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What Makes a Quality Yoga Teacher Training?

So you’ve decided you want to become a yoga teacher, or even just do a yoga teacher training (YTT) to deepen your practice. Congratulations! Signing up for a first YTT is a big step and, if you ask a lot of yoga instructors, it can even be life changing. It’s not unusual to hear about teacher trainees leaving their partners, deciding to have a baby or quitting the corporate job that used to mean so much to them while in the middle of a program.

But with all of the good that can come from teacher trainings, there’s also a dark side that doesn’t get talked about a lot. The fact of the matter is that teacher trainings can be a big income source for studios—in fact, some studios report that their YTT can represent over half of their annual income. For many studios, training teachers is what keeps the lights on. 

There’s also not a lot of governance over teacher training programs. YTT programs need to go through the Yoga Alliance to become accredited, but there are no governing bodies that go into studios to make sure that they are delivering the trainings that they promise. There is no universal testing that yoga instructors go through in order to receive certification. In fact, one of the only things that most YTT programs have in common is that they cost at least $3,000.

I realize that this can all seem rather dark and depressing: I don’t mean it to be. There are some excellent programs run by very talented teacher trainers. If you’re planning on pursuing a teacher training program, take some time and research.

Here’s what, in my opinion, makes a quality teacher training program:

1. Personal Practice

Yoga instructors should get on the mat at every opportunity. And while taking other instructors’ classes is great, there’s also a lot of value in going through your own practice. It’s by moving through the poses yourself and feeling what your body is doing that you can develop the cues that you can then deliver to your students. It’s also a chance for you to figure out which cues DON’T work in your body. If something doesn’t feel good in your body, chances are it won’t feel good in the body of at least one other student you come across. A good YTT will give you a lot of opportunities for a personal practice, experimentation and reflection.  

2. Practice Teaching

How can a teacher ever learn to teach if they are not given an opportunity? Take every chance you can to practice teaching on all body types. A good YTT will give you opportunities to observe and assist more senior instructors. Probably some of the best lessons that I learned during my YTT came from sitting in a class and watching a group of bodies move. It gave me the opportunity to see where people were open and where they were tight. I tried to predict how they would look in a pose. I could see what adjustments the instructor gave  to help them feel comfortable in a pose. I could notice what tweaks students would instinctively make themselves to find their “seat” in a pose.

Most quality YTTs will also have opportunities for their trainees to teach public classes. This will often take the form of a karma class program where teachers can practice teaching and the community can support them in a donation-based class. It’s a great opportunity to support your colleague and get and provide feedback.

3. Many Different Voices

A quality program should be taught by more than one instructor—ideally the instructors should have different backgrounds and methodologies. I’m immediately suspicious of any 200-hour teacher training that is taught by only one instructor. A 200-hour YTT is meant to be a survey course introducing philosophy and mythology, anatomy and biomechanics, sanskrit, theory, business, and pedagogy. I don’t think that, when being completely honest with themselves, any one teacher can say that they are an expert in all of these areas.

During my teacher training, Christine Felstead, the director of my training, told us, “Don’t trust any teacher, including me.” She had a point. A good instructor questions everything. While it’s important to listen to what you are taught, the best learning comes from thinking critically and applying that knowledge. It’s okay to disagree with something that your teacher says. 

Completing my first yoga teacher training changed my life. Becoming a yoga instructor is one of the best things that I’ve ever done, and it’s a journey that I encourage anyone with a deep passion for yoga to undertake. That being said, it’s important to recognize that teacher trainings are big business in the industry. Please, please, please do your due diligence before enrolling for the class and investing in a program. Spend time in the studio where you will be training, chat with graduates of the program, look at a few different programs and read online reviews. More than anything, you should be doing a teacher training for yourself—you’re worth taking the time to make sure you’re receiving quality training!

Have you done a teacher training? Do you agree with what I’ve said? What do you think makes a quality yoga teacher training?

UPDATE: My teacher, Christine, shared my blog post on her Instagram page and had these lovely things to say. If you are looking for quality training, and are in the Toronto area, I highly recommend you seek her out!

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Today we're featuring Gillian's blog post: What Makes a Quality Yoga Teacher Training? Gillian completed the 2013 Teacher Training Program that I directed for a number of years. In addition to being responsible for the syllabus, I taught a significant number of hours covering topics of asana, deconstruction and analysis; teaching skills and an intro to hands-on-adjusting. Gillian stood out as being authentic with a fairly clear concept of her future as a yoga instructor. One of my main goals when leading a fundamentals training program is to help light the road to continuous learning. Put another way... enough knowledge to start your teaching career with a good appreciation for the depth and that the learning offered is just scratching the surface. Never stop being a yoga student and never stop learning is the mantra! It has been so delightful watching Gillian’s growth as a yoga instructor and leader in her community. Her passion for yoga and positively touching the lives of those in her community make me beyond proud. This blog is indicative of her critical thinking skills, desire to share her experience and the solid underpinnings of fabulous instructor. I am so proud that I had a small part in launching her yoga career and even prouder of her critical thinking skills and desire to continue learning. I can say that I lead by example and after teaching for close to 20 years, there is nothing I like better than to be a student. The last 2 years have been a whirlwind of mind blowing study for me, as you know if you have taken my classes. The yoga world is changing, for those that are open to challenging dogma, and introducing these concepts to fresh minds has had stupendous results. I will be revamping my training and relaunching in 2020... stay tuned. Read Gillian's thoughts on the subject: (Or click the link in the bio) @gillianbuckleyyoga #yogaforrunners #yfr #yogainspiration #yoga #yogalove #runners #healthyrunning #ytt #runnersloveyoga #doyogarunfaster #runhealthy #teachertraining #yogirunner #yogastrong #yogagram #strength #yogiathelete #nevertoostrong #neverstoplearning

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Hi, I'm Gillian.

I’m obsessed with helping women live their best lives. Together we'll use yoga and mindfulness to build confidence, reach goals and have some fun!

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About the Author Gillian Buckley

When she's not teaching yoga classes or wellness workshops, Gillian can be found doing boot camp in the park, spending time with her kids or developing her latest and greatest kombucha flavour.