A Yogi's Guide to Evaluating Teacher Training Programs

Natasha Rizopoulos recommends carefully examining YTT program curriculums before signing up. Here, some parameters to use.
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Natasha Rizopoulos recommends carefully examining YTT program curriculums before signing up. Here, some parameters to use.
NatashaRizopoulosYJLIVE2013

Google “yoga teacher training” and pages upon pages of results will leave you not only scrolling for hours but likely overwhelmed and confused. It seems every studio and experienced teacher out there is offering a YTT now. In this weekly series, YJ LIVE! presenters answer your questions.

Once you’ve found a teacher who resonates with you and a program geared toward your goals, Natasha Rizopoulos, who leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings, recommends taking it a step further and carefully examining the program’s curriculum. Here, the parameters she suggests using to evaluate a TT program.

Teacher training involves practical commitments of time, energy, and money. But the emotional investment is as important (if not more). A great teacher training is inspiring and elevating. A disappointing teacher training wastes precious personal resources and is frustrating and disillusioning.

SEE ALSOShould You Take a Teacher Training to Deepen Your Practice? 

Curriculum Essentials to Look for in YTT Programs

So how do you identify the program that will actually help translate your love of yoga into tangible teaching skills? Here, some things to look for:

1. Clearly defined method or tradition

Make sure there is a clearly articulated method or tradition being taught and that the program topics and schedule are explicitly presented in the marketing materials. Absent these crucial elements, a TT can devolve into unstructured chaos, relying on the personality of the trainer instead of well-organized content.

2. Comprehensive curriculum

Gifted teachers make teaching yoga look easy. But as every trainee discovers the first time they try to teach Tadasana and promptly lose their power of speech, it takes tremendous knowledge and skill to teach yoga well. A good program must have a comprehensive and thoughtfully designed curriculum that addresses all the areas that contribute to excellent teaching.

At the 200-hour level, this means some combination of:

  •  Asana/Alignment
  •  Anatomy
  •  Sequencing
  •  Philosophy
  •  Prop use and modifications
  •  Hands-on adjustments
  •  Teaching practice
  •  Meditation

More advanced trainings should continue this work, as well as broaden the scope to include material like:

  •  Specific needs of various populations
  •  Challenges of teaching multiple levels
  •  Pranayama
  •  Subtle body and Ayurveda

SEE ALSOFind Your YTT Teacher: What to Look For + Avoid

4 Red Flags to Avoid In YTT Programs

All of that said, good TTs can take myriad forms and do not have to follow any specific model. However, there are certain danger signs, the proverbial red flags, that might make you want to continue your search just a little bit longer. Do your homework and watch out for the following:

1. A cult of personality

Beware of style over substance. Talk to recent alums to get a sense of whether it’s about the yoga or the teacher.

2. Promotional emphasis on an exotic locale

Beaches are lovely but knowledge is power. Teaching yoga is a gift but also a huge responsibility and you do not want to graduate from a program that has not actually prepared you to handle its challenges. Don’t choose a training based upon its sunsets.

3. Unlicensed psychotherapy

Most yoga teachers are not also trained therapists. Avoid those who behave as if they are.

4. Fundamentalism

My first TT was led by two teachers from quite different lineages. The program was a respectful and open ongoing exchange in service of learning—a model for us all.

READ MORE Surviving Yoga Teacher Training: How to Prepare

ABOUT NATASHA RIZOPOULOS
Natasha Rizopoulos is a Senior Teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-Hr Teacher Training programs. For more on her teaching and travel schedule, visit natasharizopoulos.com.

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