & ethics
- the business of yoga teaching
the differences in the 200–hour certification
therefore, where YTTC’s vary at this foundational 200-hour level can be considered as the below:
there tends to be a minimum standard to contact hours to be spent in each topic, i.e. Yoga Alliance requires YTTC 200’s to devote at 50% of contact hours to the practice of yoga. However there is scope for differences in allocation of contact hours across topics. Some courses may place greater emphasis and more contact hours in Anatomy & Physiology if the course creator felt that to be a important to focus on whereas other YTTC 200’s may prefer to devote more contact hours to Yoga Philosophy.
when choosing your course, it would be useful for you to consider what areas of emphasis best align with your own intentions and interests, but bear in mind overall the differences in emphasis can only really amount to 20 or 30 hours in one topic over another given the overall requirements of course content placed on the YTTC 200 by the regulatory bodies.
duration & structure
courses typically completed in 1-month immersions, 3-months, 6-months or 12-months and then there are also some 200-hour foundational courses which are completed in 3 years with weekend modules, possible with just one meet -up a month.
or there are courses, like Real Flow Yoga, which have been arranged into a combination of immersive; 2 week intensive immersion, followed by modular weekend trainings (3 x weekends and 1 x countryside 4 day retreat).
residential or non-residential YTTC
if it’s an immersion, chances are, the course will be held in an ashram or retreat-type centre where you stay for the duration of the course. Alternatively if the course is non-residential, accommodation is not provided and you attend the place of study as you would a regular training course or place of work.
the experience you may have in a residential training compared to a non-residential can be vastly different. Residential trainings create a stronger sense of communal living with possibly more changes in lifestyle occurring. There could be more regimented and structured meal, social and sleep timings, more monitoring, more rules and restrictions such as no mobile phones or contra-bands such as alcohol for the duration of the YTTC. This creates potentially more of an intense and challenging training experience but could potentially also be very effective and rewarding. You are provided the space away from your every day life with all of it’s temptations and distractions, to really observe yourself, go deep and test yourself. It’s a chance to break negative habits and create positive new ones.
in contrast, a non-residential training would allow you more freedom to continue your life as usual and also meet your other life duties such as familial or work so maybe you don’t go so deep into the yoga practice but possibly this option is more practical and convenient or realistic. You also get the opportunity to integrate and apply your training in your every day life in a more immediate way.
in my opinion, neither approach is superior to the other and it all depends on an individuals’ preference in learning style. Some people prefer to train over a longer period of time in order to spend longer reading information and gaining more teaching experience, whereas others prefer a shorter but more intensive training period in which they fully immerse in the practices. Personally in my experience, I have found that I have experienced my most profound breakthroughs and felt a deeper absorption of the teachings from within the intensive residential setting. Yet also, the non-residential trainings for me have been of equal value and importance and have equipped me with vital knowledge and served me in times when I haven’t been willing or able to ‘retreat; from my every day life. When choosing the duration of the course, it is important to consider how you best learn in addition to what would feel most convenient and practical for your life.
cost of YTTC
is a factor to consider. Price of a YTTC tends to range between nearly £4000 to as cheap as some ‘less yogic’ more fitness club style courses reputed to cost just £900. The YTTC is an investment into your life, so really you can’t put a price on it but that doesn’t mean the most expensive course is the most appropriate one to choose.
on the whole, like most things in this world, price wouldn’t necessarily be the only indicator of ‘quality’ but chances are, it is a pretty good proxy. Nowadays yoga is big business and expert teaching faculty are highly demanded and so expensive to hire. Real flow yoga costs £3,000 here you’re paying for the unique experience provided from the optimal training schedule of the ideal and convenient combination of immersive and weekend modules. Having 2 ‘retreat’ style modules means that the venue costs, which encompass everything from accommodation, meals and transfers in morocco and the UK countryside, in addition to the teacher training, form a fair proportion of the overall fee.
location of YTTC
do you want to be in India or Bali or Thailand or Spain or London or California? The choice really is yours! I don’t mind admitting that I chose some of my teacher training courses based on where I fancied travelling to! A decision that I’ve never regretted…
yoga ‘style’ taught on YTTC
there is a never-ending list of yoga styles to choose from, which can be rather bamboozling if you take it all too seriously. My advice is not to! There is ultimately only ONE yoga. Styles all boil down to tempo and intensity and if you work out where you are and what you need on the spectrums of tempo and intensity you can start narrowing down your search. Granted your previous yoga practice experience should give you some idea of what you tend to prefer to practice. Here is my article on all the different styles of yoga that you can choose from. It’s best to choose a style that resonates for you rather than what you think you ‘should’ do or what you think is most popular. Trends come and go but for your interest to be sustained, you need to have an affinity for the practice beyond ‘the shoulds’.
yoga teacher / teaching faculty
maybe this should be first on the list…Indeed Yoga Alliance Professionals require that the Main Senior Teacher is required to teach at least 70% of the course content. Chances are that you choose the yoga teacher training course predominantly because of the teacher. I would say that this is a good thing. It’s great if you already know and resonate with your teacher. Teachings are much more easily learned when the path to transmission is not obstructed with any doubt or negativity.
however, knowing and loving the teacher is not the be-all-and-end-all. For example, I absolutely love Shiva Rea and I am Prana Flow certified and I certainly hold Shiva dear to my heart as a beloved and revered guru BUT there are times when I seek a slightly different energy or a different set of skills or emphasis or I may require a different learning environment for example, her trainings are so busy and popular but sometimes I find I need to be in a small intimate group setting to learn.
therefore I would say, don’t rule out a YTTC, just if you haven’t encountered the teacher before. Of course, do as much research on them in advance as possible, read their bio, website, social media, any articles, find out their training background, any testimonials or alumni student reviews? practice with them or speak or write to them to find out about their teaching approach as much as possible.
having said this, another personal example I can provide here is that I did all of this and based on my thorough research, I decided to train with a teacher that I never knew of. I felt I had a good idea of their credentials and felt confident and positive about the YTTC. So I went for it. During the YTTC it became quite clear that I didn’t resonate with the teacher on many levels, I actually didn’t like them on a personal level or their approach to teaching. I was initially frustrated, disappointed and at times, insolent. Nevertheless I still learned an incredible amount directly and indirectly from them and I still feel grateful to this day for having studied with that particular teacher.
I realised that when you are a placing yourself in the role of a student, you have a responsibility for your own learning as and equal to the teacher’s responsibility for teaching. The teacher-student transmission can be thought of as two-way traffic on a single road. You are more likely to succeed if you lose your sense of entitlement, ego and judgemental attitude. Being in the learning-state in itself can trigger all kinds of uncomfortable subconscious foibles and insecurities so it’s important to be mindful of ones’ own conduct as a student.
course ethos / tradition / lineage
there are a whole range of schools and traditions which offer yoga teacher training programs. There are very classical traditional orthodox indian lineages to contemporary fusion-style western styles. Make sure you go with what feels authentic and right for YOU. I know of too many instances where people trot off to india because they have this impression that India is where you will pick up authentic yoga. It’s a little bit naïve. There is very authentic YTTC’s nowadays anywhere in the world. Consider instead what qualities, techniques or skills that the lineage may emphasise to see if that fits with your intention of training.
size of group
I’ve been in a YTTC where I was just 1 of 3 trainees and I have also been on a YTTC where I was 1 of 200 trainees. Size does matter. It can really make a difference to your learning experience. Again, big or small doesn’t mean good or bad and there are relative pros and cons to whatever the size of the group. A big group may offer the opportunity for networking with peers and building community which is great for support and collaboration whereas a smaller group means more personal attention from your teacher to help you to progress at your own level with your own specific requirements. Energetically speaking a big group can either inspire you and carry you through or it can make you feel lost or alone, a small group could feel a little uncomfortable or too intimate if all of the attention is on you. An important thing here is how the teacher (and assistant teachers) hold the space for your experience.
when you know, you know
ultimately, I conclude by saying that the best way to choose your YTTC is by going with your gut feeling. Go with the flow of what you feel like you want to do. Never what you think you should do or what you think would be ‘best quality’ or ‘the most highly esteemed’ or is the ‘most popular / commercially viable’. None of those reasons will sustain YOUR interest in the way that a true transformative yoga practice and teaching path should do.
the feeling of finding the right course, is a little like when you find the right new apartment to rent or when you meet the right partner. Perhaps the YTTC doesn’t tick all of the boxes, perhaps it’s not perfect on paper but it just somehow feels right for you. When you go with that instinct, you can rest assured that the YTTC you have chosen isn’t going to be a mistake and will always be what you needed at that time.
in my 1000 plus hours of YTTC’s that I’ve undertaken, I have never done ‘the wrong’ training, I’m a firm believer in letting the small details work themselves out because let’s face it, you won’t be in control of everything and yoga is such a huge topic that it’s never going to be possible for you to get everything that you need from just one YTTC.
your first YTTC is when you realise that the journey has just begun… it may qualify you as a ‘teacher’ but really it is when you will realise that you are just starting out the path as a yoga student and this realisation comes with joy, excitement and anticipation!
by tammy mittell, course director