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

Via Dani Cirignano
on Sep 9, 2013
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By: Lululemon Athletica
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


About Dani Cirignano

Dani Cirignano is a writer, wellness coach, and yoga instructor living in the sunny Mission District of San Francisco, CA. She is the founder of Every Day Sage, a health practice devoted to helping people slow down and re-connect to the wisdom lurking under the radar of busy city life. After a lifetime of thinking otherwise, she recently realized she is a total introvert, and is thrilled to now have an excuse to continue spending every Friday night at home in her cozy apartment. You can find her journaling, at dance class, or whipping up something yummy in the kitchen.


18 Responses to “Things I Wish I’d Known About Yoga Teacher Training. ~ Dani Cirignano”

  1. Caroline says:

    Such good advice! There are so many teacher trainings and they're sooooo expensive. I personally want to feel supported, not feel like a dollar sign.

  2. acorn says:

    This is wonderful and so true.


  3. acorn says:

    This is wonderful and so true.

  4. Kamala says:

    I love these suggestions. I enrolled in and paid for a 10 day teacher training at a studio in Santa Barbara years ago w a famous yin and hatha teacher. Things came up… I found myself in the midst of a personal life and health crisis and the added expense of ten days of hotel and food on top of everything was more than i could handle. I had missed the full refund deadline by a couple days, but thought for sure i would get at least *something* of the 1200$ plus back (which was a huge chunk of money in my early twenties!)… But neither the studio or teacher would refund a dime. I pleaded my situation in detail to the studio owner, the teacher, the teachers husband via email and phone…Practically begging, but in the end, it was about the dollar and whatever bottom line they seemed to have. I could understand them keeping a percentage, of course… Deadlines are deadlines, but the lack of compassion and care for my situation left such a bad taste in my mouth…. I certainly don't think yoga teachers are obligated to give their work or energy away, but in that case, they still had at least two weeks to replace me. It was a disheartening experience.

  5. Excellent advice!. Keep you day job… the 200 hour training is only the beginning.

  6. Dani says:

    thank you! glad it resonated 🙂

  7. Tricia Ptak says:

    Thanks for having the courage to be honest. This situation is only becoming worse with big box style YTTs springing up daily. It is a true commitment and a dear fellow yogi recommended that people practice for at least 5 years prior to taking YTT with the intent of teaching.

  8. Dani says:

    Sigh. I hear you.

  9. jasmine says:

    Thanks for posting this article. In the last few years unfortunately it has been my experience that most studios use teacher trainings as a way of making $$$. So the take anyone. We have a limit of 16 trainees & really look for teachers not someone wanting to dive in deeper. There are plenty of wonderful workshops out there for that. It's called teacher training not I want to deepen my my practice. LOVE jj

  10. Dani says:

    That's awesome! I would love to find something like that 🙂

  11. Great job! This article is both thorough and interesting and, as a fellow yoga instructor, I think you gave future teachers some great advice.

  12. Amy says:

    I'd like to know more about your 'weekend certifications' comment. For some, who have those important day jobs, taking a hunk of time out of life or your bank account just isn't feasible. I am approaching 200 hours, but it's taken me almost 10 years, because well, life is busy. Work and family, and finances. I'm very happy with the school I've chosen, save for a few things, but I didn't love everything about my undergrad or grad institutions prior to the yoga teaching path. Are you suggesting that because my 200 hours has come from a boatload of weekend workshops, as well as teaching the whole time (7 years of it volunteering at that corporate day thing that pays for my health insurance and affords me to go to teacher training) isn't 'authentic?'

  13. befunknote says:

    I don't know…isn't there something to be said for learning to be your own teacher? I don't think you should discount people who want to dive deeper into their practice, maybe they will teach eventually.

  14. Dani says:

    I think it's pretty obvious that that's not what I'm suggesting. I still have a day job as well–I honestly have no idea if it will ever be possible for me to teach full time and support myself. Considering all the current yoga scandals, I see it as appropriate to suggest that people do their research before signing up for a TT–which it sounds like you most certainly have. I never touted myself as an expert in authenticity–I'm speaking from my own personal experience, and it's understandable that not everyone will agree with me.

  15. Amy says:

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. I doubt I'll ever be supported by yoga, but that's not why I wanted to teach. The first yoga studio I went left me feeling bad about not being able to do all the asanas and I'd never done yoga before, so I was bummed and a little dejected. But I stuck that experience out because I began to love yoga. I knew there must be better teachers out there, only there really wasn't in my town at that time. I started getting yoga journal, and found the ad that said 'yoga is for every body.' I wanted to let people know it IS for every body. Ten years later, that I what I teach most, no ego, no judgement. This is yoga, it should be a happy peaceful place. I find that there's a little too much analysis, scrutiny and pretentiousness in the Western yoga world. It's yoga and it's meant to be shared and loved and embraced, but it's also a very personal journey. And we as instructors are really just the tour guide on the journey.

  16. Reviewer says:

    This article is extremely helpful. I wish I read this before I embarked on my YTT. I had a disaster experience when I booked with a centre in Greece called Breath of Life and once I arrived I realised it was extremely disorganised, unprofessional and the manager was disrespectful and rude. I did my research but it just wasn't enough. I got a refund after losing a bit of money but it's better to reinvest it into a professional, recognised school. I will make sure I am much more wise next time and follow your advice.

  17. chandra says:

    Thank you for sharing this blog,

    Yoga is a Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline. Yoga is a philosophy of Hindusim that requires mental, physical and spiritual connection in order to achieve enlightenment. Lord Shiva was the first yogi as per the authentic Vedic texts in which Yoga was first taught.

    200 Hours yoga teacher training India has been designed to understand and experience the yoga deeply with its full meaning and attention. The 200 hrs yoga teacher training provides a comprehensive knowledge about the proper asana pranayama madras bandha, shatkarma, anatomy physiology methodology philosophy Alignment and much more one can expect from a yoga teaching course.

    Yoga is a Hindu physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline. Yoga is a philosophy of Hindusim that requires mental, physical and spiritual connection in order to achieve enlightenment. Lord Shiva was the first yogi as per the authentic Vedic texts in which Yoga was first taught.

    I love how I'm learning things about myself mentally, physically and spiritually and how they are all connected. Going through my daily life I find myself thinking about the things I learned during my yoga practice. Things like my breathing, posture, letting go of things I can't control and living in the present moment. Physically yoga has helped tremendously with my flexibility and strength. With my new eating plan and practicing yoga I have lost a little over 40 lbs. I'm starting to feel muscles in places I didn't even know I had muscles!

    I'm so thankful that I found YogaStair! My journey is ongoing and always changing with every yoga practice. I love the fact that I feel better.

  18. Turiya says:

    I have also joined the Yoga classes in Turiya yoga centre and I have never felt uncomfortable in a spiritual way. Even during meditation only you know what you are focusing on in your mind. I always say that God is love, peace.
    Yoga has greatly increased my strength, my patience and even my flexibility. And I am really very happy while doing yoga and after yoga.