It is quite staggering to think that in the last 4 years the number of people practising yoga in America alone has grown 50%. Perhaps you have been practising for years or have more recently found the joys of moving through a yoga class. Whatever your background there is no denying that yoga is incredibly good for the body and mind and is now considered a respectable career choice.

Many people are content with making yoga a daily practise but not interested in taking it any further than that. If you are reading this article then perhaps you are keen to learn more and your interest has been spiked by the latest Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) post you saw on Facebook, Instagram or the mention of an upcoming training at your local studio.

Deciding to take part in a YTT is an amazing next step in your education of yoga and time should be put aside to properly research the many schools that are available. If you sit down at your computer and type in YTT the internet will explode with the 1000’s of programs offered worldwide. This can be incredibly overwhelming (I speak from experience!) and leave you feeling confused as to which YTT is best for you.

This article will go through a few fundamental questions you should keep in mind when choosing a YTT that would be best for you. Let’s have a look shall we?

What do you want to get out of your training?

There are several reasons why someone may want to take part in a YTT, not only to learn how to teach. Perhaps you are looking to deepen your own practice or obtain a greater understanding of yoga from a spiritual and philosophical perspective.

Truly understanding your driver for why you want to attend a YTT will be a determining factor in which program you choose. This is because some programs are more focused on the physical asana practice and practical guidance on how to become a yoga teacher, while others will go more into the spiritual side of yoga and how to tap into the inner you.

Let’s have a look at each of these individually.

Deepen your own practice

The first thing to remember about YTT’s is that fundamentally they have been put together to give you the skills to teach yoga. If the course is certified by Yoga Alliance (which you should be looking at if you want to teach) then there will be a certain curriculum that the program will need to follow, including teaching and contact hours. The more yoga you do the more you will deepen your own practice, naturally.

However, if you are looking to specifically focus on your own practice that is good for your body and mind, then seeking out a program that combines teaching with development of your own practice would be ideal. Other good options would be to attend yoga retreats that focus on your own personal practice, though these will not carry with them a certificate to teach yoga.

Develop a greater understanding of what Yoga is

Many people have practised yoga for years, but only really focused on the physical asana practice. That is not to say asana is not yoga, but it is only a very small part. There are many other aspects including philosophy, breath-work (pranayama), cleansing and meditation to name a few. Depending on the style of yoga taught there will be slightly different backgrounds, techniques and practices that can be taught.

Perhaps you are seeking a YTT that follows a holistic approach to teaching Yoga, one that puts as much emphasis on the physical teaching process as it does on yogic life and these other aspects of the practice. This might be something you are looking for if you have already completed a YTT and want a refresher or want to focus on the other aspects of yoga. If this sounds like it is more up your street, then make sure you look for programs that specifically mention their focus on meditation, pranayama, cleansing or philosophy, depending on what it is you are looking for.

You want to teach

On the other hand, you may only be seeking a YTT to gain the required qualification to teach yoga. If this is your goal then I recommend seeking out programs that have a heavy focus on teaching, hands-on adjustments and sequencing. A piece of advice here is to look at reviews for the schools that provided the best information on sequencing. This is because many students are coming out of YTT’s and do not feel comfortable jumping into a class because don't know how to create a class structure.

There are even programs out there that have separate modules on “the business of yoga”. These modules (or similarly named) teach you how to set up your own yoga business and how to market it. Cool right? The combination of teacher training and business training is an excellent way to hit the ground running as soon as you qualify.

These have been the three main reasons why you might consider a YTT. Once you have your, “why and I doing this” nailed down, then there are some essential elements and requirements that you should consider and compare between programs to create a shortlist.

Quality and experience of the teachers

Irrespective of your “why” for attending a YTT, the quality and experience of the teachers should be high on your list of requirements. This should not be measured by the age or nationality of the teacher, but rather their yoga background. There are many schools that do not have traditional Indian teachers that provide outstanding programs. If you are looking for a traditional experience from an Indian instructor, that is perfectly fine and there are many that are available.

There are also some programs that have younger teachers that people might shy away from, looking for an older and therefore (assumed) more experienced guide. Keep in mind that some teachers in their 20’s but have been practising yoga every day for 10-15 years which makes then excellent teachers. The rule of thumb here is to do your research on the teachers that will be leading you through the program and making a note of which one's style, background or philosophy you resonate with most before making a decision.

In the technological age that we live in, it is also fairly easy to find a review on teachers and programs. Do yourself a favour and spend some time looking at reviews of the individual teachers and the school itself. The experience of the school is as essential as the experience of the teachers. The teachers do not always own the schools, but rather, are invited to teach. More experienced schools will have honed their program based on feedback and learning what works well, they will also have more reviews that will give you a balanced opinion of their program.

The style that is taught

This can sometimes be overlooked but is definitely something you should pay attention to. If there is a specific style of yoga you have been practising for years and want to teach then you should seek out a program that focuses on that specific style.

Not only does it mean that your body is already familiar with the practice but also that you can focus on the specific nuances of honing your skills as a teacher as you will already know how other teachers have sequenced and instructed classes. It will also help when it comes to looking for jobs as an instructor, as you can say that you are trained in that style and have been practising it for several years.

Probably the most fundamental reason for knowing which style is taught it because several styles are very specific such as Ashtanga, Bikram, Yin and Kundalini Yoga. These styles have specific postures and sequencing that only relate to their style. In Ashtanga yoga, there are six different series that are followed in order of difficulty and have very specific poses that are linked through the breath. Therefore, an Ashtanga YTT will specifically focus on teaching you how to lead a class through Series 1 and perhaps 2. Similarly, the other styles of yoga mentioned above have very specific postures that are guided by the breath and some with specific timing (Yin).

If you are not sure of which yoga style you want to focus on or haven't done yoga that long to have chosen a favourite then I recommend that you look into a Hatha/Vinyasa YTT. This is because these are the most common (and oldest) Yoga styles that are taught and are a good basis for your continued education. Having a certificate in Hatha/Vinyasa means that you can teach a Yoga Flow class, Vinyasa class or Hatha class which are generally the most popular at a studio.

The curriculum

If you are looking to teach at the end of your YTT then you will need to ensure that the program is certified by the “Yoga Alliance”. This means that the program will need to follow a set curriculum to certify you. The Yoga Alliance curriculum consists of the following modules:

  • Techniques, Training and Practice: 100 hours
  • Teaching Methodology: 25 hours
  • Anatomy & Physiology: 20 hours
  • Yoga Philosophy/Ethics/Lifestyle: 30 hours
  • Practicum (Practicing to teach yoga): 5 hours

To meet Yoga Alliance standards a program must include 180 hours specifically relating to the above-mentioned categories. The remaining hours can be dedicated to specific classes or instruction that is related and beneficial. These remaining 20 hours are what normally differentiate programs from each other.

This is where your “why” comes in to help narrow down programs. If you are looking to teach once qualified; perhaps you look to a program that spends the remaining 20 hours specifically on sequencing, hand on adjustment or has a module on “the business of yoga” to prepare you for starting a business.

If you are looking to deepen your own practice, perhaps you seek out a program that helps you develop your own personal practice in these 20 hours, with a specific focus on meditation and pranayama techniques that are beneficial for you personally.

Finally, if you are seeking a more holistic approach to understanding yoga, perhaps you look for programs that spend these remaining hours focusing on pranayama, meditation, chakras, mindfulness or philosophy.

Focus on the unique qualities of that particular school that make them stand out from the crowd. Do those qualities align with what it is you want to get out of your training?

The class size

Like anything, there are pros and cons to take into consideration when looking at the class size of a program. The pros of smaller classes (5-10) are that you are more likely to have individual attention and more opportunity to ask your specific questions. You may even get through the curriculum a little quicker if everyone in the class is at the same level. The cons of smaller class size are that they can sometimes lack atmosphere (depending on how small they are) and they can become very personal. This might be great for outgoing people but maybe not as much fun for someone who is a little more private and would like to keep themselves to themselves.

The pros of larger (15-35) groups are that they can offer an amazing atmosphere and connections post your training. Larger groups can also add to your learning experience because you end up learning from each other. Watching each other teach or hearing answers to questions who didn't think to ask can be very valuable. The cons of larger classes are that you will have less individual attention and may work through the curriculum at a slightly slower rate to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This might mean that things are rushed at the end to ensure the curriculum is fully covered; or if the school sticks to a certain pace the whole way through to ensure everything is covered, if you are struggling with a particular part you may have to keep up with everyone else.

The price does not appear to be reflective of class size as some smaller groups are more expensive as they are “exclusive” whereas others are less expensive because it is a new school starting with smaller groups. This means that you can decide on what best works for you and your personality and then look for schools.

The location

Location, location, location! This is by far the biggest factor that will determine the price of your YTT program. As programs are often 2-3 weeks long, they can be incredibly expensive in the USA or Northern Europe as they are expensive locations. The price will further increase if accomodation and meals are included. That is not to say that there are not expensive programs in other locations, but then there is generally another reason for the increase in price, such as the attendance of a specific teacher, extra-curricular activities such as outings, diving, tours etc or five-star service such as full board including massages.

Thankfully, there are many beautiful destinations where you can complete your YTT that are affordable. The most noteworthy locations that are stunning, offer great schools and an amazing experience to boot; are Bali, Thailand and India. South America also has some amazing programs, however, they are slightly pricer.

This is very much a personal decision, but if you are taking time out to complete your training it can be an amazing experience to leave your home town or even your country, and jet off to somewhere exotic to really immerse yourself in your experience.

The duration

There are two main ways to complete your YTT: Part-time or through an intensive program. Part-time programs are brilliant if you are already working and do not have much vacation time in the year, or prefer to use your vacation time for other purposes. Part-time programs can take between 6 months to 1 year to complete. However, this article is mainly focused on the second way to study, which is through an intensive program.

These programs can be anywhere from 10 days to a full month. Many of the shorter programs have mandatory reading and exercises that need to be completed before the training begins so that the contact hours are used as effectively as possible. Most of these programs I have found in the USA where vacation times can be shorter.

Be warned though, these shorter programs are incredibly demanding physically and mentally. There is little free time and they are often designed for those who have the main objective of having a teaching qualification. If you are looking for a course that is holistic in sharing with you the other aspects of Yoga, these may just not have the time to go into the details you desire.

Longer programs tend to offer more free time, opportunities to go out and explore the location and often include some excursions. The longer the program the more time there is available for other classes or themes to be explored. Choose which-ever duration is best for you and what you what to gain.

The price

Finally, we come to the price of the program. This should be considered carefully against the other criteria we have already looked at as well as your “why” to determine if it is a good price or not. If you are looking to teach, see this as an investment for your future career and remember that if you have set up a business you can look into claiming the tax back (depending on what the tax laws are in your country).

With YTT’s ranging anywhere from USD $1,000 - USD $5,000, you should take time to narrow down your searches. If you have found a program that is slightly out of your budget, consider contacting them about any special offers or payment plans they might be able to offer. There are many schools that are not offering payment plans to ensure that you can still attend your dream program.

Quality of the training is normally reflected in the price, so if there is a training that you want to attend but cannot afford it this year, perhaps wait for a time when you have less financial stress so that you can enjoy the program and get the most out of it.

Summing up

Choosing to qualify as a yoga teacher and selecting your school should be an exciting and joyous time in your life. Following the guidance in this article should help to make the selection process that much easier and help select a program that will help you reach your goal, whatever that is. Being aware of your choices and making an informed decision will only add to the amazing experience you will go through on your YTT, good luck!