Maybe you started practicing yoga reluctantly, thinking it was just going to give you a good stretch, but found that it did so much more. Perhaps you dove in head first to as many types of classes as possible and found yourself on a new journey. Either way, we venture to assume that by now, you’re hooked (or at least on your way there). Yoga tends to have that effect on people. At some point, three magical but mysterious words may start to linger in your thoughts: yoga teacher training.
Yoga teacher training, also known as YTT, is the gateway to upping your yoga knowledge. It spans all eight limbs of yoga including meditation, physical practice and self-study, helping trainees learn more about their personal practices and how to guide others. Some may seek YTT because they want a deeper mind-body connection, while others may be passionate about teaching. Whatever the motivation, YTT is usually synonymous with “transformation.”
At best, transformation can be exciting. At worst, it can be intimidating and leave you questioning whether you’re ready, worthy or even transformable. If you’re thinking about YTT or even curious as to what the fuss is all about, read on.
What is Yoga Teacher Training?
A 200-hour yoga teacher training is designed to “prepare trainees to teach a general adult population,” according to Yoga Alliance (the organization that awards registered designations to yoga teachers and schools). While 200 hours may sound like a lot, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to yoga learning. Think of 200-hour YTT as basic training in:
- Yoga philosophy
- Teaching techniques and methodology
- Anatomy, assists and alignment
- Sequencing a flow
- Meditation and breathing techniques (pranayama)
Curricula may be tailored around a particular style of yoga, such as Vinyasa, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Yin, Restorative, Iyengar, Bikram, or a combination of styles. Many trainings also include basic glimpses into Ayurveda, an ancient influential mind-body health system.
When searching for the right YTT, Yoga Journal suggests ensuring that the training is designed around a clearly defined tradition or lineage and a comprehensive curriculum. Check out the criteria for Registered Yoga Schools (RYS) here.
How Do I Know When It’s Time for Training?
There are a few general signs that you may be ready for teacher training, but no golden rules. Having an established home practice is a good idea. Practicing on your own feeds the curiosity and self-exploration that you’ll dive into during training. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re up with the chickens seven days a week for 90 minutes a day. But if you find yourself feeding the urge to meaningfully explore yoga in your own body on your own terms outside of a led class, it may be a good time to deepen that exploration through teacher training. Practicing on your own before, during and after YTT will help you find a more meaningful connection with your yoga. In turn, that will strengthen your ability to help others establish and grow that connection as well.
Other indicators that it may be time to explore teacher training include:
- A curiosity and openness to change in your life off of your mat
- An evolving passion to learn more about yoga and yogic traditions
- The capacity for commitment, community and connection
- Seeking ways to tailor your asana practice to your emotional or physical needs
…and the list goes on! Whatever significance YTT has for you is enough of a reason to explore it.
What Will You Gain?
First and foremost, you’ll gain a 200-hour certification that grants you the opportunity to teach yoga in studios or through private lessons. Most studios require certification as a condition of teaching. You’ll also be eligible to apply for the RYT-200 designation through Yoga Alliance, a national yoga credentialing organization.
Unsure about teaching? If you’ve ever found yourself asking what “yoga” really means, you’ll develop a more intimate and personal definition after YTT. Even if you don’t decide to formally teach yoga to others, you may find yourself expressing your new knowledge through the way you treat others or treat yourself.
Naturally, spending 180 hours (the minimum number of contact hours during YTT) learning about yourself with a group of people yields strong bonds. Through your journey together you’ll build a tight community with your fellow trainees. That connection can last a lifetime. Of course, you may not click with every person. But, the powerful nature of YTT may help you see others in a different light by practicing compassion and empathy.
Yoga Will Be There When You’re Ready
Pantanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras thousands of years ago, but his wisdom from this ancient guidance still holds true. Sutra 1.1 roughly translates to “now, begins the teachings of yoga.” The power of now, or presence, is that elusive something that we hope we’ll find by turning to our mats and meditation practices. But truly being present means seeing the bigger picture, having the space for an emotional connection and releasing attachments.
If you’re craving teacher training but finding the time, resources or support system are major hurdles, ask yourself if now is the time. Just because your current situation is tricky doesn’t mean that passionate fire in your belly to start the YTT journey has to be extinguished. Teacher training requires more than intention, it requires a significant commitment and a lot of responsibility. If those are the sparks you need in your life right now, have at them! If you’ve been putting off YTT forever and have run out of excuses, take the leap. But if igniting those sparks will yield more chaos in your life, don’t sweat it. Yoga—and YTT—will be there when you’re ready.