Establishing a yoga practice can lead to a lifelong love affair.
Once you begin to really feel the benefits of yoga, you’ll likely want to practice several times a week. When you really get bitten, you’ll begin to practice daily and explore different styles, studios, and locations around the world.
Then a funny thing can happen—you’ll want more.
It’s not unusual for dedicated practitioners to have the desire to immerse themselves in a yoga teacher training. Some people arrive with every intention of teaching at the end while others simply want a deeper understanding of the practice. The good news is, teacher training is really open to all. In it, you’ll dive into all the details of the practice, ranging from anatomy and asana to philosophy, and also, get prepared for the real world of teaching yoga.
Sound appealing? It totally is. I’d recommend a teacher training for anyone who wants to learn more. The thing is, yoga has become so incredibly popular that there are trainings offered everywhere. It’s like being a kid in a candy shop when it comes to making your choice. I recently discussed with senior teacher Annie Carpenter, creator of SmartFLOW teacher trainings. Here are some points we think anyone considering teacher training should consider.
Choosing the right training progam
It’s important to explore your own practice first. Taking a teacher training with a few months of yoga under your belt might sound enticing, but you won’t have a good enough grasp on what you your really love about the practice to choose well. “Teacher trainings should be transformative and not just teaching a set of skills,” Annie says. “It’s a learning experience but extremely spiritual. It’s important to understand yourself on your mat before you can create that space for your students. You’ll need to be ready to dive in deep so you can fully transform yourself to become a teacher who has the power to do that for their students.”
Now, this doesn’t mean you need to have studied for 10 years, but you do want that in your trainer. A teacher who is training other yogis to be teachers should have a least a decade of of teaching experience, and a steady personal practice. Annie recommends seeking out a personal connection with the teacher, whether that means going with someone you’ve practiced with for years or someone who understands the style of yoga that makes your heart race. You’re more likely to get the most out of your training when you can connect with your teacher.
You’ll notice that there are teacher trainings that are specific to types of yoga, but Carpenter finds those to be too inclusive. She recommends finding a well-rounded training that incorporates a wide spectrum of hatha yoga techniques—including vinyasa flow, Ashtanga, and Iyengar, as examples—that give you a good sense of the spectrum of yoga and, if you choose, allow you to teach anywhere instead of limiting your options.
Knowing when you’re ready
It’s best to do a training once your physically and mentally prepared to transform. When you get the yoga bug, it’s natural to want to learn the “fancy” poses right away, and think that doing is a training is the way to go. But the goal of yoga, and of any teacher training program, is to pay attention to what’s happening inside during your yoga practice. Annie finds that those who know their limitations and have the ability to listen make the best students. Be ready to take instruction and pay attention with equanimity. Being able to do advanced asana isn’t the issue—your ability to learn is.
Intensives versus longer training programs
Intensive trainings are those that last for a month or less, where you meet daily with your group in the same location. Longer training programs may comprise meeting Friday night through Sunday for a designated period of time (say, 3 or four months), or meeting in a designated location for a week a few times per year.
“Intensives are best if your life and schedule allows it. Your potential to transform is enhanced in these circumstances,” Annie says. Intensives allow you to be completely absorbed in what you’re learning. The rest of the world goes away, yoga takes over—it’s like being in a pressure cooker! Annie put it best when she said, “People fall apart in a primitive, essential way—community and yoga builds you back up in an honest and compassionate way.”
That being said, not everyone has the time or budget to do an intensive, and longer trainings are wonderful as well, spreading the experience out over many months, allowing you to absorb the teachings and practice in your own time, and giving you something to look forward to. Just make sure you keep up your practice in between the longer trainings so you stay focused and fresh.
To teach or not to teach, that is the question
Many people take teacher training just to expand their own practice. Where else will you have the luxury of studying yoga asana, philosophy, anatomy, and assisting in a concentrated and advanced way? That being said, most people who do teacher training do so with the desire to teach others, either as a adjunct to other things they do in their life, or as a full-time profession. Whichever camp you fall into, if you’re looking for a deeper experience of yoga, and have the time to dedicate to this pursuit—go for it. You won’t regret it.