Yoga Teacher Training: 6 Keys to Making the Most of Yours
Seeking to deepen your yoga practice and learn how to teach others? Here’s what I learned when I took my first teacher training course.
I climbed off my mat in December 2016, after twelve months of training with YogaLondon, my 200-hour yoga teacher certificate clutched in my hands. My heart was swollen with joy — I made it! But my head was swollen with questions — what the heck happens now?!
I had practiced yoga for the first time in secondary school when I was sixteen. All I remember is that my wrists hurt a lot, but I was certainly intrigued. It was years before I came back to the practice. I was suffering from acute anxiety and loneliness living in Dublin in 2013. The yoga helped, and as the months went by, my mat was a place of safety when I was struggling. More and more I started to think about teacher training.
The loneliness and anxiety of Dublin got the better of me eventually, and I departed the city for London in 2015. I had a shiny new corporate job, a salary that allowed me some crucial disposable income, and a whole new life. I found a yoga studio and, within months of landing in Camden Town, was researching possible training courses.
YogaLondon had many attractive qualities, but the following three were especially appealing and helped me choose them.
- Payment Plan: This lightened the burden from a financial perspective and was a great help.
- Schedule: They offer a year-long programme, stretched out over weekend training intensives, which meant I could attend while supporting myself working full-time.
- Yoga Style: They teach a creative and innovative vinyasa flow style (derived from the traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga), which, out of all the different kinds of yoga I’ve tried, I enjoy the most.
Yoga teacher training was honestly one of the best and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve written this article for everyone who is thinking about pursuing training, but isn’t quite sure what to expect or whether to invest. These are some of the things I realized, some of the cautionary tales I wish I had known in advance, and some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned about myself.
1. Stop Being Your Own Obstacle
So here’s the deal. You’ve been stuck to your yoga mat since the day you first crawled onto it. You can’t get enough. You go to classes constantly, and when you lapse or neglect it, you start to get a bit antsy and frustrated. You find yourself looking at yoga teachers and thinking ‘I want to do that!’ And, you sneakily look into yoga teacher training programmes you’re interested in.
You start to work out the cost, how you’d make it work, and if you’d have to travel… Then, just as it’s all becoming a little more real, you find yourself backing way a little. Is this for me? Am I sure that I can do this? Am I, well, any good at this? What does it even mean to be good at this?
And then, before you know it, you’ve talked yourself out of it because you’re just not sure of yourself anymore.
Sound familiar? I’ve been there and done that. For three years before I enrolled, enrolling in a teacher training course was one of my New Year’s resolutions, and every year I let it slip through my fingers because I was so uncertain.
In early 2015, a close of friend of mine died after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was just twenty-five. I was living in Dublin, unhappy, and feeling locked-in. Her death hit our group of friends hard, and in the following months, we all made life-changing decisions. I committed to doing my teacher training at long last, no matter my sense of fear.
This is what I call a moment of truth. There are times in our lives when we do ourselves a disservice by getting in our own way. If the yoga teacher dream is occupying a lot of your thinking, then it’s time to stop being your own problem. Move aside and let your gut handle this. Enroll.
2. Beware the Hidden Expense
Taking one of these courses can be pricey, especially in major Western cities where the cost of living is high. Doing it London set me back a cool £3,000. Here’s the rub though: that’s not the only expense.
On top of the basic enrollment, you’ll likely have to purchase books. You’ll have to make sure you have a quality mat, props, and suitable clothes to get you through the training. You might need to account for travel costs. All of those things combined could be an extra few hundred quid.
If you prepare, it won’t be an issue, so get prepping!
Some people do teacher training just to learn more about yoga and never actually plan to teach, but I wasn’t like that. I was doing this because I wanted to share yoga with others. From the first month of my training, I started setting aside a little money each month as start-up capital for when I finished my training.
Of course, I knew I’d likely need to buy equipment, mats, and props. I also knew I would want a website, decent branding, and professional photos. It also meant that I could cover my insurance and optional registration with the Yoga Alliance.
When it comes to money, be savvy, and think long term. You’ll thank yourself for it later, and you’ll feel on top of the world when you don’t have to sweat the small stuff!
3. Acknowledge the Time Commitment
I remember a yoga teacher once telling me that teacher training isn’t for everyone. Now that I’ve been through it, I know she was correct.
For me, one of the major struggles was the time commitment. One weekend each month, I traveled to South London for my training; 9–6 on Saturday, and 9–6 on Sunday. That meant a weekend each month where I couldn’t spend time with my partner in the first year of us taking our relationship seriously and committing to one another. My family also live abroad, in Ireland, and limiting my weekends meant that I saw less of them.
The training days were heavy, and when I returned home I often just felt like sleeping. More than once I woke up on a Monday after a training weekend feeling unrested and facing into a fresh week in my office job, which was tough at times.
Some people have it easier — and some have it harder. I know a teacher who traveled from Northern England to be with us each weekend. She drove there and back and never missed a day of her day job. I built so much respect for her.
Other attendees had children and had to manage that with their own partners or friends, which must also have been stressful. Some people went it alone. That might seem easier, but I like having support from my partner to get through training; there were some days when I would invest heavily in my duvet, and he would just sit with me, not expecting anything significant by way of interaction.
On top of the weekends, we were required to keep a daily yoga journal and practice yoga six days a week. We had to attend, write up, and submit three observations of other yoga teachers and we delivered a summary journal to our course leader each month. All of those things take care, time, and diligence.
There will be times you’re not feeling it, but that’s part of the journey.
I often failed. Six practices a week on top of a hefty sixty-hour week in work was often just too much to ask. But to be honest, I had to learn to accept the failure and that lesson was one of the greatest I’ve ever learned. Perfection isn’t real. Accept yourself for where you’re at right now. If you’re trying your best, you’re rocking it. And, if you’re flunking, invest in some self-care. You deserve it.
4. Prepare for Physicality
I’m going to admit my stupidity on this front: I didn’t anticipate the physical reality of yoga teacher training. I was practicing several times a week before I started my training, as well as running 15–20 km per week. I occasionally swam, walked a lot, and never really felt unfit.
The first day of yoga teacher training floored me. My arms ached, my legs hurt, even my feet were sore, and I couldn’t work out why. When I got back into the studio on the Sunday for my second day, I was so grateful to hear that everyone else felt the same.
The entire point of yoga teacher training is to break down and rebuild.
You will study alignment and asana, cues, and techniques. You will see, learn, do, and re-learn poses over and over again to build your own knowledge of them. During teaching practice, you’ll be 100% ‘On’ and paying close attention to the people you’re teaching, offering adjustments, learning more about different types of bodies.
It’s no walk in the park, but the physical experience opened up my yoga practice so much. Even if I never taught a single class, my knowledge of asana improved by about 500%. Those days where I felt exhausted and spent were completely worth it because I came out so much stronger.
5. Facing Probably All Your Fears At Once
We all have some fears relating to public performance. If you’re anxious about public speaking, scared of looking like an idiot, worked up about messing something up, yoga teacher training is the place to face those fears. When you’re training (and even when you’re teaching), you are going to get things wrong. Accepting this will make you a better teacher in the long run.
Fear of messing up, especially in front of others, can be debilitating, but the reality is that everyone is going to be thinking about themselves and they won’t have time to judge you.
During teacher training, you’ll definitely have some mind-opening moments, whether that’s in conversations about chakras, yoga nidra or even approaches to teaching. Your own beliefs and limits will be questioned, and I don’t mean that in any light way — it’s a rollercoaster!
My yoga trainee group was full of supportive people, and every group I’ve seen since was the same. When we messed up, we told each other with kindness and care. When we did something well, we were all elated for one another. When people expressed that they were scared, we supported them through it.
Here’s the truth: you’re great just the way you are, and you’ll develop your own voice and method for teaching. That will take some time; give yourself that time and experience as much as you possibly can. You’ve got this.
6. Watch Yourself Grow
I was a different person at the end of my teacher training. I was stronger and more agile. My head was chock full of yoga information that I had never even contemplated, let alone known off by heart. I learned some Sanskrit, made new friends, gave myself over to yoga, and it paid dividends for me. It made me happy.
No amount of preparation will fully prepare you for reality though.
Human beings seem to thrive on a challenge and successfully completing a yoga teacher training course is definitely a big achievement — mentally, physically, and spiritually. Whether you choose to do your training in just one month or to spread it out over six-months or a year, you’ll notice how different you are at the end of the process.
When I look back at my first day of training, all I remember are the nerves. My imposter syndrome was working hard, and I almost turned back toward home twice. At the end of my training, I had come so far. I was planning classes, thinking about business opportunities, and investing in the future I’d laid out before me.
This is a fantastic journey. Put one foot in front of the other. You’re your own kingmaker.