So you want to know how to become a yoga instructor?
So you’ve got the yoga bug and you’re thinking about embarking on a yoga teacher training (also known as YTT from here on in)? Whether you’re in the initial stages of researching YTTs or if you’re seeking some inspiration on planning your route into teaching then it’s worth considering some things before you go any further.
This guide will provide you with the important questions to ask yourself before taking a YTT and the crucial considerations to help you find the perfect course for you.
In this article, we will unpack exactly how to become a yoga instructor, exploring:
- What exactly a YTT is
- And 10 crucial steps to consider before becoming a yoga teacher
Firstly, what even is a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)?
We love yoga! Around 40 million people are estimated to be practicing yoga in 2022 and with studios offering Yoga Teacher Training Programmes and it has never been easier to become a yoga teacher.
In the last 30 years, the practice of yoga has shifted from hard to find and esoteric to widely available and commonplace in people’s lives. Gone are the days when it was necessary to travel far and for long periods to study yoga. Thankfully, you will now find a wide range of training available worldwide to suit varying budgets, commitments, and schedules.
A YTT provides a foundation in the history, physiology, and methodology of yoga which is not generally taught in-depth in a class.
The training provides a ‘deep dive’ into the many layers of yoga including indulgent practices, methodology lectures, asana labs, anatomy tutorials, and introductions to various styles and approaches to yoga.
So you want to take a teacher training?
If you’re excited about diving deep into the teachings of yoga then there are some things to consider before you sign yourself up. Here are my top 10 steps of inquiry to help you find the right path for you.
10 Steps To Becoming A Yoga Teacher
#1: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
While most 200hr YTTs require a minimum of two years of practice it can be worth waiting and taking time to fully integrate the practice and teachings of yoga into your life. I was practicing for eight years before embarking on a teacher training and I’m glad I took my time.
The advantages of honing your practice before you train will help you to clarify your expectations and intentions not to mention prepare you mentally and physically.
At the heart of the teacher training programs that I lead is helping people to appreciate that practice informs your teaching more than anything else.
Without practice, your teaching will lack the authenticity, experience, and compassion needed to be a great teacher. Put your practice first even before you embark on becoming a teacher!
“If we profess to be teaching Yoga, which is a science and art of living, we must practice that way of living ourselves. If we wish only to teach poses or postures, it would be better to call what we do by a name other than Yoga.”― Donna Farhi, Teaching Yoga: Exploring the Teacher-Student Relationship
#2: CLARIFY YOUR INTENTIONS FOR TAKING A YOGA TRAINING
Take some time to journal, talk with friends/family and clarify why you’re called to train to be a teacher. You’ll likely have doubts along the way – am I good enough, can I afford the money and can I spare the time? and you’ll need to be ready for doubts along the way.
Considerations to ask yourself are:
- What aspects of yoga interest you?
- Do you want to teach or is the training just for your experience? Most people start out not wanting to teach but end up feeling differently.
- How will the training influence your lifestyle?
- Is it going to become a career? If so, how will it fit into your current work life?
- What is it about practicing that you love and why do you want to share it?
- How does yoga nourish you and how will the training help you evolve as a person?
And my all-time favorite, the embodiment bit – how does it feel physiologically, mentally, and emotionally when you think about doing the training and being qualified? If it feels good, hold on to that and draw on it when you face challenges along the way.
#3: FIND A GREAT TEACHER
With a huge variety of classes and teachers at our fingertips and with online and in-person options, it can be tempting to go for the cheapest class option and one that fits into your busy schedule.
My advice is to find one or two teachers and stick it out with them for a while.
Why? Every teacher has a different lens through which they teach and each brings their studentship and experience which will likely be contrasting with that of other teachers. This is a wonderful thing about yoga but it can also be confusing when you’re starting out.
You’ll learn so much from simply committing to practice with one teacher or style and importantly they’ll get to know you. A good teacher will use their relationship with you to help you develop your practice in what is an abundant and far-reaching subject to navigate alone.
#4: DON’T BE IN A RUSH
The excitement of finally realizing that you’re going to apply to be a yoga teacher might instill haste. For many people who undertake a training, it is a life-enhancing, rich experience and often something that you won’t want to end.
Take your time finding the training that is perfect for you because it will be a huge financial, time and personal investment that you cherish and carry with you for the rest of your life.
#5: THE TIME IS NOW
If those limiting beliefs are creeping in and you’re not sure if now is the right time or if you’re ready the chances are it will never be the right time and you’ll probably never be ready (a bit like having a baby!)
If you have committed to the practice and are passionate about yoga then the time is ripe for learning and to dive in.
#6: IMMERSE OR SPREAD IT OUT?
Courses tend to come in two formats.
Many people choose to immerse themselves in an intense month-long program often on foreign shores.
The benefits of this if you can afford the time are that you can remove many of the distractions and responsibilities of daily life. This is a wonderful way to learn, and accommodation and food are often included in the price so that you can relax into the experience of yoga.
The other option is long-format training offered over periods from a few weeks to years. There is more time for family and work-life but also more time to research, study, practice, and integrate the teachings into your life.
Take the time you need to complete the course so that you can fully enjoy it!
#7: HAVE YOU GOT THE LOGISTICS COVERED?
It might seem like the boring bit, but this is the stuff that will take the stress out of the training. Here are my top questions to ensure you can fully commit.
- Can you afford to fund the course? Money is stressful so get this sorted! Some courses offer scholarships so it’s worth checking out if you’re eligible.
- Can you carve out enough time to attend all the sessions? Yoga Alliance stipulates that full attendance is necessary to graduate.
- Can you put aside enough time to practice and study? Although homework isn’t usually a huge part of YTTs, the more you put in during your own time the more you will get out of the course.
- Can you manage your own time? This is an adult education course so there will be an expectation that you can schedule your own study and meet deadlines.
- Do you have what you need to complete the course? You will need to purchase books and have access to a computer. Assignments will likely need to be word-processed and you may need to access online sessions.
#8: DO YOUR RESEARCH
Let me give you some context. Before I collaborated to lead teacher trainings with Anna Sugarman I had completed 1000hrs of training over a long period and I had apprenticed under my main teacher Jason Crandell on his Advanced Teacher trainings for an additional 650hrs. Experience is so important to consider when choosing a teacher/school.
It’s also worth considering whom the faculty is made up of – having different teachers providing anatomy, philosophy and wider offerings shows that you are more likely to be getting tutors who have spent time researching and specializing.
Look into the course syllabus and ensure that the course has a good balance of asana, pranayama, anatomy and physiology, teaching methodology, history and philosophy, business, and of course practice.
Many training programs offer taster sessions and Q&A meetings. Make the most of these to get a feel for the course and to ask any burning questions. This is also a great opportunity to meet some of the other applicants interested in the course. Questions to take with you are:
- How long has the lead trainer been teaching and whom did they train with?
- Do they have experience in leading teacher trainings?
- How many teachers will be teaching the course?
- How many students are expected on the course?
- What style of yoga is taught?
- How will you be assessed?
#9: GET SOME INSIDE INFORMATION
Seek out people who have completed the training you’re interested in signing up for. Having some student insight into the course can be a great way to see if the course is right for you.
In my pre-training research, I was able to use a graduates page to look up past trainees. My 200hr YTT was in New York and there was one graduate living here in the UK to whom I reached out to. I should also add that she is one of the main reasons I opted for that training and she is now one of my closest friends!
#10: HOW MANY HOURS?
Most teacher trainings are 200hrs and this is the most foundational training. 500hr trainings are available but harder to source and most people choose to add the additional 300hrs at a later date.
Ideally, look for most of the training hours to be either in-person or live online for an initial teacher training. Until the pandemic, 200hr YTTs were rarely online-only but now they are readily available and hybrid courses are much more commonplace.
200hr trainings are a good foundation but by no means exhaustive. They give you an excellent foundation in yoga and can help you hone further interests and specialize in supplemental trainings such as Nidra, vinyasa, restorative or yin yoga.
Ready steady book…
Now you need a course and a yoga certification.
Although there isn’t a governing body for yoga trainings there are various registries of teachers/schools that provide and aim to raise professional standards. Websites like Yoga Alliance can be a great way to start searching for local and international courses.
Most training courses are accredited by Yoga Alliance (USA) and many teachers and schools throughout the world pay to be on their registry and to obtain an official yoga certification.
Within the UK there are several professional bodies to look out for. Yoga Alliance Professionals (not an affiliate of the USA YA), The British Wheel of Yoga who exclusively run their own teacher trainings and The Independent Yoga Network.
If the course you’re interested in isn’t listed with one of the professional bodies, it doesn’t mean they are not reputable but registries can be a useful guide if you’re planning to train with teachers you don’t know.
Take a breath…
When you finally get there, enjoy every single minute of it. Remember this is just the beginning.
“Therefore, surrender to Yoga … .”― T.K.V. Desikachar
Now you know how to become a yoga instructor, you might want to brush up on your yogic philosophy before the course begins. The following articles should help you on your way.