7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Yoga Teacher Training.

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You’re loving yoga and how it makes you feel.

You’re loving going to class and being part of a yoga community.

You’re loving the other people you’re meeting and how open and loving and cool they are.

You especially admire and respect the cool, calm and collected yoga teacher spreading all the good vibes at the front of the room.

A thought arises.

Teaching yoga would be fun.

The idea develops.

I’d love to teach yoga.

You start looking up teacher training courses online.

Stop right there.

Before you go any further and before you commit money and time to a yoga teacher training course, here are the seven best questions to ask first and the answers you’re looking for.

Questions to ask yourself before signing up for Yoga Teacher Training:

1. Do you have a consistent, committed home yoga practice?

What’s the difference between a yoga student and a yogi?

One goes to classes and the other has a home yoga practice.

Who teaches yoga—the yoga student or the yogi?

The yogi.

If you want to teach yoga, first you need to develop a consistent, committed home yoga practice. If you’re still not practicing yoga at home, by yourself, with no DVD or audio recording, you’re not ready to teach yoga. If you’re not ready to teach yoga, now is not the time to do a yoga teacher training. (Unless you want to use the training to deepen your own practice and have no intention of teaching.)

Before you sign up for training, before you put down a deposit, before you even research on the internet, commit to a home yoga practice. In an ideal world, our yoga teachers would have practiced at home by themselves for years before they started teaching. Now, a minimum of six months will give you a strong foundation for beginning to develop as a yogi.

This home yoga practice is what sustains you as a teacher and it’s where you draw from in order to teach.

Correct answer to #1: Yes.

2. Have you found a style of yoga, or a teacher you love?

The answer to this question will spring out of the home practice you already have (right?). What do you practice at home? How to you practice at home? If you’re an Astangi yogi, it’s clear. If you’re an Iyengar yogi, it’s also clear. Maybe you’re drawn to a more integrated lineage like Satyananda. Or perhaps you’ve studied with one of the myriad of modern teachers who draw on a number of influences to craft their own particular style of yoga, like Shiva Rea, Ana Forrest or Sean Corne.

Regardless, until you find the yoga path that works for you, how can you know what to study, what to practice and therefore what to teach? It’s even possible that you’re not a Hatha Yoga teacher and are a Bhakti devotee, or even a Jnana’ian yogi. If you don’t know, explore.

Correct answer to #2: Yes.

3. Have there been independent, external clues drawing you to a teacher’s path?

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. It could also be said that when the teacher is ready, the students appear.

A clear clue that a teacher’s path is opening up before you is when for whatever reason, you find yourself teaching a yoga class. Maybe the teacher didn’t show up, maybe the teacher asked you to step in and cover him, maybe friends of yours asked you to take them through a short practice. Regardless, even though you’ve got no yoga teacher training, opportunities to teach keep arising in your life.

Other clues you’re ready to teach are teachers suggesting your look at yoga teacher training. If you’ve been working with the same teacher for a few years, they may be able to see you’re teacher material.

Correct answer to #3: Yes.

4. Are the resources for attending a yoga teacher training program lining up for you?

It takes time, money and support to attend a yoga teacher training program, especially if you have family commitments. You may desperately want to go to a training, but if you don’t have the money in the bank to make it happen, or the time available, it might not be the right time.

It could be tempting to borrow the money for a training, but given that yoga teachers (in general) struggle to make a living wage, starting a yoga teacher career already in debt is not a wise move. Better to work hard and save the cash first, while continuing to develop your own home yoga practice. Teaching yoga will always be there. The best teachers are those who have had years and decades of practice. Even if you don’t train until you’re 50, you’ve still got 30 or 40 years or teaching in front of you.

It’s important to have the time to train properly too. Don’t skimp on training because you can only spare two weeks looking for the shortest yoga teacher training available. Be honest and wait until you can devote the necessary time to a great training.

Correct answer to #4: Yes.

Now you’re got a solid home yoga practice, you’re in love with a particular style or teacher, there’s plenty of external clues that a teacher’s path is opening up before you and the necessary resources of time, money and support are all lined up, it’s time to check out yoga teacher training programs. Here’s what to look for.

Questions to ask of Yoga Teacher Training Programs:

5. Is the program well-respected and reputable?

Don’t rely on the rubber stamp of approval from others to determine the quality of a program. Just because a program has a certificate doesn’t mean it’s great. Even if the program is not certified, it could be well-respected and thorough.

If it’s important to you to have a recognized qualification, go for a program that offers that. If you’re most interested in the actual quality of the training, dig deeper and ask more questions. How long has the program been established? Who are the senior teachers? How many people have been through the training? Find someone who’s done the training and ask them about it.

Correct answer to #5: Yes.

6. Will I receive a thorough grounding in all aspects related to yoga teaching?

There is far more to training a yoga teacher then teaching them the correct alignment for a yoga posture. Besides teachings in asana, pranayama and meditation, you want a program that covers yoga philosophy to some degree including mention of concepts like Koshas, Kleshas, Yamas, Niyamas, Nadis and Prana(s). Ideally, yogic texts including Patanjali’s Sutras will at least be referenced.

The best program will support you in connecting to your own inner yoga teacher (without that, you can’t teach). It should touch on accessing intuition and wisdom, with some discernment thrown in there as well.

You also want a yoga teacher training program that offers some guidance on the business of teaching yoga, or at least the ethics of teaching yoga.

Correct answer to #6: Yes.

7. Does the program offer ongoing support and reasonable access to senior teachers?

This is important! Attending an intense month-long yoga teacher training can blast your psyche wide open. If you’re then shipped off back to the regular world with no ongoing support available, or access to the teachers who helped blow you wide open, you could end up in a terrible state.

Yoga is a powerful practice. Yoga in a group situation; day after day after day it is even more powerful. Any yoga teacher program that does not acknowledge this power and help students deal with any potential fallout is woefully negligent. This is even more important if you’ve experienced any deep trauma in your life which you may or may not have yet dealt with. Teacher training can bring it all up.

Before you sign up for the training, make sure you ask after the training, can I e-mail my teacher questions that arise about my practice?

Correct answer to #7: Yes.

If you read through those seven questions and answered yes for them all, congratulations, you’re ready to train as a yoga teacher and you’ve found the right yoga teacher training program to sign up for.

If you got no for some questions, you need to take some more time before committing to training. It doesn’t mean you won’t become a yoga teacher, it’s just that good things take time. Develop that home practice. Find that style you love. See what happens from there.

Laying a strong foundation before you even start yoga teacher training will only stand you in good steed over the long-term. And it could potentially save you thousands of dollars because you’ll choose the right yoga teacher training program for you.



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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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anonymous Jul 28, 2013 10:51am

Being a yoga student, no matter how experienced and being a yoga teacher are two sides of a coin.

The student receives and follows instructions. The student role is to relax and be open.

The teacher is not just teaching but always watching her students for signs that they might need help or could go further. A teacher needs to be prepared to ditch her plan and shift to whatever her students might need. Being a teacher is not necessarily relaxing, it can be an intensive, stressful, draining job. A teacher who is not 100% present for their students should teach something else.

Students looking to teach might want to be aware of this possibility.

anonymous Jul 27, 2013 7:07am

Currently 62, I've practiced yoga for 7 years, both at a studio and at home, and am, rather incredulously, being led to my 200 hour YTT at Kripalu at the end of the year. I feel that I am not pursuing YTT as much as it is pursuing me. Your article has helped me gain clarity and support for this journey, and for this, I am deeply grateful. Many blessings <3

anonymous Jul 24, 2013 5:04am

You forgot the "Have you been practising yoga for more than 5 mins?" 😀

anonymous Mar 1, 2013 11:48am

[…] […]

anonymous Feb 14, 2013 5:02am

[…] I began teaching in Washington, D.C. in 2003. I was fresh faced and eager to prove myself as capable and intelligent, but I was still a new teacher. Many classes were inspired. Just as many were train wrecks. I kept trying to hone my skills and be a better teacher. […]

anonymous Feb 11, 2013 8:00pm

[…] Maybe you finally pitching an article to a national magazine, or entered in your first marathon, or recorded your first single, or signed up for yoga teacher training. […]

anonymous Jan 29, 2013 4:50pm

Why is it important to have a home practice? Why is a regular practice at a yoga studio, especially at one of the lineage that you are going to do you TT in, not just as good (if not even better)? Please explain.

    anonymous Jan 30, 2013 11:50am

    Hey Chris,

    Going to a yoga class where the teacher takes you through a set practice and practicing by yourself where you take yourself through a practice are two completely different experiences. It's crucial that a wannabe yoga teacher has a home yoga practice.

    In class, the focus is external and while you may have your own insights and understandings, your connection to the yoga is still guided by the teacher. With a great teacher, this is a very valuable thing indeed. But you also need to have a consistent regular home practice. That is where you come face to face with yourself and develop your own relationship to Yoga – and I use the word Yoga in the fullest expression of the word, as a State of Being, not just as asana, which is a tool for yoga.

    Over time, a home practice will develop and change to meet your needs. In class, you get what you're dished up, which may or may not provide for your specific physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.

    At it's heart, Yoga is a personal practice. It's something we develop alone, over time, and through learning to trust and listen to the greatest teacher we will ever have – our own breath.

    So regular practice at a studio in the lineage you're going to train in is not enough, it's not just as good and it's most definitely not better. As I said in the article, students go to class, yogis practice at home (as well). To truly be a yoga teacher (not a yoga instructor, which is akin to just calling out an exercise class and has a different type of value), you need to be a yogi. And to be a yogi, you need a home yoga practice.

    Many of the yoga teachers we have today, some of whom are skilled and talented at what they do, are yoga instructors. They instruct postures. They're not necessarily teaching Yoga – a state of being which we arrive at or realize through the use of yogic tools like asana, pranayama and meditation.

    Great comment by the way, I hope this clarification was helpful.

anonymous Jan 29, 2013 4:26pm

Wonderful article. If more people followed these steps there would probably be a lot fewer teacher trainings, but that wouldn't neccessarily be a bad thing. The only thing I disagree with, being an ashtangi, is the first one, that you must have a "home" practice. In the ashtanga world I think the equivalent should be "Have you been a Mysore regular for xx months?"

    anonymous Jan 30, 2013 11:44am

    Hey Barry,

    I would call a Mysore practice a home practice, as your focus is internal on your own experience and you're not being guided through by a teacher. You may receive some assistance, but your primary focus is on your own experience. So yes, I agree, Mysore regular for ashtangis!

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Kara-Leah Grant

Kara-Leah Grant is an internationally renowned retreat leader, yoga teacher and writer. She pours her love into growing a world-wide tribe of courageous, committed, and empowered individuals through leading retreats in New Zealand, Mexico, and Bali. Kara-Leah is also the founder of New Zealand’s own awesome yoga website, The Yoga Lunchbox, and author of Forty Days of Yoga—Breaking down the barriers to a home yoga practice and The No-More-Excuses Guide to Yoga. A born & bred Kiwi who spent her twenties wandering the world and living large, Kara-Leah has spent time in Canada, the USA, France, England, Mexico, and a handful of other luscious locations. She now lives and travels internationally with her son, a ninja-in-training. You can find Kara-Leah on her website, or on Facebook.