How to Choose a Yoga Training Program

by DeAnna Shires Nielsen, e-RYT 500 Yoga Teacher, M.Ed

If you are considering becoming a yoga teacher or deepening your yoga practice, here are some important questions you should ask about any school you are considering. First and probably the most important things: refrain from choosing a program just because the dates fit your schedule, it's cheap or quick. Instead, train in the style/method that you want to teach in and in an environment that most resonates with you.

No program is perfect for everyone, so don't be afraid about doing your homework and shopping around. Remember, you are interviewing schools, so feel great about asking all the questions you need to. Whether you've decided you want to teach or simply dig deeper into your practice, it's important to spend some time doing your research.

Most programs are a significant financial investment and will require you to take time away from the rest of your life. And though there may be demand for yoga teachers in your community, a yoga teacher training is not necessarily a vocational track, but it can be. Respond to your intuition. The teacher or school you feel speaks directly to you is probably the way to go, but what if you don't feel it? We hope these questions serve you, no matter what path you choose.

Which aspects of yoga does the training emphasize?

Some schools focus only on the physical asanas (yoga postures), viewing yoga as fitness only. Others see yoga as a lifestyle and/or spiritual practice on and off the mat. Our program considers a healthy body, mind, and spirit as all of equal importance and teach our methods accordingly. We emphasize asana safety, understanding imbalances we carry in our Western bodies due to our lifestyle. We emphasize yogic philosophy in a way that works in the modern world, without loosing the tie to the Eastern roots of yoga. To us, Self-Realization through yoga and meditation is the goal and we do this through healing and living our most authentic expression of life. We also encourage our students to take what they feel resonates and leave the rest.

What style of yoga (asana) is taught?

Hatha Yoga is the physical form of yoga and from Hatha Yoga, many styles have sprung. Our style is that of the Classical tradition, incorporating pranayama, meditation, and often times philosophy into the practice. Our classes vary from more relaxing and meditative to a more intense practice, but with pranayama as the lead focus. Our mantra is "No Pain, No Pain." Yoga asana should not leave you hurting. We teach breaking down the asana, stage by stage from beginner to advanced stages, all the while teaching "be where you are today." Our graduates have gone on to teach Restorative Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, and/or classical Hatha Yoga.

Will the program offer you the tools to work with diverse populations?

The more you learn how to with various populations, the more marketable you will be if you are considering this as a possible career path. Our school covers working with various injuries, using therapeutic techniques and proper range of motion for common conditions found in asana classes today, such as back pain, knee pain, neck pain etc. We spend a lot of time on how to modify for beginners, athletes, pregnancy, and various other populations. Additionally, we incorporate the study of Ayurveda, which encourages us teach to the needs of each person, rather than the notion that one size fits all.

What is the duration of the program and weekly/monthly time commitment?

In our culture of instant gratification, it is easy to choose the shortest route to certification or jump into the next training starting up because we do not have the patience to wait for the training that would serve us more. Because the creator of this program has a background in teaching Special Education, we understand the importance of allowing time for the material to "sink in", while having plenty of time for practical experience. We also consider outside obligations and have created a program that allows for flexibility for those with a family and/or full-time job. We offer in class training with additional guided study at home. We have been told our program is much like "going back to college". If we understand that yoga is a life-long learning process, there truly is no hurry to get it done and over with quickly, because learning is forever.

What is an average class size?

While some schools train many people at once, some use the philosophy that individual attention is important. Traditionally, yoga was taught one on one. Our philosophy is to teach a smaller group, usually no more than 15 and if we have more, we bring in qualified assistants. We also teach that group classes, in general, should ideally be kept on the smaller side, so each student is taken care of and feels successful.

Is the school well established and respected & what do past graduates say about the program?

Consider how long the program has been teaching students. Ask to see a sample of their manual or teaching materials. Consider feedback from past graduates. Our program has been established since 2007 and turns out an average of 13-18 students per year. The creator of the program has been studying yoga since 1993 and each of the teachers who present in the program are experts in various fields of yoga or body work, offering in-depth knowledge of the topics they teach. Our manual is updated yearly, as our teachers learn, the manual changes and grows along with them. We offer written feedback from our graduates and references upon request.

Do you feel comfortable with the faculty?

If you don't already know the director of the program or the community where the program is being offered, ask to speak with him or her so you can ask questions to see if you are comfortable with their approach and personality. We learn best when we are comfortable in our surroundings, so you want teachers who put you add ease, allowing you to express concern or ask questions when needed. We offer potential seekers a complementary class on us so they may get the "feel" for what we offer.

What support does this training offer beyond the teacher training program?

After graduation, some programs do not allow for on-going mentorship or follow up support, while others are always available for questions that may come up along the way regarding student injury, employment contacts, marketing, etc. Our program offers on-going support as long as our students need us. We realize that we offer our students so much in-depth information, that there are bound to be questions along the way. Some graduates regularly reach out to us, while others do not. We believe it is important for the mentorship to continue for as long as our students need us. We do not charge additional for this, we consider it service in honor of yoga tradition.