Right now you are probably jumping up and down, doing a little dance and clapping your hands in excitement. You have just booked your Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) and in no time at all, you will be realising your dream of becoming a Yoga Teacher. Congratulations on taking this amazing step forward in your life, you will not regret it.
So, now that you have paid your deposit and have your first “welcome” email in your inbox, let's take a look at the 10 things I suggest you should do to prepare for your YTT. Not too long ago I was in your shoes and a checklist like this would have really come in handy! Let’s have a little look, shall we?
1. Read all your emails and ask questions
This might sound like a really silly point, but we often get super excited about finding a school and the paying for something that we forget to them look at what we have purchased! Does this sound familiar? Tip: You have just spent possibly thousands on a YTT program that will take you away from home for 3-4 weeks, it is probably worth your time to read the emails.
Go through all the correspondence that the company or organisers send you and keep an eye out for the following:
- Recommended packing list - This will be very handy as this would be been created with the accommodation, location, climate and included activities in mind.
- Information on what props are included - This is useful to know as packing a block and yoga mat will take up extra room in your luggage.
- Information on laundry facilities - If there are laundry facilities on or near your accommodation you can pack less clothing (more room for souvenirs!)
- Information on dietary requirements - If you know what food is being served you can prepare in advance for this and also let them know of any allergies/intolerance/preferences that you might have.
Most YTT programs know that you are about to embark on an amazing journey and they want to prepare you as much as possible. If they have not provided you with this information, start a list of all the questions that you want to ask, just to put your mind at ease and feel prepared.
Many schools are incredibly detailed in the information that they send out to students, while others take a more “relaxed” approach. If you have not had all your questions answered, prepare an email that covers everything that you would like to know. Ideally, put this into one email (or phone call) so that you don’t have to keep going back and forth.
2. Do your homework!
Most YTT programs will include a “suggested reading list” and possible a “mandatory reading list” in your welcome email. READ THESE! They are not there for decoration, they will start to prepare your mind for the expansion it is about to encounter and will get you to start thinking of Yoga as more than just fancy poses.
It is usual practice for a YTT program to include a manual, however, this is usually only provided when you arrive. It can be helpful to give yourself a head start on the philosophy of Yoga by looking up information on pranayama (breathwork) and the yamas and niyamas (these are ethical guidelines) that you are likely to cover. Many trainings, including mine, suggested the Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. These are an excellent start to furthering your understanding of the Yogic life and principles and will make philosophy classes that much more interesting if you already have an idea of the history.
One additional piece of homework that would not go amiss, is to research the style of Yoga that you will be studying. Some styles, such as Ashtanga, Kundalini and Tantra are quite different from the traditional branch of Hatha. It may be useful to know a little about their origins, the types of sequences and the reason why they are practised (if you don’t already know this from your classes).
3. Prepare your mind
I cannot read the stars and tell you exactly what will happen and how you will feel during your YTT, but I can guarantee this: Your mind will be blown! No matter where you are taking your training, who your teachers are or how long it is for, your YTT will change your life and it will start in your mind.
After all, Yoga means “union”, to balance and harmonise the body and the mind to prepare it for transcendence and ultimate bliss. Asana, pranayama and meditation will free your mind and open it to new ideas, possibilities and through processes. You will need to prepare your mind for this transformation.
Here are two things that will help to prepare you:
- Talk to your friends and family about your YTT journey - This is an important part of preparing the mind for your training. It is likely that you come back from this experience with a different way of viewing the world, or perhaps you need someone to talk to while you are going through a personal transformation. Letting your friends and family know that you are taking this step and that things might change will help to reduce any anxiety while you are away and for when you return.
- Practice keeping an open mind - If your program has been certified by the Yoga Alliance there will be specific subjects that will need to be covered, which include philosophy and the Yogic lifestyle. These can be uncomfortable subjects for some, especially if you have strong opinions or have a strong religious belief that differs from these teachings. It is important to prepare yourself and practice keeping an open mind to new ideas and concepts. This ill vastly improve your experience and will keep you from feeling as though your way of life is threatened (if it is not in line with the ancient teachings).
4. Start to think like a teacher
The months or weeks leading up to your YTT, take as many different Yoga classes as you can (within reason). Not only will this prepare your body (this will be my next point) but more specifically it will give you the opportunity to pay attention to the teachers.
I am sure that in the past when you have attended a Yoga class you have not been too concerned about the way that the teacher is phrasing alignment cues, or guiding the class, am I right? I am equally sure that you gravitate to one or more teachers because you feel comfortable in their class and they have a certain “something” that makes their classes engaging/rewarding/fun.
Teachers differentiate themselves not by the poses that they teach, but the way in which they teach them. Yes, a Vinyasa teacher may be particularly gifted in sequencing but most likely she has a calm and engaging voice, is able to cue you into position with a few words and is clear in her instructions. Start to make a mental note of what these teachers are doing in their classes that you like, and what works to make their classes enjoyable. You can then bring some of these characteristics or themes into your training to develop your own voice.
5. Prepare your body
As important as preparing your mind, you will need to prepare your body. Most YTT programs will include two full yoga classes per day, excluding the work that you will do on learning each pose, teaching practice and sitting on the floor for long periods of time in meditation or study. Do yourself a favour and practice at least three times per week the month leading up to your training. Incorporate sitting in meditation or just sitting (if meditation is not part of your practice yet) to get used to it.
Another way to prepare your body is to prepare your stomach! When reading your welcome email ensure that you find out what type of food is being served during your stay (if it is included). Many YTT stick to traditional vegetarian or plant-based options (possibly fully vegan) without the option to opt-out.
This is generally fine for most people, however, if you are not vegan or follow a paleo type diet that includes a lot of meat, I would suggest preparing your digestion. If you are not used to eating just vegetables you may have some side effects in the first few days (this would be with any diet change) that could leave you tired, uncomfortable or feeling a little sick. Knowing in advance what will be served gives your digestive system a heads start on slowing weaning into this type of food.
Of course, if you have specific requirements for religious reasons, allergies or intolerances, ensure that you let the school know. However, if they have decided to serve a certain type of food, generally there is a very good reason behind it. This could be because ancient Yogis followed very much a vegetarian lifestyle and therefore they are looking to be as authentic as possible, or it could be because vegetarian or plant-based meals are more likely to leave you feeling energies and light so that you can get through all the yoga on your schedule. Whatever the reason, it is always good to be prepared!
6. Be a responsible traveller
- Shots - It is super important to check where in the world you will be travelling to (if leaving your home country) as soon as possible. You would hate to find out the week before your trip to South Africa that actually it is Malaria season and the tablets you require, need to be taken three weeks before you arrive. Not ideal! It is important and responsible to check with your doctor if there are any vaccinations you might need to travel. Some need to be taken several weeks before you fly, while others require weekly doses so check this out as soon as possible.
- Travel Insurance - This is a no brainer. Most YTT schools do not offer insurance and leave that up to each student to organise. There are literally hundreds of companies offering affordable travel insurance, so there is no excuse. You will regret not taking it out if you land up in the doctor's rooms with food poisoning or a twisted ankle, trust me!
- Visas - Double, no, triple check your visa requirements before travelling. Some countries will allow you to purchase a “Visa on Arrival”, others require a visa even if you are just connecting (Singapore is one of these for some passport holders) so do your homework and check this out BEFORE you fly. You do not want to be that person in the airport lounge paying a small fortune for an express visa.
7. Boring (but handy) admin
I know I know, who wants to think about boring admin when you are preparing for an experience of a lifetime? You will thank yourself later for being a little prepared when you arrive at your destination and you know how to withdraw cash, where to buy a sim card and how to order a taxi. Here are a few handy tips to make your life a little easier:
- Download or print all our boarding passes/tickets and have photocopies of your ID, accommodation booking, visa (if needed) and any other travel documents
- Find out if you can buy a local sim card at the airport
- Take out local currency BEFORE you arrive so that you have some money on you (but not too much!)
- Organise your transfers (if not already done for you) through your accommodation and ask them to have someone waiting with a sign. This is the safest and often cheapest way to organise transfers. Avoid just jumping into a cab at an airport and this can be a little risky (irrespective of where in the world you are)
- Add the contact details of your accommodation, the school and a preferred taxi company to your phone.
8. Take Time
Now that all the admin and boring bits have been taken care of and you are feeling fully prepared, it's time to think about a little downtime. The three or four weeks of your YTT are going to be intense for your body and your mind, so it is important to relax into the experience and allow all that you will learn to fully “land” in your consciousness and start to make sense to you.
With that in mind, if your schedule and budget will allow, organise to arrive in your destination a few days early. Not only will this give you time to get over any jet lag, but it will also allow you to soak up the local culture, feel the energy of the space that you will call home for the next few weeks and become accustomed to the weather and food. You will thank yourself later for giving yourself this time to learn your environment, clear away the cobwebs and put to sleep the busy brain that often follows us around in our daily lives.
Then, if you are able to be a little generous with yourself, organise a few days (or more) after your YTT where you can have a little vacation. After all, your YTT will be intense from the day you arrive to the day you are presented your certificate. It will go by so quickly and soon you will be wishing that you had some time to explore, see the sights, maybe suntan (if you are somewhere exotic).
Take some time for yourself to allow all that you have learnt to settle in, and allow your body a well-deserved break.
Finally! The really exciting part (at least I think so), its time to pack. Having read all the information from the school and asked your questions, you should have a good idea of what they recommend you pack and if there are any laundry services. This will mean fewer clothes needed and more space for gifts and trinkets (yay!).
Here are a few packing tips that I have (not weather specific) to make your YTT that much more comfortable and enjoyable:
- Eye mask
- Bug spray
- Muscle rub
- Mini medical kit
- Yoga towel
- Your own water bottle
- Essential oils
- Local travel guide
Check the weather forecast for while you are there to know what else you should pack as well as any cultural norms you should abide by (e.g. head coverings for temples etc).
10. Get excited!
Your bags are packed, you’re ready to go! It is time to get excited about the amazing experience you are about to have. Write down your thoughts and your feelings throughout your experience as they will be something to treasure in the future. Take a photo of yourself on your first day of training as a little souvenir of who you were before the training, I bet you anything that when you look back at that photo you will notice a slight difference in yourself.
Relish this time, do not rush it but rather embrace every new moment, every tear, silent moment and every deep breath. You are about to take a big leap in your personal growth! Have fun and enjoy it.