The first step to changing this world for the better starts within. Committing to a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) can be one of the most powerful decisions that you make on your spiritual journey but with 1000s of programs available, how to choose? Over here at ASY headquarters, we have seen many programs come and go over the years. Heck we have co-taught in several of the main ones out there and not every program is created equal. Here’s what we have to say about the selection process.
Soul Searching – Finding Your Why
The most important consideration for finding an appropriate YTT are your own motivations and expectations. YTTs are on offer around the globe, and without clarity on what you are looking for, the choices can be a tad overwhelming. Just as styles and instructors of yoga vary widely, so do YTTs. Reflecting on what attracts you and what you wish to receive from the experience will save you time and disappointment. When we connect with potential students over the web, this is often one of the first questions we ask.
Take some time to explore where your motivation is coming from. What are you hoping to learn? What personal shift is guiding you to seek this experience? Are you passionate about yoga and want to take your practice deeper? Are you craving focused self-development and a more intimate relationship with your inner world? Are you looking for a community of like-minded people to support you on your path? Are you dreaming of a new career? Are you drawn to ignite your purpose? Do you want to spend a month away from it all, immersed in learning and growth?
Where do you envision yourself months after the training? In other words, where do you see yourself in life and what do you want to be doing? Do you plan to teach or are you more interested in your own learning and personal practice? What type of classes are you most drawn to?
This may be obvious to you or may be more challenging to pin point. Examining where you are at in this moment of your journey is an excellent first step on the path to YTT alignment.
Discovering the Right Recipe for You
The next consideration to guide your decision involves understanding the elements of yoga that you are drawn to. Trainings can take many forms: weekend programs over several months, deep-dive one month intensives, destination trainings, or any hybrid of the above. Although the standard is 200 & 300 hour programs, you’ll find trainings ranging from 16-30 + days and the focus of each will differ greatly.
All 200 level YTT’s that are certified by the Yoga Alliance are required to contain the following topics:
Props and modifications
Hands on adjustments
Practicums (opportunities to practice teaching)
Pranayama (breathing practices)
It is up to the individual schools/teachers to determine how they arrange and deliver the information and if they have a specialty. Most people feel that it’s difficult to tell by a description on a website so addressing the school directly can be very helpful.
Disclaimer! You may discover in your research an element of yoga you didn’t know much about that becomes a passion. For example, you might not know yet that the Sutras are totally your jam or that pranayama really floats your boat.
Uncovering Your Unique Path
Consider the length and format of the training. YTTs are offered in different formats and lengths. There are usually options to enroll in a program close to home or to take the training over a month long period in different locations around the world. Weigh the pros and cons to determine what path best suits you.
Destination trainings can be beneficial for those who would like to take a more immersive approach to deepen their practice, or are seeking to travel with a purpose. When you find yourself in a different part of the world, your “normal life” distractions are at a distance. This can be helpful in bringing your focus to the material itself and to the process you are in. And, as a bonus, beautiful surroundings and a new cultural environment can be very supportive for learning and personal growth, as it takes us out of the familiar routine of everyday life.
Taking a full month “off” from regular life can seem like a daunting commitment, however it may be worth considering. Meals are often prepared and your room cleaned regularly. Regular practice everyday for 28 or more days is an excellent way to form a routine that you can continue after you return home. They say that it takes 40 days to build new habits and discard of old ones. A retreat format can support you well on your way to maintaining a daily practice and healthier lifestyle. A shorter timeframe for a destination course usually means minimal days off and the material is delivered in a condensed format.
If you are leaning in the direction of a destination training, take some time to research the accommodations: Where do I want to be while taking a yoga teacher training course? What type of food will you be eating? Where will you be staying? Is it comfortable? Is it shared or private accommodation? What is the climate at that time of year? These are helpful questions to set you off to a successful start.
If staying local is your preference, why not try out some classes at different yoga studios? Local YTT programs are often offered over a longer time span, which gives you time to integrate the learning while not having to take a leave from responsibilities. Determine whether it will be feasible to make time to study and immerse yourself in the material based on your lifestyle. This path may suit your needs if you prefer to limit time away from day to day life.
Either option is a viable path to a 200 hour certification. Notice which options really light you up and then find out if the timing aligns with your current plans. Find some reviews of the program to see what former participants had to say about the location, quality of the program and timing.
Understanding Your Learning Style and Interests
The methodology, or approach to learning is an important factor to think about. A training that caters to different learning styles and employs participatory methodology is often most effective. Find out how the material is delivered and if it aligns with your learning style. How is the material delivered? Is there a lineage or approach that is being taught?
Look for a comprehensive curriculum that aligns with what you are most interested in. What type of classes are you most into? Is this the style of yoga that you would like to delve deeper into or offer to others in your community? Perhaps there is a niche area of yoga that you are interested in. Based on this knowledge, list the elements of a training that are most important to you. You may want to consider the type of certification offered, the style of yoga that the program focuses on, the tradition that the style of yoga is based on, the qualifications of the instructors and whether there is a niche offering woven into the program that resonates with you. Compare your list with the programs that spark your interest. If you can’t find this information in the marketing materials for a program, send an email or ask to speak to a facilitator or someone associated with the program.
If possible speak with former participants and check out testimonials. Does the training sound as though it’s in alignment with your values and excitement? How did participants feel after the course?
Defining Your Own Criteria for Quality
In addition to clarifying your motivations, it’s helpful to get clear on what your expectations are for the level of learning that you are seeking. A good teacher is a guide and supporter of your own discoveries. They hold space, walk the talk and encourage you to listen to your inner teacher. They say that a teacher can only teach what they have learnt and practiced, therefore understanding what they practice is an important indicator of the type of space they will create during the course. Consider the qualifications and experience of the facilitators. Where did they learn from and how long have they been teaching? Is the person who is answering your questions the facilitator who is teaching the program?
If you do plan to teach – research the general standard of qualifications for teachers in your area. What certifications are studios looking for? Will studios hire students from YTTs that are not their own? Are there other opportunities to teach yoga in your community outside of studios?
A Training That Meets Your Budget
Finally, it is important to consider the cost. How much is reasonable for you to pay? How does the cost of one program compare to the cost of other similar programs? What is included in the fee? Make sure to include the additional costs when you are budgeting such as course materials (supplementary reading/books), travel and health insurance. Some schools offer early bird pricing if you sign up several months in advance, payment plans, work trade opportunities and even scholarships. We’ve also had many students crowdsource part of their expenses by engaging their communities. Signing up early can help you complete the recommended readings, save dollars and feel more prepared for the program in general.
Follow Your Instincts and Intuition
There are a myriad of reasons for being drawn to a YTT and there is no right answer. Once you have narrowed down your list, follow your instincts and intuition and approach the journey with an open mind and an open heart. Which offering FEELS right? Which one is most exciting to you? It’s ultimately up to you how you receive and engage with the course. A YTT is indeed an exciting journey towards self discovery, personal growth, life long friendships and a renewed perspective on your resilience and capacity. The level of transformation that you experience will be in direct correlation to how open you are to the material, instructors and the overall journey so take your time and choose wisely.
Committing to a YTT is a substantial investment of time and money, and requires a significant amount of physical, emotional and spiritual effort. Doing your research and asking yourself a few clarifying questions will help you to make a choice in alignment with where you are at.
Clearly we are biased, however, this bias exists because we believe that this path is a transformative and powerful approach to individual and social change. To find out more about our own upcoming yoga teacher training program visit our Sacred Earth 200 HR YTT page. You can also get an idea of one participant’s recent experience in the Sacred Earth program by reading Courtney’s blog post.