Not all Yoga Teacher Trainings are created equal.
In my area, there are at least five 200-hour yoga teacher trainings to choose from. What distinguishes a great training from an average or poor training? The best way to know what you’re getting yourself into is to go straight to the source.
Call the teacher training program director and ask these five essential questions:
1. Does this training focus on a specific style of yoga?
If you want to become Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram, etc. certified, you’ll have limited training options. If you choose a training based on a certain asana style, know that as you change and grow as a teacher, it may be necessary to do another rudimentary training. But as long as alignment is the focus of the training, then you’ll likely still get a good foundation. Just make sure the program allows room to be an individual as you develop your voice.
Alternatively, attending a general “hatha yoga” based training might provide a broader overview and a better idea of where to go with your continuing education after your initial 200-hours is complete.
2. What is covered in the curriculum?
The training should thoroughly cover alignment for all of the basic poses, relevant anatomy for those poses, different types of sequencing, philosophy that is passed down accurately in accordance with the school’s chosen philosophical tradition (Vedic, Tantric, etc.), breathing techniques, art of teaching lessons and some chanting.
3. What does the faculty specialize in?
I personally like to see a diverse, experienced faculty with varying specialty backgrounds to guarantee the most non-dogmatic experience. It’s ideal to have at least one faculty member that specializes in teaching beginners and seniors, one that specializes in teaching intermediate classes, restoratives, etc.
4. Are there plenty of opportunities to practice teaching?
This is a must! I know several people who managed to get through their entire training without practicing teaching in front of their peers even once. A strong program should have you on your feet, teaching poses to the class at least 10 times over the course of 200 hours.
5. How often will we be practicing?
The only way to become a better teacher is to remain a student. Practice, practice, practice! Attending public classes with the program’s faculty members helps trainees articulate alignment cues seamlessly and will generate ideas for creative, safe sequencing and theming.
After speaking with the director, seek out new teachers that recently graduated from that program. Take a class with them and talk to them about their training experience.
Keep in mind that most people are not extraordinary teachers as soon as they graduate from their first YTT. It takes time to integrate what we learn and practice into our teaching. But putting ourselves out there and doing our best is the only way to grow.
If we remain students of yoga first and foremost, the opportunity exists to one day become extraordinary and influential teachers. It all begins with a great foundational training.