If you’ve started shopping around for a yoga teacher training, you’ve already noticed the enormous range of styles, schools and content out there. A yoga instructor certification course is a considerable investment of your time and financial resources. You’ll want to choose carefully and deliberately. So how do you know which program is right for you? We’ve put together some tips to help you navigate the yoga training maze and move towards your certification with confidence.

Bali yoga shala 200 hour 500 hour yoga teacher training Bali intensive 2014 2015
Bali yoga shala

1. Where do you want to go?

Destination teacher trainings are a popular way to combine travel with continued education. If you want to explore an exotic (and probably tropical) country, yoga teacher trainings are being offered all over the globe. Have you always wanted to go to Bali? India? Costa Rica?  While the flight can be pricey, the cost of staying in these countries tends to be much lower than being at home or in another city in the Western world. Research the destination of your choice in regard to culture, best time to visit, logistics of getting there, and safety. 

Maybe this is not the best time for you to be traveling extensively, for whatever reason. Chances are, your local yoga studios are offering in-house teacher trainings. It may be easier to enroll in a program in your home town, especially if you’re juggling family, pets, a demanding career etc.

2. Which training format: standard vs intensive?

Most destination yoga teacher trainings are offered in an intensive format. That means you’ll complete your course in anywhere between 2 and 6 weeks. If it’s possible for you, job-wise and family-wise, to get away and completely immerse yourself, this format offers a huge advantage. Truly experiencing yoga goes a long way to an intellectual understanding of the practices. The deepest techniques of yoga demand uninterrupted and dedicated practice, in a way that is almost impossible when you’re trying to attend to your daily affairs on the side. The inward journey requires freedom and space. At most retreat centers, you’ll be completely taken care of. You don’t need to shop, cook, clean, do laundry, or run errands. Everything is pre-paid and you can focus on the yoga. And you only need to fork out the cash for one flight, rather than taking multiple trips for several separate modules.

Even if you don’t have the luxury of taking an extended vacation, you can still get certified. Standard formats allow you to keep your job while immersing yourself in a yoga teacher training from Friday evening through Sunday. These programs generally extend over several months. So you’ll be working your way slowly, but still surely towards your goal. This format also allows you more time to absorb the information intellectually. Ideally, you can enroll in program in your home town, as the cost of flying back and forth to another city for multiple sessions can really add up. 

3. What style of yoga?

With new styles of yoga being born every day, the variety of brands and philosophies can be overwhelming. This is where you really need to do your homework. Take as many different styles of classes with as many different teachers as you can. Read articles and blogs. Download online classes and courses. Try different guided meditations. Yoga styles range from very physical and vigorous (Power, Hot, Vinyasa, Ashtanga)  - to more gentle - (Restorative, Yin) - to more traditional, spiritual or meditative (Hatha, Tantra, Kundalini). 

You’re going to have a natural tendency to be drawn to one or more styles, depending on your personality and where you currently find yourself in your personal development.  It's common to fall in love with a style, and then stay in that comfort zone. Move out of the bubble and experiment with other techniques. Yoga is a big word, encompassing countless intentions and philosophies. The more diversity you expose yourself to, the more educated a decision you'll make for your yoga teacher training. 

200 hour 500 hour yoga teacher training Bali intensive 2014 2015
Teacher trainees at work

4. Is the school an RYS?

Check the Yoga Alliance school directory to confirm that the yoga teacher training is accredited. Registration by the school with YA assures that the training program meets standards for curriculum developed by Yoga Alliance and that training is conducted by experienced instructors. Only graduates of a registered yoga school are eligible to register with Yoga Alliance as RYTs®. You don’t want to spend a lot of money (not to mention blood, sweat and tears) only to find out your school isn’t legit and you can’t get your RYT certification. 

5. How experienced are the teachers?

Check the credentials of the primary instructors. How long have they been teaching? Where did they study? What other professional or educational background do they have that gives them perspective as a yoga teacher? The lead teacher training facilitator must be a Yoga Alliance certified ERYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher). The highest level of certification possible is ERYT 500, which means the instructor has at least 2000 hours and a minimum of four years of teaching experience since graduating.

6. What is the school’s focus?

Carefully read the school’s syllabus. The Yoga Alliance defines minimum hours and loose content requirements. Each school is free to place emphasis wherever they choose, as long as they meet YA minimum hours. For example, “anatomy” could mean bones, muscles and joints, or it should mean subtle body anatomy (chakras and nadis). The same school might work with a variety of teachers, each with their own specializations. Read the program facilitator's blogs to get a better feel of who's leading the training.

Also, check the training program’s required reading list. Go to amazon and read the descriptions and previews of the books. This will give you a good indication of the focus of the training.

7. Will you get practical teaching experience?

Some yoga teacher training programs provide students with excellent academic content while falling short in offering practical learning. We personally know of teacher trainings where students don’t get any practice teaching at all. You’ll want as much experience as you get in the safe, supportive group environment of a teacher training before being unleashed into the world. 

8. What is the class size?

If it’s not clearly stated on their website, as the school what is the maximum number of students who will be enrolled in the teacher training. The numbers vary greatly, and can have a big impact on your experience. Ask about the teacher to student ratio. The more personal attention you get, the more you’ll learn.

9. What level of practice is required?

Yoga teacher trainings are not appropriate for beginners. Period. You will not benefit from learning yoga basics while trying to learn to teach at the same time. Would you try to become a Spanish teacher while taking beginner Spanish classes? No you wouldn’t. 

Make sure the school requires applicants to have a solid foundation in the basic and fundamental yoga postures. You don’t need to be an expert yogi with a perfect practice, but you and your fellow teacher trainees should have solid footing and a level of maturity and body awareness. Any beginners in the mix would not be able to keep up with the group, which would ultimately depreciate the experience for everyone.

Bali beach sunset 200 hour 500 hour yoga teacher training Bali intensive 2014 2015

Bali sunset

10. How much does it cost?

Yoga teacher trainings may be a dime a dozen, but they’re still not cheap. Expect to pay anywhere between $2500 and $10,000 for a 200 or 300 hour certification course. As with any product or service, a big price tag does not necessarily equate to a better training. Big brands command higher prices, even in the world of yoga. Some schools will offer payment plans, work exchanges or scholarships. 

11. What do graduates say?

Read blogs, testimonials and reviews of previous graduates. With the rise of social media, student feedback is published on a variety of different platforms, including Facebook, Yelp, Yoga Trail, and the Yoga Alliance website. You can also ask the yoga school to connect you with their training graduates for additional assurance.

12. Does the school offer continued education?

Investigate all the training programs being offered by the school. What classes, workshops, retreats, and advanced trainings are on offer? A school that also offers 300 hour, 500 hour programs and beyond will tend to have more experienced facilitators and a stronger community than those only offering 200 hour programs. Satisfied 200 hour graduates want to continue on to their 300 hour program with the same school. 300 hour graduates are looking for other advanced training opportunities.  Also, more program offerings means more opportunities for graduates to assist and gain valuable teaching experience in a training environment. If the road ends after the 200 hour program, the community can never really build.

Put it all together

Once you've done the research and have all the facts, let your intuition play a supporting role. Some yoga teacher trainings and teachers will simply speak to you more than others, for reasons you may not yet be able to define. A regular practice of yoga connects us with our truest self, and allows us to tune in and listen to what our soul longs for. 

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi

by Katherine Girling
Zuna Yoga offers yoga teacher trainings in Bali, Gili Meno and Cambodia

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