by Kara-Leah Grant
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 on-line.
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 to 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 than you love?
The answer to this question will spring out of the home you 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 onto 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 programme lining up for you?
It takes time, money and support to attend a yoga teacher training programme, 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 are 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 programmes. Here’s what to look for.
Questions to ask of Yoga Teacher Training Progammes:
5. Is the Programme well-respected and reputable?
Don’t rely on the rubber stamp of approval from others to determine the quality of a programme. Just because a programme has a certificate, doesn’t mean it’s great. Even if the programme is not certified, it could be well-respected and thorough.
If it’s important to you to have a recognised qualification, go for a programme 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 programme 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 programme 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 programmes 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 programme 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 programme offer on-going 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 on-going 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, is even more powerful. Any yoga teacher programme that does not acknowledge this power and help students deal with any potential fall-out 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 email my teacher questions that arise about my practice?
Correct answer to #7. Yes
If you read through those seven questions and asnwered yes for them all, congratulations, you’re ready to train as a yoga teacher and you’ve found the right yoga teacher training programme 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.
Yoga Teacher Training Progammes:
We asked 30 + different yoga teacher training programmes if they wanted to advertise at the end of this article to tell us why they’re great. We got one response so we’re giving it more space than the offered two to three sentences.
None of us have attended this training, so we can’t personally vouch for it. However, it ticks the boxes on some of our criteria above. You’ll have to do your own research to make sure it ticks all the boxes.
UPDATE: Our apologies to the excellent folk at IYTA, one of NZ’s most respected teacher training programmes. We missed them in our original mail-out, so they didn’t have an opportunity to say yes. We’ve added them below.
Leader in Ashtanga Vinyasa teacher training since 1989, and 200 hrs Yoga Alliance.
The All Yoga Thailand Teacher Training program has trained lovers of yoga around the world and certified more than 3000 of them to teach it since 1989
Our Yoga Alliance Certified Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training program supports students in deepening their understanding and relationship to the practice by studying the basic ingredients: breath, bandhas and dristi.
The purpose of this program is to provide a supportive environment in which students begin to connect with their inner teacher, internal wisdom and authentic voice. Through pranayama, asana practice, mind-body journaling, group conversation, reading and guided meditation, students will practice the essential process of conscious listening to your own higher self.
2013: Yoga Teacher Training Diploma and Study Courses, Yoga Aotearoa IYTA (NZ)Inc.:
One of the longest enduring yoga associations in New Zealand. Our courses are based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and whilst Asana is a major focus they are entirely relevant to the other limbs of yoga to enable a wholistic growth of the individual who wishes to teach.
We aim to have students who become inspiring and effective teachers in their communities, meeting the needs of people in these times.
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