Interested in yoga teacher training? Consider these 5 Factors (July 2017)

Last night after leading a class in La Jolla, I got to talking with one of the front desk studio helpers about her search for a 200HR yoga teacher training, as she’s having trouble weeding through the many programs available across San Diego and beyond.

She’s right. Especially in Southern California where you’ll find hundreds of yoga studios between LA and San Diego, every studio has it’s own teacher training, many of them churning teachers out by the multi-dozen. In turn, those graduates eventually create their own programs once they’ve got that “E” in front of their “RYT,” and so forth.

The market is saturated, trainings only require limited standards for those registered with Yoga Alliance (the most popular registry which oversees, but does not regulate, yoga teaching certifications), and teacher training is where studios make the big bucks to remain open and propagate their perspective on the practice–so everyone wants to offer one.

I’ve had conversations like this before, and thought it would be helpful to list the major factors I always tell people to consider before making their choice. Here goes!

  • Your Motivation

Decide why you’re signing up in the first place, because this will determine the type of training you should seek. Are you doing this with visions of becoming a famous yoga teacher, leading workshops and retreats around the world? You’ll want to train with a famous, well-established teacher or training. This isn’t to say that you can’t become that kind of teacher without a ‘name-brand’ training or that unknown programs are low-quality (definitely not the case!), it’s just that the name recognition will be a big help later on as you move around.

Do you want to teach on a local scale, with a desire to embed yourself in a yoga community where you can get to know students over a longer period of time, possibly taking the role of a yoga leader in your community? You’ll want to take a training with a studio and community that resonates with you, in a place to settle into long term.

Is it only to deepen your practice? As in, you don’t want to teach. Again, best to go with a studio and teacher that resonates with you. The focus of the training doesn’t need to be as rigorous in this case in terms of anatomy and teaching methodology, but it’s wise to still choose the best because #1, you’re spending a decent chunk of money and time to do this, and #2 the vast majority of teacher trainees who go in not wanting to teach are hit with the inspiration to give back during training. If it happens that you change your mind mid-training and you’re in a low-quality program (in terms of teaching others) because it was initially just for you, you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing your homework.

  • Length of Time

What’s your learning style? A true 200HR TT offering ranges anywhere from a minimum of 2 weeks to a year, or more. The shorter the training, the more “intensive” it will be–which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you learn, what your lifestyle is like, and the time you can afford to spend on this endeavor.

While it’s nice to be immersed in all things yoga for a couple weeks, it can be hard on your life outside the mat, and it doesn’t often leave room for mindfully absorbing the abundance of information coming at you. Maybe you are lightning quick and you just want that intense experience? Make sure your intentions align with what’s best for your future students. Generally speaking, if you want the shorter training because you’re in a hurry to get your certification, you might want to think twice about your intentions and how well rushing the matter will really serve you.

Personally, my own training spanned 3 months with 16 hour weekends. I had no life outside work during the week, and I loved it, but looking back I wish it had been spread out more to leave ample time for me to absorb and practice teach during training (I’m a slow learner). Luckily it all worked out, but I took my time with my 3-year-old 300HR program.

  • The Teacher(s)

You want to be sure the teacher or teachers leading the training are experienced, with a good rep in the yoga community. Talk to people who have trained with them. Take several classes from them to be sure you like their style and that you enjoy the community and atmosphere of the studio, as this will color your own training and how you feel inside of it.

And again, if you’re signing up with ambitions to be a successful yogi-preneur traveling across the globe, invest in training with a widely-known yoga teacher doing just that, as your first training is also a bit of a mentorship opportunity with the lead teacher trainers during this time and over the years to come. 

Ideally, whether you train under a lesser-known or popular teacher, you want the instructors to be organized, professional, generous with their time and the resources they offer, highly knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of styles–especially in teaching methodology, anatomy and safe sequencing. There are teachers leading trainings out there that don’t really know what they’re doing; the ones to really avoid will be all over the place in terms of organization and structure. Yes, you want that certificate, but you also want to learn it to earn it, rather than simply paying to get it. 

  • Class Size

This is a big one. It’s common for popular trainings (often with famous instructors) to have over 50 people in one cohort. I would not doubt there are some with up to 100 individuals in the same class. There are also programs with just half a dozen individuals, where you can imagine the group experience is much more intimate.

Numbers matter for several reasons. The amount of people along for the ride with you in this life-changing experience makes a huge difference in the quality of instruction, the quality of your learning, and your ability to closely interface with and ask questions from your teacher.Whether a large group is good or bad, again, depends on how you learn and what your personality is like.

Generally speaking, smaller class size is better if you’re interested in a higher quality training. When it comes to education, there’s no doubt that greater access to the teacher cultivates a deeper understanding of the material.

  • Studio Reputation

Another biggie. What’s the word on the studio you’re looking into? Are they a shining example of yoga ethics or do they have their own shady interpretation of it? What are their Yelp reviews like? Do they put out quality teachers, or are they a “teacher mill” of sorts, just collecting the dues and handing out certificates?

Without naming names, I know of a few studios that are known for putting out not-so-great instructors, but they do it 30-40 people at a time. Be wary of narrowly focused programs that include a more fluff than real substance, and wary of poorly run studios or programs, as that speaks to how the information will be presented to you within the training.

Reputation will take a bit of digging to find out without being on “the inside” (in the pool of yoga teachers it’s much easier to hear of these things). Start by speaking privately with a couple of your favorite teachers to see where they did their training, and ask them to share what they know about the ones you’re interested in.

That about covers it. Do you have any other points you would add? Questions or comments about what stood out to you in this article? Leave a comment.