The Yogi Muse on Choosing Teacher Training, Certification & Famous Teachers.

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Jan 18, 2013
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yoga teacher training


Dear Yogi Muse,

How should I choose a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) program? There are so many to pick from, and I don’t know what to do. Do you have any advice?

Perplexed Power Yogi


Dear Perplexed:

This must be January because in addition to losing weight and exercising more, lots of people decide it’s a good time to become a yoga teacher. A Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) could be the greatest thing you’ve ever done, or a waste of time. So it bears serious consideration before you plop down a wad of money and commit a ton of hours to your enlightenment.

For some of us, knowing which YTT to take appears like a burning bush. For example, I spent a week with Amy Ippoliti, and I knew I had to take a Teacher Training from her. But if the answer is not as clear to you, then here are some things to consider before signing up.

Do you admire this teacher and is this the style you want to teach?

All yoga is not the same, and even teachers who practice the same style of yoga are not the same. Choose the one you know and like.

Do you plan to actually teach?

If so, then ask your YTT what they offer to help you find a job. Do they have a database of community options looking for yoga teachers? Do they hire from their own TT program? Do they offer mentoring? Know what the job prospects are like before you spend $2,000 to get one.

Does the YTT need to be registered with Yoga Alliance?

For example, you are planning to teach at Pop’s Yoga Studio and Pop said he will hire you, so does it matter that it’s not affiliated with a recognized Yoga School or Yoga Alliance? It may not. But if you move, or if Pop goes out of business, then another studio may not accept your training as equivalent to a 200 RYT. You will have to start over and repeat your training. Om Namah Shivaya.

Do you need to register with Yoga Alliance?

Personally, I support Yoga Alliance and the effort it is making to regulate our business. I know it is not perfect, or even close to perfect. But when I joke in my blogs that “everyone is a yoga teacher,” well, just about everyone is also offering a Yoga Teacher Training (especially when this is a major source of studio income).

If you are being trained to work with people’s bodies; you should know what you are doing. You wouldn’t go to a doctor or hire a lawyer without a license, but some are quick to dismiss establishing standards in yoga. In my opinion, I would take a YTT from a known yoga school, with a certified teacher, and I would register with Yoga Alliance or at least another regulatory agency. And my opinion is what you wanted.

Does the YTT teach you about the poses, or does it teach you to teach?

There are really two kinds of trainings. One emphasizes how to teach, to lead a room and to cue the breath and postures. Another will teach you the poses. I have had both kinds of training and I’ve never regretted either one. However, I often see new teachers who know one or the other. If you are looking to deepen your practice, then learning how to move a room efficiently is not where you should be spending your time. And if you are looking to teach, be sure the program you select will give you those skills.

Should you take a YTT from your local teacher or travel to be with a famous one?

TTs range from $1,500 to $5,000 with the higher priced programs usually involving world famous teachers. If that is what you choose, be sure your famous teacher is actually going to be doing the teaching and not farming it out to his apprentices. Meanwhile, your local teacher, who has brought you this far to enlightenment, might also appreciate if you show up for her.

The bottom line is that your first YTT will probably not be your last. Yoga is endlessly revealing and where you start is only that, where you start. My own path has taken me from Ashtanga, to Power, to Anusara, to Iyengar. I am currently interested in therapeutic yoga as many of my students are older. But that is not where I started! As I like to say, there are no bad decisions. Only some decisions will lead you to others sooner than you expected!


Like elephant yoga on Facebook.


Ed: Kate Bartolotta


About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at And you can take her classes on


31 Responses to “The Yogi Muse on Choosing Teacher Training, Certification & Famous Teachers.”

  1. rob G says:

    Being registered with Yoga Alliance may affect your ability to get General Liability Insurance.

  2. Good information to consider. Thanks for sharing your insights! – K

  3. West Anson says:

    hmmmm….I have a "skewed" opinion on YTT and the YA as I have never attended any "Official" Teacher Training nor do I feel the need for the "toothless" YA. I teach more hours than many of the local Teachers and the YA is basically a irrelevant entity.

    I am convinced TT has become simply THE primary "revenue stream" for studios allowing them to remain viable options for Studio Yoga. What I see are simply "Yogi Mills" taking +$2000 from young people, predominately impressionable Yoginis, in swaths of 20-30 at a time. Six months later, when they "graduate", they realize there are not enough jobs out there for them to teach. The cycle starts all over again for the Studio as they have little concern for the "puppies" they churn out.

    Eventually the bubble is going to burst, if it hasn't done so already. So sad, as when it does people are going to be left with a very negative view of the Yoga Community and Yoga in-general. <sigh>

  4. OleManJake says:

    Interesting point of view. I've pondered the same for the last few months as I'm very interested in teaching Yoga as 'legitimately' as possible. However, I've been conflicted as to whether it's as you put it a "Yogi Mill" too.

  5. Michelle Marchildon says:

    West, yes! I couldn't agree more. YTT's have become the primary vehicle for revenue and often studios throw any teacher into the role of "Teacher," meaning someone who has been guiding yoga for 6 months and studied for 1 year, is now leading a YTT.

    How do we stop the yoga mills? Thousands of new yoga teachers enter the industry every year expecting to have work, when in reality, there are not that many openings and studios go out of business everyday. And you are right, YA has been toothless in the past. So how to guide students to the most reliable and reputable teachers? I don't have the answers, but I hope that regulation from YA or another body might provide one. At least if YA requires that someone has been studying/teaching for 5 years before they teach a YTT, at least that's a step in the right direction.

  6. Michelle Marchildon says:

    As an aside, I have been practicing for 15 years, teaching for 8, I'm an E-RYT 500 and I've studied several different types of yoga. Only this year have I felt ready to take the seat in various teacher trainings. I am amazed at the confidence of many teachers who feel ready to teach a YTT after 6 months. AMAZED!

  7. Coconut Blossom says:

    I have just completed a 200hr YTT. I took it to deepen my own practice and potentially create an alternative career. It has done amazing things for my personal growth and my perspective on life. I was taught asanas and adjustments, meditation techniques, yogic philosophy plus how to teach a class. However what was important to me was the spiritual awareness that it brought. I had a strong asana practice before so I was confident in my knowledge of the physical side but getting inside myself and learning to come from the heart was priceless. Yes YTT are a source of revenue but we all need to make a living somehow. Surely it is not a bad thing having more people out there spreading yoga to the world? 200hr YTT are basic trainings and it should be down to the individual to take personal responsibility for how safe their delivery is.

  8. giuseppe says:

    I would like to add that there is a major difference between a yoga teacher who went through a one month or number of weekends and a yoga teacher who went through a full certified course tha can work first for your yoga path giving you the skills to become first a yogin than a teacher…yoga is not a joke or the next fashion, one should consider that will work with the pranic body, the mental body and also the physical body…pranic, mental,,,,is not a joke….if done in a superficial way can affect people's life…..Consider to start from the traition and than move once you are sure to have the true nature of yoga made yours…Hari Om Tat Sat

  9. giuseppe says:

    you are 100% right…yoga is a path – can t be just another training…I would consider the abuse of this YTT acronomy…yoga teacher training…the heart of yoga can be reached by full immersion into the yogic sadhana….that path can be teached only when experienced at its full

  10. Stewart J. Lawrence says:

    Thanks, West. I don't think your opinion is "skewed" at all, and it's widely shared. However, given the rather blatant conspiracy of silence and obfuscation on this very issue, I'm not surprised you feel compelled to use quotation marks.

    I have yet to find a person of any real stature in yoga who doesn't think that the YTT system is inherently corrupt, or that it hasn't resulted in the training and certification of thousands of manifestly life-challenged, emotionally immature, and patently unqualified yoga teachers.

    However, getting these same people of stature to admit as much publicly, much less do anything about it is difficult. A A lot f women – amnd we're mainlyy talking about a female syndrome here – don't want to seem "unsisterly" by csalling into question what other women are doing. But I don't think the general public should be held hostage to what amounts to a feminist "enabling" experiment with the public as the guinea pigs.

    I have seen the dynamic up close and personal in a couple of yoga studios when I used to attend them. It's unseemly to watch and be subjected to. I am rather surprised that Michelle Marchildon would write such a superficial and uncritical "infomercial" for YTT and YA — though I am not surprised that EJ would publish it.

    (EJ editors – I would appreciate no further censorship of my comments. Grow up!)

  11. West Anson says:

    Well, how to avoid the “Yogi Mill”. I would look at the graduation rate and what those graduates are doing after TT. If they are still struggling to find part-time, let alone full-time positions, then I would avoid that School.

  12. West Anson says:

    How to stop the “Yoga Mills”? I don’t think it can be done because there is just too much money involved. I am convinced most Studios would fight “tooth and nail” to keep that revenue stream as it is their primary source of income. I think eventually the market will correct itself when there are 30 graduates and none of them can find a job. Which, by the way, I think we are approaching that point.

    As for the Yoga Alliance, they are part of the problem. What do they do with the money they receive? Do they follow up checking on these Schools and Teachers? Do they even do Background Checks? What they do is take people’s money and send them a nice card with their name on it. In layman’s terms that is commonly called a scam, just like “Name a Star”. But I digress.

    Unless the Yoga Community is ready to be regulated by a Government entity, which is fraught with it’s own problems and abuse, it will always be a self-regulated industry with these problems.

  13. West Anson says:

    I think you hit the real issue here when you said “make a living” teaching Yoga. That is why we have this problem because people want, think, and expect to “make a living” teaching Yoga. That leads to people making decisions based on money, not on whether it is “Yogic”.

    As for “spreading Yoga”, we are not Evangelicals. Yoga is at it’s core entirely individualistic in nature. In the past students actually sought out Gurus, not the other way around. Certainly we can let people know what Yoga is, but we should not be out there “preaching to the masses” like some late-night televangelist.

    When I see “superstar” teachers doing this, I get very concerned as they are treading on thin ice. If you seek public attention, be careful, you might actually get it and not be worthy or prepared for it.

  14. West Anson says:

    I used to be shocked when I would see new teachers beaming with confidence. The more I have looked and interacted with them, I have determined the confidence is more a product of the “Ra! Ra! You are awesome!” facade the Yoga Community seams to be permeated with nowadays.

    Teachers and Studios have been preaching “non-judgement” for too long. What the Yoga Community needs is a good bit of a reality check and to stop drinking the kool-aid. We need a little more self-discipline in our lives and interactions with others. I think of the Chakras as an example. We don’t want our Chakras wide-open or closed, we need them free-flowing, opening & closing properly and with intention.

    Certainly there are instances when a Student really is a good student and should become a teacher. But the vast majority of them simply want to take TT because it is the thing to do. Maybe what needs to happen is for students to practice Yoga for 2-3 years before they can be accepted into TT. But once again the economics of TT rears it’s head. Studios won’t let that happen for fear of losing a revenue stream.

  15. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I certainly didn't mean to write an infomercial for YA. But I am tired of seeing YTTs offered by teachers and studios with less than a year of experience. I don't have the answer. But at least requiring more experience, even if it is toothless, has to be better than nothing.

  16. HeatherM says:

    Hi, Here's my teacher Yogacharya Venkatesha's view on teaching programs today ~

    So far, no other Master teacher or Yoga institution has recognized in such a public way the inherent problems with YTT's and the on-going trend that is spiraling into more factory-made training programs.

    This kind of 'statement' may not be popular for many. However, it will guarantee that those who study under him are not seeking mere 'certification' but understand the path and the responsibility of teaching, studying and being a good practitioner first.

    Despite Yoga Alliance and other governing bodies, in the end, it will be up to individual teachers and schools to set the mark and protect what it means to be a teacher and student of yoga.

  17. Coconut Blossom says:

    I don't think I said we were evangelists or stated that we should be preaching to the masses.

    If someone wants to train to be a yoga teacher then it's up to them. If the market is flooded then that's life; it happens in every field.

  18. Nick says:

    "Personally, I support Yoga Alliance and the effort it is making to regulate our business." – Michelle Berman Marchildon

    According to Yoga Alliance's about us page, it "exists to confer credibility on qualified yoga teachers and schools so the public can have confidence in the quality of yoga instruction they receive. The organization maintains an online directory of yoga schools to recognize yoga teacher training programs that meet defined 200-hour and 500-hour standards."

    They offer a "do it yourself" online system to track your teaching hours. Studios pay money to get the yoga alliance rubber stamp. That's it. There's no regulation of our business there. The good news is, some of us can be trusted to self regulate. But Yoga alliance?

    Yoga alliance is a business oriented towards deceiving the public. They're basically pretending to be a regulatory body on an industry that doesn't have one.

  19. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I get that Nick. Completely. I just don't have the answer to how to fix it. I don't think they are purposefully trying to deceive the public. I don't think they sit at board meetings and say, "How can we deceive the public today?" Studios pay money, but they also submit a lesson plan and agree to have teachers who meet certain qualifications lead the program.

    And of course, most of this is on the honor system. I had to provide certificates, but of course, those could be manufactured or made up. In the end, students will decide which teachers they want to study with, not because of diplomas or certificates on the wall, but from the value they receive in yoga. What I'm trying to answer is how does the newer student to yoga find a reputable teacher, and not waste time and money on a charlatan. Maybe there is no answer?

    I wrote in my book, "The answers are overrated." Perhaps I should listen to that good advice?

  20. Michelle Marchildon says:

    In my next life, I want to come back with a name like "Coconut Blossom." Love that.

  21. Jenifer says:

    This is a different question than teacher training. How does a student find a reputable teacher? As far as I can tell, the process is largely luck. I think it's like that with everything, though.

    In terms of our industry, I think that there are structures that we can look to that can help us have an actual, minimum standard: 1. quality assurance accreditation of schools; and 2. examination of teachers before registry (and then on-going CEU standards, etc). We would also require a due process for complaints about individuals or schools, so that a person the body can determine whether or not the person should stay registered, or be offered a method of meeting the standard, or be categorically unregistered.

    And, it can still be all elective — schools don't have to do it, but if they do, there is at least a QA and due process. Individual teachers don't have to sit for the exam, but if they do, it's great.

    The YA standard with QA and due process would be decent for schools. And, a basic examination in proficiency — like a bar exam for yoga teachers — would be do-able for the registry. Backed up with due process, it would provide a lot of protections for everyone (teachers, schools, and prospective employers and clients).

    I learned the hard way about hiring people whom I haven't trained. Smart, lovely, keen people — but their educations varied wildly. It made it difficult for there to be coherency for the students. As such, I'm training teachers myself, drawn from my own students to teach the classes that I cannot teach (i'm at my max). As the program develops, I'll likely look to NZQA ( to assess the program, as opposed to organizations like YA. If that is required. It might be enough to just have a good reputation, to hand pick and train small groups of people, and hire them myself as the business grows — rather than just training teachers to go out and teach.

  22. Actually no, since YA is still not a licensing agency but rather one that maintains a database of registered teachers.

  23. I could not agree more West! Sadly, the American yoga "industry" has become an energetic pyramid scheme with an over-glamorized wrapper on it.

  24. Michelle Marchildon says:

    My first yoga teacher passed out in the room. PASSED OUT! And I thought she was the bomb. So I guess we really never know who is reputable, and who is not. If she hadn't of passed out, I'd still be in the health club doing silly leg lifts.

  25. Jenifer says:

    sorry, the link is wrong for some reason:

  26. […] Choosing a yoga class to regularly attend can be difficult. It’s important to know what one is throwing themselves into, and as these current generations come into yoga without parental or peer guidance, those sanskrit words can look pretty intimidating. […]

  27. Michelle says:

    I don't think this is a feminist issue, Stewart or a female syndrome. (I can only imagine how obtuse your censored remarks were, btw.) I've got a vagina, and I have no problem disagreeing with other women – or men – if I feel they are only doing a teacher training to make money and increase revenue.

    I've felt for years that teacher trainings have really just been revenue streams for studios looking to keep themselves afloat, plain and simple.

    As a studio owner, I know for a fact that I ran at a loss for the first three years I was open. Luckily, I had another revenue stream. I could pay my teachers, the rent and the insurance & phone. Little else was left. Sure, I could write off things like my own continuing ed/training, but, primarily, running a yoga studio and expecting to make enough to support yourself on drop-ins and memberships alone is well nigh impossible at first. It takes a long time to build a solid yoga community of dedicated students. Depending on an income stream from dilettantes is a bad business model.

    So, is a TT program an attractive idea? Absolutely, if you have to put food on the table or pay your mortgage, and have no other means, it's tempting. It creates more dedicated students. I've been asked by some students in the past if I would ever run one. While being flattered that they asked me, I also feel strongly that 200 hours is NOTHING in the way of learning such a complex system. That's the equivalent of five 40 hour weeks. To illustrate my point, how comfortable would anyone feel after 5 weeks of training in ANY subject? Comfortable enough to actually teach others about the subject?! Probably not. For those going to these studios with the fledgling yoga TT grads running classes, all I can say is, "buyer beware."

    I recommend if someone wants to teach, that they should study with ONE teacher or within ONE lineage for a very long time. Dig your well in one place. Every day. For at least 6 years, perhaps 10 even, before you start teaching. A teacher training can show you how to work a room, sequence postures, or how to run a "good" class, but it cannot create experience and a knowledgeable, seasoned practice, which is really only gained through doing the practice consistently, with reference for a long time – dirga kala.

  28. Nice Blog…
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  29. […] mentor had gone out of her way to get me the job. I had just finished my teacher training and was unsure if teaching was my forte. I had always had a fear of speaking in public, even though […]

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  31. Yogalife says:

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