Having just emerged from our annual Bali Blissology Yoga Teacher Training, I was humbled by the trust our students put in us to lead them deep onto a journey than is not just personally transformative, but one that will profoundly shift the course of their life.
Today Yoga is a full-blown movement, with more than 300 million practitioners globally. And if, like me, you were lulled by a teacher’s mellifluous tones during savasana and experienced a little voice inside you crying out, “I want to teach, in fact I know I can,” know that you are not alone.
Yoga teacher training courses are some of the most popular offerings at yoga studios and retreat centers globally (the Yoga Alliance lists over 8000 yoga teacher training schools on its website as of 2020) and hundreds of yoga students line up each year to sign up.
However, before committing to a Yoga Teacher Training, here are our top 6 things to consider. We’ve created this list after 17 years of offering our Blissology Yoga teacher trainings, a training that continues to evolve and has graduated some incredible yoga teachers year after year.
- Be clear of your intention Yoga as a practice forces us to unmask our intentions. Be honest with yourself. Do you want to teach? Why do you want to teach? If teaching is simply a way for you to deepen your practice, a yoga teacher training course may not be the best option for you. Many studios as well as independent teachers offer programs for advanced / intermediate practitioners, e.g. Blissology offers an Align your Yoga Align your Life course that we think is ideal for practitioners who want to take their yoga deeper but may not want to teach. These usually cost way less than a yoga training. If you are clear however that you want to teach and are passionate about studying further, pursuing a YTT may be the right path for you.
- Find your Teacher: the one you want to spend 200 hours with. Whenever students ask me who they should do a training with, I tell them, what do you like to practice? And who do you like to practice with? Is there a teacher you connect with? Do you like how they teach? Do you like how they explain the poses, the alignment, do you connect with their teaching? If the answers are yes, ask them who they studied with? Or go to their training, if that is on offer.
- Teaching Yoga can be competitive – create a focus. NAMASTA, an independent health professional alliance in the US recently numbered yoga instructors in the US alone at 70,000 and counting. What differentiates you? Yes, you are and always will be a unique individual, but as yoga business coach Kelly McHugh says, “It is essential to have a focus, and to know who your students are and why they are coming to your classes.”Do you have a special interest in your life that you could bring yoga to? Many successful yoga teachers align their existing interests with yoga and in doing so, can bring yoga to various other populations. For example, professional mountain biker Ryan Leech is a student of Blissology Yoga founder Eoin Finn. After completing Finn’s 200-hour training, he began running yoga and mountain bike retreats and often teaches yoga at bike festivals around the world. If you don’t already have a focus for your teaching goals, or a ready audience, allow one to emerge. At the Blissology Yoga teacher trainings, Finn spends time with his students to help them to uncover what he calls their “life mission.””Your life mission is the deep desire you want to share in the world and it touches all aspects of your life. It will allow you to translate what you want to bring to your community. It will allow you to channel your energies and commit toward a path.”Perhaps you want to teach children, athletes, or practitioners with physical disabilities. Ask yourself what is important to you.
- Yoga Teaching is not chai and kombucha drinking all day. While teaching yoga may seem like it involves drinking many cups of tea, green juice, meditating and enjoying a leisurely yoga practice each day, the reality is quite different. As a yoga teacher starting out, making an impact takes time, passion, persistence and hard work. A genuine love of people and a desire to help others are key. After all, if you are teaching yoga, you are building relationships with people, with a community and with all the enmeshed, inter-twinings of their lives.
- Yoga Teaching is a Lifelong Study. The global standard for a qualified yoga teacher is 200 hours, as defined by Yoga Alliance, an independent accreditation body in the US, whose goal is to continue to make yoga more professional. Yoga Alliance does this by creating strict guidelines by which they attempt to regulate the teaching programs on offer. However, as many a yoga teacher will tell you, a 200-hour course is simply the beginning. As practiced in the original guru/shishya model (that’s teacher/student for the Sanskrit newbies), where the student apprenticed for many years with an experienced teacher, the study of yoga is a life-long journey.Yet, if a student has a good understanding of yoga and has been practicing already for some time (ideally two years), then a 200-hour training can be sufficient to begin to teach. Of course you can only teach what you know, so this is where you start, just teaching what you know. Everyone has to start somewhere.Yoga teachers are impassioned about their art and craft and good teacher training programs offer courses and workshops that continue to fuel your evolving interest as well as the needs of your evolving student body and with many schools you can work your way up to 500 hours of training.
- Choose your Yoga Teacher Trainings wisely – they’re an investment
While most yogis with aspirations to teach are in it for their own personal growth and a desire to share something that makes themhappy, the reality is that yoga teacher have to make a living.Yoga teacher training courses can set you back anywhere from USD$3,000 to USD$10,000 depending on the teacher, school, duration of the program and certification; YTT programs, especially the good ones; are not cheap. Consider your yoga training to be an investment: emotionally, spiritually and in the physical/material world and research your potential investment before diving in.When you’re choosing a training, clarify your accreditation possibilities after the course; as you want a certificate that will be easily recognized. Currently Yoga Alliance, is the most well-known system globally, but countries such as Australia also have their own systems. Check about the current rates of employment of past graduates, speak to someone who has studied at the school — most yoga schools will refer you to previous students if asked — and also ask about assisting and mentorship possibilities.Another tip: be sure to ask how much emphasis your teacher training places on practicing the craft of teaching so that you emerge after the 200 hours ready to teach and share your learnings with confidence and ease.
Joseph Campbell, the late philosopher best known for his ‘follow your bliss’ mantra, predicted that yoga would be one of the callings of the new millennium.
With its remarkable growth come cautionary stories, such as the NYT Bestseller “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” Yet, even in this age of Crossfit, multi-hyphenated fitness trends, barre and The Class, yoga continues to be one of the fastest-growing forms of wellness and fitness in the world today, an antidote to our modern troubles of too much technology, constant stress and an ever increasing pace of life.
If you’re on a journey pursuing this powerful, transformative and beautiful path, inhale deeply and Om on. The world is waiting for you.
Blog by, Insiya Rasiwala-Finn