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I began practicing yoga sporadically in my early 20s, and I still recall the number of times I saw a teacher approach a student after class to let them know how “strong of a practice they had” and how “incredible they would be as teachers.”
They would then be invited to take the studio’s yoga teacher training (YTT), and I’d see their eyes light up, nodding in excitement.
I couldn’t fail to notice something, though. The “perfect student” seemed to often have similar characteristics: a white young woman, able-bodied, fit (whatever the hell that means), and, most likely, with a dance background, or simply the ability to move their body gracefully. None of which, by the way, are prerequisites to becoming a skilled yoga teacher.
Even though I was never “the chosen one”—nor did I want to be—I got to a point in my life where the benefits of yoga were undeniable, and since I had begun incorporating yoga into my daily routine and was beginning to teach little pieces of the practice to my figure skating students, I decided to take the plunge and find a yoga teacher training.
It was no easy feat because at the time, Yoga Alliance—one of the main governing and regulating bodies in the yoga industry—did not endorse virtual trainings.
I was living in Miami at the time and the offer and variety were great, yet it wasn’t.
I visited several studios searching for a space where I felt welcome and safe to open myself up to the journey that is taking a YTT, yet most spaces were too expensive, required a time commitment that my semi-nomadic lifestyle would not allow, and to be frank, had a homogenous staff and student body, and the curriculums seemed to only skim the surface.
I craved depth.
I eventually found the right fit: a small group training in a studio in Miami Lakes, led by one of the most real people I know, my now mentor and friend, Claire Santos, where I found all that I needed, and then some.
The goal of a 200-hour YTT is to provide you with tools for self-exploration from the perspective of yoga. It is a foundational course designed to dive beyond the physical yoga practice and into the eight limbs of yoga, which incorporates some of the basic principles of the yogic path and lifestyle.
In a yoga teacher training, the intention is to help participants expand their philosophical and critical thinking through yogic principles and texts, and, of course, to teach you about the roots, origins, and the “why” of yoga as well as how to share it with others in a wide range of settings, not just in yoga studios.
Unfortunately, many trainings have a strong focus on instructing trainees how to perform asana, write sequences, and adjust students, which I believe totally misses the mark.
It can be hard to choose sometimes, especially when there aren’t many details given beforehand and it is quite an investment for most of us.
I have now taken and led several 200 and 300-hour teacher trainings myself, so here is a small list of the things to look for and consider before you choose the right Yoga Teacher Training for you:
1. Why Do You Want to Take a YTT?
If you know me at all, you probably already know that to me, it all goes back to “why.”
Even though these programs are called yoga teacher trainings, you don’t need to want to be a yoga teacher to join one. Perhaps you’re genuinely interested in personal growth and are aware of the benefits yoga has already had in your life and just want to dive deeper.
Perhaps you have been practicing for a few years and are already clear on the community that you’d like to serve once you graduate from the training.
Maybe you’re not sure if you want to teach, but you know that you’re ready for the knowledge.
All reasons are valid, just know yours.
2. Location, Schedule, and Size
Since the pandemic, there are hundreds of options out there: from in-person, to hybrid, to fully online. Some of these trainings combine live portions with pre-recorded sessions, and others are fully live.
There are benefits to all three methods, so be realistic about what would fit your lifestyle best.
In-person trainings allow for more connection with your cohort and the teaching staff as well as a more interactive space to learn, for example, the physical postures and adjustments.
Hybrid trainings allow for more flexibility since only certain modules require you to be physically present at the studio.
A fully-online training may be the way to go for you if transportation is a challenge, you feel safer in your own private space, or perhaps if you travel a lot.
Just know what you have the capacity for. Being in a physical space with other people can be both energizing and draining, but so can sitting in front of a computer for hours.
When it comes to length and schedule, you may find two-week YTT immersions in Bali or another paradisiac location that compress it all in packed-full days of training, but there are also year-long trainings at the local studio down the road from your home.
It’s important to know what adapts, once again, to your lifestyle, your pace, and your needs.
Perhaps for your schedule, it works best to take a month off and travel somewhere else to fully immerse yourself in the YTT, avoiding distractions, and ensuring that you’re able to complete the training.
For others, it may be more beneficial to find a training that is held one weekend a month for a year, or maybe weekly for a few short months, whether online or in person.
Taking a YTT is a time and energetic commitment, so make sure you choose one that has a schedule that supports what you need.
3. Curriculum and Staff
If you choose a teacher training that is registered with Yoga Alliance, there are certain elements that will be present across the board, like how many contact hours, observation hours, and teaching hours a trainee must complete in order to meet the YA standards.
However, there is much left to interpretation and to the discretion of each yoga school, so take the time to visit the schools you’re considering and take a few classes with the teachers that will be part of the YTT faculty. That’ll also allow you to get a feel for the community that their particular style of teaching and showing up attracts.
4. Accessibility Matters
If what you think of accessibility in yoga is seniors or people with disabilities doing chair yoga, think again. It is definitely that, yet it means so much more.
Accessibility in yoga goes beyond making the physical practice accessible; it expands all the way to the pricing of the training, payment plans and options, the layout of the studio or the online platform, and even the languaging being used during the training.
When you scout the yoga school that you are considering, keep these things in mind: what do they do for the community to create more access, inclusivity, and equity? Do they have community classes? Scholarship programs? Perhaps tiered pricing for some of their offerings?
How do teachers demonstrate in their classes? Do they offer options, variations, and props in order to provide a wide range of options for their students’ needs or do they teach a one-size-fits-all sequence?
Do they use inclusive language?
The way in which the yoga studio or yoga school presents itself to the public will directly relate to how they prepare, teach, and execute their YTT, so choose wisely. How we do anything is how we do everything.
One of the boxes that to me MUST be ticked when choosing a YTT is if they are trauma-informed.
Do they offer a module in which trauma is explained, explored, and demystified? Does it teach the students to create spaces that are safe for different types of trauma?
As our society gains more resources to understand, support, and often heal trauma, as yoga teachers, we must access these tools and utilize them in our teaching.
Most of us deal with trauma, and it is paramount that the yoga spaces we inhabit teach from a place of understanding, yet empower us safely forward.
When it comes to a yoga teacher training, it is all about your personal choices and knowing what kind of knowledge you’re interested in gaining, what type of teachings and vibe you’re into, and learning what truly matters to you.
As a student, every time I take a YTT, I gain so much knowledge and perspective, learning from the teachers and the cohort alike.
As a teacher, every year I look forward to teacher training. It is a space where I get to interact with other teachers, learn from each other, as well as share with excited yogis who are ready to kick it up a notch.
I hope you find a YTT that transforms your life and your perspective.