Today, more people practice Yoga that ever before in History! And that’s to a large extent because there is a Yoga Teacher in almost any corner of the World! So how did the Yoga TTC become so ubiquitous; and if you are considering a Yoga Teacher Training Course, what should you look out for?
The modern Yoga TTC template was established by the Sivananda Ashram in the 1970’s when they began offering a 1 month Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh. This allowed aspirants from across the world to take 1 month off their schedules and travel to India to learn Yoga and train to Teach as well. In the West, there were very few Yoga TTC programs till the boom happened post the mid-1990’s, with Bikram Yoga and other Yoga Institutes then starting to offer Yoga TTC’s. Now, the average American Yogi didn’t have to travel to Rishikesh, Mysore, Pune or other Ashrams in India. They could learn in their City without having to take a retreat from their Professional and Family lives. Hence in 20 years, we’ve seen a proliferation of Yoga Teachers and that’s spawned an entire sub-Culture that has made Yoga a universal language today.
First things first – starting Yoga Teacher Training is a commitment to a life-long study of Yoga. For want of a better term, we refer to this as a Yoga Teacher Training course. It is actually a deeper study of Yoga including the underlying Philosophy – beyond the Yoga classes you attend. You won’t learn everything or even most things in the few months of your TTC, but you will be exposed to and hopefully get Inspired to pursue learning different aspects of Yoga.
Also, you will never be completely ready to begin Yoga TTC. I’ve met excellent Yoga practitioners over the years who have kept delaying starting the process of Yoga Teacher Training thinking they will be ready next year and so on. Once you are comfortable with the basics of Yoga practices and desire to learn deeper, then it’s probably a good time to speak with your Teacher about pursuing Yoga TTC.
This is the most important aspect. Yoga is such a vast area of Study that you can pivot your Practice on any aspect of yourself. This would generally be Yoga for Therapy, Fitness, Healthy Lifestyle or Meditation. Once you are clear with your Focus find the Yoga Teacher or School that matches that vision. Don’t worry about how big or small the school may be. I have spoken to so many Yogis who ended up Training at the most popular school, only to find that the reason they love Yoga wasn’t the pivot of that School’s central ‘expression/ theme of yoga’. For example if you enjoy Yoga as therapy, then Iyengar Yoga would be the best fit. For Fitness, Ashtanga Yoga. For Meditation, Sivananda or Isha Yoga styles. While these are generalisations, it’s important to understand the central tenets of a Yoga style before embarking on the Training.
More important than the Yoga Style though, is the Yoga Teacher who will be your Mentor. Here, choose wisely! 🙂 Ideally find a Yoga Guru if you have access to their direct Teaching experience! Unfortunately, most Yoga Gurus don’t conduct Teacher Training as they are busy meditating by themselves in caves (it still happens :)) or run huge organisations and have deputed their accomplished students to conduct the TTC. So, find a Yoga Teacher who Inspires you, and spend as much time as you can with him/ her.
Learning happens through Mentorship as has been the case for Millennia. Here, be greedy to learn and seek out time outside of the Yoga centre – that’s where I learnt the most Yoga from my own Guru!
Strange as it may seem at first, this is intrinsically true. And that’s how it’s always been with Yoga from time immemorial. Thousands of years ago there wasn’t a uniform format of Yoga, and various Masters expressed and taught Yoga uniquely – of course the ultimate intention of ‘Kaivalya’ being the same. Hence over-standardisation is not required. Even in modern times, you cannot tell a Bikram Choudhury that he should teach Surya Namaskaar. Or you cannot ask Iyengar Yoga for training in Vinyasa which is the central theme of Ashtanga Yoga and so on. Each Yoga style founder has designed their style based on their understanding of Asanas – usually the difference are in the style of Asana teaching. Pranayam, Meditations are standard but even there some styles choose to teach while others don’t incorporate them.
Yoga Alliance is predominantly a Yoga Teachers’ and Schools’ RegistryWebsite. It is not like the IGCSE board for School examinations. Such a Board would dictate the Curriculum, set the Exams and Evaluate the Candidates’ examinations. In the case of Yoga Alliance, a Yoga school can sign up by fulfilling a basic norms and curriculum teaching guidelines. Then by making a payment it permits the school to apply a Yoga Alliance digital stamp on the Certificate it issues the Yoga TTC participants. The participants will then need to sign up with that Certificate and for a fee paid to Yoga Alliance, list themselves as Yoga Teachers on the site.
“Credentialing is the umbrella term. What we specifically do is a registry. A lot of people will say certification or accreditation, but that actually isn’t what we do. We’re a registry. If you’re a school that promises to uphold our educational standards then you are registered with us in our directory,” explains Richard Carpel, CEO of Yoga Alliance in an interview with Waylon Lewis, founder Elephant Journal.
Every Yoga school will have a very similar set of guidelines that they will Teach their course by. Yoga Philosophy, Asana Anatomy, Teaching skills and so on. This is common sense for any School that is training Teachers. Yoga Alliance adopts a curriculum like that too, with a focus on 200 hrs or 300 hrs or 500 hrs. Interestingly, the most respected Yoga Institutions in India don’t focus on Yoga Alliance certifications – Iyengar, Ashtanga, Isha and more.
In the modern Yoga TTC, we’ve begun with 200 hours as it is similar to University courses with credits et al. However, in olden times you would probably spend 10,000 hours learning and interning with your Guru! With Iyengar Yoga, it still is like that. You would have to practice for 5+ years and get recommendations from your direct Teacher. Then you’ll have an opportunity to come to the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune to train.
57% of Yoga Teachers are not Yoga Alliance certified. The main benefit through YA was cheaper Insurance for a Yoga Teacher.
A decade ago the information available on Yoga was so limited that some screening process was required. Today most yoga students have a good idea on what is Yoga, and in a couple of minutes they will understand if the Teacher knows his/her marbles. The Free Market usually separates Good Teachers from fly-by-night operators. While it’s not a fool-proof system of course, it is as good as it gets simply because every School that certifies Yoga Teachers does so with the best intentions. If your Teacher has done their course with the right intention of wanting to Teach and help people, you will see that immediately.
And if the Individual is constantly learning even after being a Teacher – that’s a good indicator of a good Teacher.
Yoga is a Transformational tool. It’s not about knowing a few Sanskrit aphorisms and Body postures. It’s a deep dive into learning more about Yourself. Some of the greatest Yogis started as illiterates but their Meditations gave them profound Intuitive knowledge. So also, Yoga should change us from within. While the Yoga fundamentals are taught by every TTC, seek out what each school uniquely offers. And they all do offer something differently!
You got to know what is the Growth you need. Do you have a problem with expressing your Voice? And if so, how is the Yoga TTC going to address that? More than being able to teach with a loud voice, the TTC should help you overcome the fear of Public Speaking. Or do you have an issue with ineffective Body Language? Then apart from Asana, Theatre training should be part of your TTC. In this manner, seek out a Yoga TTC that is fundamentally focused on transforming You, with Yoga knowledge being the bedrock – but other aspects of Personality growth included so you can Express yourself in a healthy manner. That is an immensely important aspect of a Yogi’s journey.
At the end of your TTC if your are more confident in your knowledge of Yourself, even in the smallest possible manner – then the course will have a long-lasting effect on your Life. Otherwise you could have learnt the TTC content through Wikipedia and YouTube!
Finally, there should be ongoing Learning even after the course. Will the school continue to create a learning culture for you? Since you are not going to learn it all at once, it’s important to have progressive growth.
In conclusion, here’s a Question that I think you should consider….
While I think you can learn Yoga anywhere in the world, visiting India is an important part of a Yogi’s learning experience. The Teaching we offer in Yoga Centres is a small part of the Yoga experience. You should visit the Himalayas to encounter these fantastic Yogis. It will surely expand your Understanding and Vision of Yoga itself. From a Fitness/ Healthy Lifestyle/ Mindfulness exercise to an all-encompassing quest for Liberation. Seeing the beauty and simplicity of a Yogi’s life is important for each of us aspiring Yogis.
FYI, here’s a list with links to the headquarters of 5 of the most respected Yoga schools today:
SIVANANDA YOGA, Rishikesh
IYENGAR YOGA, Pune
ASHTANGA YOGA, Mysore
KRISHNAMACHARYA YOGA MANDIRAM, Chennai
ISHA YOGA, Coimbatore
Here’s wishing you all the very best on embarking on your Journey as a Yoga Teacher! Do write in to share your views on what you feel are the most important things that a Yoga TTC should offer, apart from the basic Course content? I’ll be curious to learn from you. Here’s 3 Questions to aspiring Yoga Teachers and 3 Qualities of a Teacher!
Total Yoga is a balanced style of Yoga that focuses on Fitness training and Mindfulness practice equally.