September 9, 2013

Things I Wish I’d Known About Yoga Teacher Training. ~ Dani Cirignano

By: Lululemon Athletica

It’s late summer and I’ve been seeing lots of advertisements for Fall 200-hour yoga teacher trainings.

Perhaps someone out there might be considering signing up for one.

I know the feeling—like, me, maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for awhile—maybe it’s even changed your life and now you (like me) want to bump the commitment up a notch. The time feels right to immerse yourself in more than what is possible in 90-minute classes and the occasional workshop—and teacher training appears to be the logical next step.

I’ll be the first to admit that yoga teacher training (YTT) was one of the most growth-filled, healing, positive experiences of my life— I just wish I’d been prepared for what happened after I got my certificate.

If teaching isn’t an intention, then go ahead and skip over this post. If you are like me and your yoga-colored glasses are at a nice day-glo shade of rose, you might want to take heed.

Here is my list of things I wish I’d known when I made the choice to become a yoga teacher (as well as a few tips if you are still gung ho):

1. Have some experience practicing yoga (pro tip: yoga is more than asana). I thought this was obvious, and then recently attended an informational meeting for a training I am considering. A person signed up who had only taken a handful of classes. Again—if taking the training with no intention to teach right away, this doesn’t apply to you. All I know is this: $18 is a lot of money to spend on a drop-in class, so I’m going to make sure I’m getting my money’s worth.

2. Find a teacher you actually like and respect, and who has a life outside of yoga. Ideally, this teacher shows their faults every now and again and can speak from experience. Even more importantly, this person can own up when they make a mistake. Be very weary of falling prey to a cult of personality or lifting someone onto a pedestal. Disappointment will follow. Just because someone can stand on their hands for 10 minutes or throw their leg behind their head like it ain’t no thang does not actually mean anything other than that they are flexible.

Perhaps you’ve found your teacher and they start talking about the upcoming training. Let’s incorporate some critical thinking: YTT is yoga teachers’ bread and butter. I’d be willing to wager that often, the instructors are not actually invested in whether or not we ever become a teacher. This is another reason it is important to have an actual relationship with a teacher before signing up: study with someone who sees the value you will bring as a teacher and  uncover that value with the proper tools. Otherwise, we all run the risk of being a walking dollar sign.

3. Yoga is many things; if you choose to teach, one of the things yoga will become is business. Find out how much of the training is devoted to teaching how to navigate the business aspect of teaching yoga. There is a lot more to teaching yoga for a living than waltzing in and teaching class a few times per week.

Which leads me to my next tip:

4. Make sure there are systems in place to support new teachers. That might be mentoring with an experienced teacher. It might mean opportunities to practice-teach and get feedback. If there is no indication that you will be supported after you graduate, I say run.

5. Don’t quit your day job. Ever. I hate to break the news, but it’s likely that you might not start teaching right away. Scratch that—you definitely won’t start teaching right away. The day might come where you are able to survive off teaching, but until that happens you will probably need something at least part time to keep a roof over your head. The burrito budget only goes so far before fantasies about the stability of a previous cubicle life take flight.

6. When you do start teaching, don’t get attached to teaching at a studio. Volunteer. Teach at gyms. Grow skills in an environment where the expectations are lower and the gap can be closed on the learning curve without any unnecessary pressure.

7. Yoga teachers are not doctors, nutritionists, therapists, etc. I repeat, think critically. If a yoga teacher says something weird that raises those little hairs on the back of the neck or makes you feel queasy in the gut, listen to those messages.

8. Supplement your knowledge—200 hours does not make anyone an expert at anything. Read, take trainings and workshops across different disciplines and be curious about different methods outside your chosen style of yoga.

9. Most importantly! Feed your own practice. Continue to study and learn. Get support if you feel stuck. So many teachers start teaching, and stop practicing. Now that we are teachers, people look at us as a source of knowledge and it’s important that we stay connected to our center. Otherwise, we’ll forget why we ever set out to teach in the first place, or worse, well’ll let it go to your head.

10. Serious about becoming a yoga teacher? Do yourself a favor and approach finding a teacher training the way you would approach going to graduate school. Would you enroll at a university where all the teachers had nothing but weekend certifications? Didn’t think so.

Do your research. Read testimonials—and not just the ones the studio uses to market the damn thing.  Enjoy the experience and keep those feet firmly planted on the earth.

I learned the hard way (so hopefully, you won’t have to).


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Asst. Ed.: Linda Jockers/Ed: Bryonie Wise
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Dani Cirignano