For yoga students and teachers, participating in a teacher training is often a life-changing experience. You certainly will learn more about the postures and how to get the most out of your practice.
What many don’t realize is that you also learn so much about the philosophy of yoga and become part of a community of like-minded souls who are interested in personal evolution on some level. I’ve seen students develop the deepest of friendships and have had the honor to witness some sincere changes from the heart.
3 Types of Teacher Trainings
There are three types of teacher trainings that could be offered by studios. The 200-hour training is comparable to an undergraduate degree at a university; it’s often a well-rounded training that hopefully provides wise information about the postures, sequencing, some hands-one adjustments and feedback on your teaching. It is designed to help you get out and start teaching.
The 300-hour teacher training is comparable to a master's degree at a university. This is the time to deepen your awareness of postures and how the body works, refine your sequencing with wise creativity and improve your teaching skills.
Depending on the focus of the training, your philosophy knowledge may increase and you will likely be exposed to more aspects of yoga to enrich your own practice. It is designed for teachers and yogis who want to dive deeper into the vast world of yoga.
The 500-hour teacher training is comparable to a student completing their undergraduate and master's degrees at the same university, in the same department at the school. It is a blend of the 200 and the 300-hour programs, either separated or fully blended into one set program.
Some studios encourage teachers to complete both the 200 and 300 under the studio’s school in order to be eligible to teach at that studio. If the school is a larger organization with respected teachers, then this might be a good idea, but won’t guarantee a teaching spot on the schedule.
Some students prefer to study with separate schools for the 200 and 300 hour trainings, benefitting from the variety of strengths. Some students choose to pause after a 200-hour training and work their teaching skills for a year or two before returning to take a 300-hour training.
This is comparable to students who complete their undergraduate and choose to work in the world for a few years before returning for their masters degree.
Which one is best?
No training will fully prepare you to teach. Your own teaching is the best way to hone the teaching skills, following your attention to your practice. The ability to teach a yoga class is a muscle that is developed over time, just like your practice. It requires repetition.
Yoga Alliance, the non-profit organization that helps regulate yoga schools, has updated their requirements and increased the hours of practice teaching in both the 200 and 300-hour courses. If you don’t feel that your program is offering enough practice teaching hours to hone your skills, then take it upon yourself to find people who want some yoga and start teaching on your own.
The school can't make you a great yoga teacher. It’s up to you/your efforts to practice what you've learned.
No program will guarantee a great job as a teacher. I am sorry to report that there is no job security. There IS creativity, so if you don’t see a lot of opportunities at studios, you could create your own teaching jobs in your community.
One of my students couldn’t find a job in LA so she arranged with a local park to offer free yoga. In time, she started making money and it became very popular. Another student couldn’t find a job at local studios, so she offered yoga to the homeless and now works with a non-profit organization downtown.
While yoga is growing in popularity, there are still many people who are not practicing and don’t have access to yoga. Find the untapped audiences and bring your gifts to them.
Should you study with one school, and receive a 500-hour credential under one style?
Here are a few things to consider:
If your values and interests are in alignment with the school’s 200 hour program, you might benefit from staying with the school and investing all of your time and training energy. Most 200-hour trainings barely begin to explain the details involved in backbends or inversions, for example.
You will move from general knowledge to more refined wisdom in the same philosophy. If you like the approach and teaching style of the school, it might be a great idea to dive in deep with this method.
“Pick a teacher/style and stay with them. Studying with too many teachers/styles can lead to a confused yogi.” When I was a younger teacher, I continually heard this advice, and there is much truth to it. The other piece of wisdom says to expose yourself to as many different styles and teachers as possible, and then, make a decision and stick with that one teacher.
Both pieces of advice are accurate. The question is, which fits your personality and circumstance?
If you have access to a wide variety of teachers and styles in your community, and you are interested in learning form all of them, consider spending some time in general study. As you practice, your inner wisdom will awaken and guide you to the teacher and style that is most suited for you.
If your 200-hour training lacked in areas of yoga that hold your interest and/or you know you need to strengthen, it might be a good idea to look around and seek a 300-hour training to compliment your current knowledge.
What If I Don't Have a Lot of Options Where I Live?
If there are limited options in your neighborhood, consider looking for a training located outside of your hometown. When we travel to study, we expose ourselves to new teachers and philosophies, which can only increase your knowledge. The more we are exposed to different people, the more we are able to see things with a wider perspective.
As a yoga teacher, we serve our students best when our view is open enough to include a variety of perspectives in a class. This improves our ability to communicate with the widest range of people. The last thing we want to become is a judgmental yoga teacher who can only describe Trikonasana one way.
You Will Always Be a Student
The main thing to know is that whatever direction you choose to take with your yoga study, when you get your 500-hour accreditation, you are not done. The yoga teachers who are rising to the surface of respect and “notoriety” are those who continue to learn, investing more time, money, and energy.
Most of my colleagues and myself have taken more than one 200-hour teacher training because we love studying this stuff as much as practicing it. Our teaching is more about sharing what we’ve learned than bossing people around and becoming famous. So, relax a bit about your decision and trust that the path is long, allowing space to fix what may be missing in your current choice.
Just remember, the more you keep your attention on the practice and the joy it cultivates within you, the more people will want some of your vibration. Find the joy in studying about yoga; it not only helps you, it helps those around you.
Image credit: Alyona Lezhava