Choosing a teacher training program is an investment in yourself that yields lifelong transformation physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. As such, the program you choose ultimately contributes to the direction of your growth.
I encourage you to look beyond the "surface factors" and explore the depth of each program you are considering. Before choosing a yoga teacher training program, reflect upon these essential elements.
1. Mission & Vision
What are the Mission and Vision of the program? Is the heart of the program in alignment with your spirit?
2. Lead Trainer
Yoga Alliance requires that each program has a designated lead trainer, and there may or may not be co-trainers. Who is the lead trainer? How long has the lead trainer been teaching yoga? How long have they been teacher trainers? Is the yoga working for the lead trainer and teachers?
3. Program History
How long has the program been contributing to the yoga world? History matters – some programs have made longstanding contributions to the yoga world in offering teacher trainings.
4. Yoga Alliance Approval and Certification
Is the program approved by Yoga Alliance? How do you become certified through the program in the journey from student to teacher? Yoga Alliance requires 180 contact hours – how many non-contact hours are required outside of the program in order for you to gain certification (e.g., 10 hours vs. 100 hours)?
5. Learning and Teaching Styles
What style of learning will be emphasized? What is the paradigm of teaching methodology? Is this survival learning or sacred learning? Is it authoritarian or non-authoritarian?
6. Curriculum and Syllabus
Do the curriculum and syllabus fulfill the requirements that are set by Yoga Alliance? What emphasis is placed on the physical versus non-physical components of yoga? How is teaching proper alignment addressed? Is physical alignment taught in isolation, or are both physical and energetic alignment considered?
How does the program teach you to deepen your own self-awareness through conscious self-inquiry? How is this process facilitated by the teacher?
Does the program create a safe space for its students? Is there a strong yet supportive container for your learning? Will you be taught how to “hold space” in a healthy way for others? How many students are in the training, and does that support your learning style?
What emphasis is placed on Communication Skills? Is the methodology in line with the way you intend to live your life? For instance, are they employing Nonviolent Communication (NVC), or a similar methodology?
While there is never a perfectly ideal time to pursue self-study, how well do the logistics (e.g., cost, location, schedule, syllabus) of the program work for you? Is the program residential (e.g., destination-based), or a local program?
Are you able to invest and be present with yourself and the program in consideration of your current situation? What is the length of the program? What is the financial investment? Are scholarships available?
My advice comes from experience. Over ten years ago I founded my yoga school, Alchemy of Yoga. It took me 5 years to develop the training program. At the time, my specialty in the corporate world was Training and Development, so adult learning was not new to me. With a highly organized approach to education, I take great pride in having offered sacred learning in a comprehensive and methodical way to over 20 graduating classes.
Look around; there are many conscientious yoga schools with this same kind of depth of experience. Choose wisely.
As you make your decision about which YTT, consider substance over style which isn’t always easy in today's competitive social media-driven yoga environment. As one of 37 million Americans practicing yoga (according to Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance), decide based on depth, experience, and heart. There is a program that is just right for you.
Image credit: Silvia Mordini