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I Completed a Yoga Teacher Training During the Pandemic. Here’s What I Learned.

Is now the right time to do a 200-hour yoga teacher training?

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With many of us still bound by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be wondering if now is the right time to undergo a 200-hour yoga teacher training (YTT); I certainly did. It’s a big commitment, both financially and time-wise, but the draws of increasing your understanding of the practice, learning about the history of yoga and its sister science, Ayurveda, and spreading the joy of a sequence are ever-present. When it comes to making a big life decision, like completing a teacher training, though, there’s never a right time; wisdom comes from making the leap and adapting.

person meditates on a mountain top
Photo: iStock/Everste

There are myriad ways to go about yoga teacher trainings. Some might prefer the immersive experience, where you and 60 other yogis spend a month at a retreat, practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation day in and day out. For others, a months-long approach may be better suited to your schedule. With COVID-19 putting a halt to many forms of travel and large gatherings, a hybrid or solely online YTT is, arguably, the most readily available option. I’m here to tell you that if you choose to take the hybrid in-person/online route, you won’t be missing out on a life-changing experience.

See also Does Everyone and their Mother Really Need to Do a Yoga Teacher Training?

The Setup

Back in October of 2020, I embarked on a hybrid 200-hour YTT with Amana Yoga in Yoga Journal’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Since it was a hybrid class, that meant we would meet in-person on the weekends from 9am to 5pm and on Friday nights from 6pm to 9pm. Masks were worn at all times. Students were given the option of either livestreaming the classes from their homes or attending in-person. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were only allowed to have six students plus the instructor, Alia Sebben—the founder of Amana Yoga and Fiteo—in the room at any given time.

On occasions, a different instructor would come in to lead us through a more specialized class in Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, and the like. Throughout the week, we would complete homework assignments by watching yoga and meditation videos on Fiteo and keep a log of the classes that we took and some personal notes from our experience with the practice. The anatomy section was also completed online through Tiffany Cruikshank’s course on Yoga International, and it was part of our homework to complete sections in the anatomy training every week. Right before Thanksgiving, everybody completed their formal test-out which is comprised of an hour-long class built by you. The class could be taught via in-person attendance or through a virtual meeting service, like Zoom. From there, it was on us to stick with our practice and log at least five yoga classes or meditations each week from the end of November until December 31, 2020.

What’s In A YTT?

“OK,” you might be saying, “that doesn’t sound too bad”. The time commitment is very real, but the structure is inclusive of your availability and comfort being in small groups. If you live far away from a brick-and-mortar teaching facility, it actually opens up the door to completing a YTT in the first place.

Throughout our time spent together, the classes went over the history of yoga, yogic philosophy such as the yamas and niyamas, the doshas and other facets of Ayurveda; the principles of a vinyasa class; human anatomy; the different poses with their Sanskrit names and uses; how to properly cue; how to make adjustments; the business of yoga; lots and lots of practice; and much more. A standard 200-hour YTT will likely be in the Hatha Yoga lineage which prepares you to teach a vinyasa class at your local studio. Teaching more specific classes such as Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga require trainings outside the scope of the introductory 200-hour course. The key underpinnings of a YTT educate you on this ancient practice and prepare you to lead others through a sequence safely.

Pros and Cons

While our class made the best of the situation, it wasn’t always perfect. Here are some pros and cons I observed from my experience:

  1. Pro: The small class size meant intimate engagement with everybody in the room. We were able to ask questions whenever they appeared and had what felt like an above-average opportunity to practice teaching. We would frequently partner up and troubleshoot our cues.
  2. Con: Larger class sizes might have certain advantages. You may be looking for a larger class size since there’s certainly value in undergoing this transformation with many people by your side. Large gatherings are still restricted in many areas because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Pro: Flexibility in attendance. If life got in the way, all of the classes were recorded so you could watch them later if attending wasn’t possible on a specific day.
  4. Con: Zoom fatigue is real. The prospect of sitting through an eight-hour session on your computer might be challenging.
  5. Pro: The 1-on-1 connection. By having such a small group, you really get to know everybody in the course, adding a layer of comfort when you’re being vulnerable. Plus, it can’t be understated how valuable the extra time to practice, teach and work on adjustments is in a small class setting.
  6. Con: Connectivity issues. Literally. Your screen could lag which makes you feel like you’re missing out on what’s happening, and if you never attend in-person, teacher training may start to feel like a solo venture.
  7. Pro: The anatomy section. Learning anatomy online was actually wonderful. We were able to pause and rewind the lesson, enabling us to take copious notes. If anatomy was taught in person to a large group, it may be difficult to take notes fast enough or ask for a repeat if you missed something.
  8. Con: Touching people during a pandemic. This varies greatly by comfort level but for many, the prospect of breaking the recommended six feet of social distance to practice your adjustments is an absolute no-go for many. You’ll learn in your YTT that cueing and demonstrating an adjustment yourself, before resorting to physical adjustments, are still exceptionally important.
  9. Pro: Practice at your own pace. When it came to the homework assignments, you could take classes or meditate on your own time instead of needing to attend an in-person class. If you have really busy days, this opens up the door for early-morning or late-night classes without the commute.
  10. Con: Completing your 10-hours of shadowing a yoga teacher is a challenge. Pre-COVID, many studios would let you sit in on classes so you could easily rack up your shadowing hours, but in a pandemic world, yoga studios have restrictions on the number of people allowed in class; paying students tend to be priority, partly for the longevity of the studio. This will make shadowing complicated.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in the hybrid 200-hour YTT. I made the leap after practicing yoga for over 10 years, and being able to share a smart and safe sequence with others is a skill that I will have for a lifetime. The extra hours of practice teaching really refined my cues and taught me what to look for in students who may be positioning themselves in ways that could injure them. I loved getting to know our small pod of yogis and rooting for everybody’s success. The homework assignments made me take what I had learned into my everyday life, which made work less stressful and play more fulfilling. A few of my fellow yogis opted to attend class mostly from the comfort of their homes and doing so worked very well with their other commitments and comfort levels. If you are considering embarking on a 200-hour YTT now, during this time of continued social distancing, doing one online will still empower you with the necessary knowledge to launch your yoga teaching journey, with the added bonus of a generally smaller (and more intimate) class size.