Thinking about yoga teacher training? Ask yourself these questions first

If you missed my workshop last Sunday on what you might like to consider before opting to train as a yoga teacher, I’m offering you some of the key discussion points from the seminar here as well as some of the issues raised by those who attended. Thanks for the feedback that it was ‘very, very helpful’ – good to know!

Yoga teacher training is an emotional investment as much as a physical and professional one, so you need to be sure about why you are undertaking it, what you intend to do with the training and whether or not you have found the right teacher and course for you.  The latter is absolutely crucial and can make or break the whole experience. Here are some key questions to ask yourself before you commit a great deal of time and money to your yoga development.

BristolYogaTracy

(Me, teaching at Hamilton House, Bristol last year.)

Why do you want to teach yoga? You may simply want to deepen your own practice by taking a teacher training course but, if you want to teach professionally, you need to be able to articulate this clearly and in detail to complete what can be rigorous application forms to secure a place.  Good teachers will only take students who fit their ethos and who they feel have a good foundation of yoga to build from, so be wary of those programmes that seem ready to take your money with few questions about how well prepared you are.  Just like applying for a job, you must convince as to how you are a good fit for this role and have supporting evidence of your ability.

This brings us onto the next question: What skills or attributes do you possess that you feel would make you a good yoga teacher?  Being ‘good at yoga’, whatever that means, has no bearing on your ability to teach yoga safely to a room full of people with different body types, capabilities and degrees of confidence.  There is very little relationship between how good a practitioner you are on your own mat and how well you can teach, explain, support and motivate.  Teaching and coaching skills gained from other contexts can be invaluable, so draw on skills gained in different areas of your life that you feel will make a relevant contribution.

What sort of teacher training are you looking for? I took a compressed and fairly intense 200 hour training to fit in around my work, but there are options to spread training out over a year or two, attending weekend workshops and studying in between. If you have the option, a month-long total immersion in a far flung location can be the way to go; it can certainly help you to focus if you are removed from daily home and work distractions.  Immersion training can be isolating and intense however, so if you are a homebody and are not sure you will cope well away from your normal routine, a more extended course nearby might suit you better.  It’s also a good idea to meet and take classes with your chosen teacher, if possible, to be sure you like and feel comfortable with them and their style. I took a week long retreat with Sally Parkes to be certain she was the best teacher for me, and happily enrolled for her 200 hour training afterwards.

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(With Sally Parkes (left), teaching a yoga anatomy workshop at The OM Yoga Show, October 2015)

And what is the balance of the course you require? I wanted a training that was very strong in anatomy and physiology so that I felt confident working with clients with injuries, illnesses or carrying a pregnancy, and I personally feel that any teacher instructing asana at all should have a thorough grounding in a&p for safety. Even if you prefer a training with a more spiritual and philosophical bent, make sure you have a strong foundation in the physical to work safely with other people’s bodies.  They will trust you and put themselves in your hands, so work carefully.  Make sure you do your research into course structure, balance of content and the methods of assessment before committing.

Are you ready to live the yoga lifestyle? When you look beyond the physical practice of yoga asana, yoga offers a philosophy and framework for living that as a yoga teacher you will be expected to study and also make a good attempt to observe in daily life. The first two of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, as detailed in Patanjali’s Sutras, are the Yamas and Niyamas – guidance for your own behavior and for how you treat others. Teaching yoga goes way beyond the mat into how you embody yoga and live it each day.  Can you find compassion when you are angry? Will you live modestly and not to excess?  A willingness to embrace yoga philosophy comes with the job along with the stretchy pants!

Are you ready to run a yoga business?  Unless you are volunteering your skills for free, you will have to get to grips with the basics of running a business: setting yourself up and registering with HMRC, completing annual tax returns, managing your income, promoting your classes and dealing with your clients.  I mentor Sally Parkes’ students through their transition into teaching classes and running their yoga business, including using social media effectively and being a confident presenter.  Will your course offer you this support into your new career? How do you feel about teaching yoga as a business?

A few other issues came up in Sunday’s class that I can pick up on here. A big one is not being flexible enough to teach yoga. Trust me, being bendy has nothing to do with being able to instruct a class clearly and safely. I have very limited flexibility in my hips especially, so I get one of my students to demonstrate a wide angled seated pose instead, or sometimes I bring anatomy books and show my class a picture. Play to your strengths and let your students have the spotlight occasionally to help you out.

Another interesting one was, what if no-one wants to learn meditation or yoga philosophy? Well, the truth is, they may not, and you will have work with that.  A lot of people come to yoga based on the photos of more advanced poses they see in the media and expect a challenging physical practice.  That may be as far as they get or it may be the case that they embrace more of the Eight Limbs over time.  I offer little bits of yoga philosophy where I feel it is relevant and sometimes do a reading during savasana. I also deliver a yoga philosophy workshop to interested students from time to time.  Welcome people to your class and let them find their own path, even if it takes them in a different direction from your own.

So, there you have it – a synopsis of Sunday’s seminar! I hope you found it useful and don’t hesitate to drop me a line at tracy@brainboxcoaching.co.uk if you’d like more information or to arrange a career coaching session for yourself.

I wish you all the best on your yoga journey!