A teacher training is not just a place to learn how to share and teach yoga safely. It should also be a beautiful place for you to grow and explore deeper realms of your practice, personality, and life. It should be a safe haven that you look back on with a delicious smile.
Unfortunately, with the new trends in yoga teacher trainings, and with Yoga Alliance not having been more rigid with their monitoring of teacher trainers in the past, there are a lot of sub-par training programs out there these days.
Be careful when choosing your training. Research the lead teacher and practice with them or interact with them, as much as you can before you sign up. Make sure they are the type of person you want to share with and learn from. Here are a couple red flags to watch out for when choosing yoga teacher training programs.
1. Unregistered Schools or Trainers
Always run the name of the school and lead trainer through the Yoga Alliance registry. If they are not on the site something is wrong.
However, don’t stop there. If they are on the site, keep researching. Yes, the legit schools are published and updated on Yoga Alliance regularly as per their registration, but so are sham schools and teachers.
Having been through that process with Yoga Alliance, I can tell you firsthand that as long as you have the cash and you fill out the basic forms showing good intentions, Yoga Alliance won’t really question what you’re doing after that. I was surprised how easy it was. The good news is that the new Yoga Alliance CEO is promising to smarten up this process and get more rigid— not just with entering schools and lead teachers of trainings, but also with cracking down on schools and trainers currently registered with them.
2. The Training Site Doesn’t Recognize The Event
Yoga Alliance doesn’t mandate that a training has to be at a physical school, so this is great for teachers and students as it means there is no middle man who takes a cut and therefore raises the fees. For example, I run a 200-hour teacher training at a local riverfront campsite. It takes the cost way down because no studio is taking a cut, so I don’t have to pass that cost onto future teachers. It also means, however, that anyone can set up shop anywhere and call themselves a school.
There are stories all over the internet about people who are told they will be training at a beautiful beach location and they end up in a crappy hotel conference room. Not that the place truly matters, but if you are paying for a beautiful beach location, then that is what you should get…right!? Honesty is one of the integral part of the yoga tradition.
Teacher trainings take a huge amount of time and space so the place where the training is happening will know it is happening. It’s a big deal. Check the social media pages and website photos of the training, then also check that location's website and events list to see if they recognize the event as happening. You can always call or email the location and ask if the training is actually happening there.
If you write to a lead teacher or a school and get no response or a half-pitted, unhelpful response then drop that training. Communication is vital in these trainings and you should be a high priority to the staff.
4. Acting Hypocritically
Does your lead teacher practice what they preach? Do they suggest intentions or ideas in class and then post stuff to social media about actions that contradict that? Do you hear them chatting after class about ideas and ways of life that are the opposite of what they just recommended in class?
This person is supposed to be a leader who shares something that cultivates spiritual growth and transformation. So are they leading by example or simply spouting what some text says about how to be a yogi? Listen carefully to their words and then watch their actions to see if they match up. If they don't, then this is likely not someone who can guide you further down the yogic path.
Also, listen for the way the training is marketed. Watch for hypocritical advertising methods. For example, I once had a teacher play the radio commercial for her classes during Happy Baby Pose. It felt very disrespectful for anyone to advertise so overtly while I was rounding out my practice. How can someone teach you all about the 8-Limbed Path, and Patanjali's Sutras when they don't respect the space that the practice requires and deserves?
5. Unable to Take Criticism
We all know how hard this is! Try testing the waters by approaching the lead teacher after class one day or via email. Suggest an edit to their class, playlist, or intention. Be nice, you’re a yogi after all, and remember you are not trying to trick anyone—just seeking a deeper understanding of the human you may ask to be your “Guru” soon.
See how they respond to your suggestion or comment. If they get defensive, angry, or shrug you off, that’s not a good sign.
If they enter a discussion with you, ask you more questions, or seem as if they are contemplating your words, this is someone who is living the yogic path internally and is possibly worth learning from.
6. The Commentary
If all the reviews on a teacher or training program are terrible, then obviously that is a red flag. Rarely will you easily find those reviews because a sham training will always try to redirect you to the “good stuff.” So in this case, how would you know?
Don’t stop at yelp or Facebook. Check the Yoga Alliance website, check the comments from students in the lead teachers Instagram feed. Reach out to people who have taken this training before—what were their thoughts and feedback?
Most trainings have an event page, alumni page, or some kind of group page that you can become a part of by requesting entrance. Get involved with the community and ask them questions too.
Hopefully keeping an eye on these red flags will help you become clear about which training you want to do. It really is such a special experience, so it's important that you feel safe and comfortable going in. Good luck yogis!
Image credit: Samrat Pasham