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How to Assess Teacher Trainings

I want to become certified as a yoga teacher and am unsure what criteria I should expect from the program I choose. What weight would my certification program hold when I'm looking for employment? Are some places more respected than others? How important is it to train at those places?
—M.

Read Maty Ezraty's response:

Dear M.,

I will do my best to answer your questions, but you may want to seek personal advice from a teacher who knows you and your practice. Since I do not know you or your aspirations, you may benefit from a second opinion.

Let's face the facts: Teacher trainings and certification programs are big business. Many yoga schools make a substantial portion of their income from them, and many schools actually depend on teacher trainings for survival. This means you must shop carefully.

I also believe there is far too much emphasis on certification. As far as I know, there are no current state or federal regulations or certificates required in order to teach yoga. Therefore, the pressure to have a certificate is mostly political and financial.

That said, I do believe training is important. But it takes time, especially if you want to be a well-rounded teacher. Despite the many promises being made, any training that promises you a complete teacher's education in one course is not focused on your best interest. There is no magical number of hours or days that makes the measure of a fine instructor. In truth, it takes years to become a good teacher.

Therefore, I caution against putting too much attention on "Yoga Alliance accreditation." Yoga Alliance is a registration organization, not a certificate control agency. I am not aware of its having any quality-control system to check the certification programs listed in its registry. "Two hundred hours" means nothing if the 200 hours are not worthwhile. There are many good schools that register with Yoga Alliance—but many inferior programs do so as well.

Further, I stress the importance of working with a mentor as part of your training. It is not enough simply to take a course. It is invaluable to be an assistant or an apprentice to a senior teacher. If this is not included as part of your training, you should either consider another course or look for a teacher who will take you as an apprentice. Being under the guidance of a senior teacher can make all the difference, because you will inevitably encounter students and issues that you won't know how to handle. It will be invaluable at that point to have a mentor's guidance.

Along with a mentor, it is important to have ongoing education—look for teacher training programs that offer this in some capacity.

I ran a school for 18 years, and during that time I trained and hired many teachers. As the director, I was never concerned with or impressed by teacher certificates; more often then not, I was leery of them. Before I ever hired a teacher, I would watch them teach. A certificate is meaningless if the teacher is not personable enough to attract students, or capable enough to deliver information safely.

So let's look at what to avoid:

As I said before, any school that simply offers a certificate at the completion of the course merits your suspicion. If you want to be a good teacher, look for a course that makes you earn your certificate.

And to reiterate, it is not possible to become a teacher in two weeks, one month, or even three months. No training can possibly guarantee that you will be ready to teach upon simply completing the course. The course should be presented as a preliminary step to the teacher training process.

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