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Want to take Your First 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training? Read This.

It sounds so exciting: heading to Bali to take your very first 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, or doing a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at your local studio, right? But buyer beware — in this article I give you what might be wrong with many of the modern yoga trainings out there, and instead what you SHOULD look for if you truly want to teach yoga.

I believe we are all on a path, our own journey to do what IS right in this world. If a student of mine falls in love with their yoga practice and decides to take their first 200 hour yoga teacher training, I’m typically ecstatic for them because I know yoga teacher trainings are a fantastic way for students to learn more and deepen their own understanding of yoga. But, 200 hour yoga teacher trainings as they stand in today’s world simply do not prepare new teachers to teach yoga. This is the thing that is so hard for me to admit, as someone who teaches yoga for a living, and has undergone this very process myself, so that I could share my passion with my students. 

The biggest concern from my professional perspective is the mile-wide inch-deep learning that happens in these modern 200 hour yoga teacher trainings. Most of them I’ve come across are similar to an entry-level Biology 101 course would take place at a community college. 

Here’s the analogy: While there’s nothing wrong with taking a Bio 101 course to better understand how plants and animals function, the course participants likely won’t finish that biology class with the intention or confidence to teach said course. Instead, they might go on to take upper-level biology classes, and earn their bachelor’s degree in Biology to feel better prepared. Perhaps they go on to do a master’s degree in forest ecology of the northeast, or marine biology of the tropics. THEN perhaps after many years of research, experimentation, and published papers they teach Biology 101 at the same college they took it in. 

The analogy is simple. If you take an intro-level course, you cannot expect to teach that same course if you don’t already have a background in the content. 

Most modern 200 hour yoga teacher trainings are truly meant to be an intro-level foundational program. They go something like this: 

  1. 0–6 months yoga practice minimum requirement, and application

  2. Spanning 1 month to one year of weekly or weekend intensives

  3. Reading multiple books on yoga philosophy from different traditions and a variety of viewpoints

  4. Practicing different sequences each time and breaking down poses to better understand them

  5. Discussing different traditions and what each one brings to the world

  6. Doing mini-workshops in pre-natal yoga, chair yoga, kids yoga, geriatric yoga, Ashtanga, Yin, Restorative, Anusara, Baptiste, Bikram, Shiva Rea, Iyengar, Jivamukti, etc. and any other styles the lead teachers of the YTT choose to bring in

  7. 15 hours of yoga anatomy discussion

  8. 5 hours of practice teaching

  9. 3 hours of The Business of Yoga

  10. A certificate of completion stating you are good to teach this stuff. 

Frankly, I would HOPE my yoga students are this excited to better understand their yoga practice and would want to dive into their first 200 hour YTT. In it, they will be exposed to the different layers of yoga in our modern world, and how most of what is seen in today’s yoga climate is simply a derivative of the real thing — as well as the rich culture and history from which it all came. But, most of the people just want to be yoga students who attend a class, and go home after a kick-ass practice that made them feel good. 

However, there are some students who crave to know more, and really fall in love with the notion of helping others through yoga. These are the ones who want to teach and deserve depth. 

Unfortunately depth is only a thing that happens if you know where to look, and most yoga students have no idea what they are signing up for when they find a 200 hour yoga teacher training. 

We live in a world of instant gratification where one can earn a certificate of completion just for going through the motions and paying $4k. What I find particularly troubling is the frequency and sheer quantity of people going through these ‘trainings’ that are ‘certified’ at completion, and do not feel able or adequately equipped to teach. It’s disappointing at best, and a total disservice to those who have the desire to serve our world. 

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with yoga teachers from all over the world who say how initially excited they were when they decided to embark on their first 200 hour YTT. It DOES sound exciting, right? If you found yoga and fell in love with how you feel and what you’re learning, you’re not alone. It is a potent elixir for most, and so many new students I’ve met fall in love so hard they feel as though a yoga teacher training is the next step. But, their ambition usually stops there. 

Once they ‘get accepted’ into a program and pay their fee, they quickly realize the amount of information they must absorb and retain, let alone the constant feeling like they are missing something majorly important. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they just don’t feel adequate, and are even more lost and confused upon completing their teacher training. Their imposter syndrome is fierce, and they don’t have the confidence to keep going. So they stop trying, giving up hope that they might actually help people with yoga. 

The reason I’m sharing this is because I hope to help YOU find what to look for in a 200 hour yoga teacher training IF teaching is seriously something you want to do. 

Here are some very basic things to look for in a 200 hour YTT:

  1. Is your 200 hour YTT a Yoga Alliance certified school? Being a part of the Yoga Alliance has its pros and cons (and I can talk to you all day long about them) but ultimately if you want to teach, you need to have this credential. Most American yoga studios require their teachers to hold it which means you must graduate from a program that is YA certified. Some more traditional programs are not YA certified as a school for great reasons (ex: Ashtanga), but I’d still seek it out if you want to teach. 

  2. Focus on a tradition. ONE tradition. NOT a broad brush-stroke of 20 different ones. By definition, a tradition is something traceable back to the homeland of India. This is NOT chair yoga, or pre-natal yoga, or even ‘Vinyasa Yoga’— these are add-ons you can get a certificate in later. I chose Ashtanga as my home base simply because I was lucky enough to have a program near by, and the schedule worked out for me as a new mom. AND I felt very strongly about adhering to something more traditional instead of watered-down. But, I didn’t realize just how lucky I was until years later. 

  3. The level of practice and years studying/teaching from your lead teachers. Who are the teacher’s teachers, and do they consistently work with them too? Every teacher needs a teacher or mentor in their corner, and if your lead teachers of the training you’re looking into don’t currently practice with their teachers, chances are good they aren’t progressing any more either, and can only give you what minimal information they have. It’s even better if the YTT lead teachers have a solid background in one tradition. 

  4. What are your personal practice requirements necessary in order for you to receive your certificate of completion? If you don’t need any yoga experience or you are a beginner, run far away. If the training doesn’t require you to take consistent classes with the trainers or with other studios — or better yet, helping you to develop a home practice — the same thing is true. You simply cannot teach if you are not practicing. 

  5. What are the teaching requirements necessary in order for you to receive your certificate of completion? If you ‘only have to teach 5 hours’ to be fully certified, be very skeptical. Trust me, you NEED to have practiced teaching at least 50–100 hours in order to feel remotely successful going to your first demo class at a studio. This might be waived if you’ve practiced that ONE tradition for the last 3–5 years consistently because you already KNOW this stuff inside and out. Otherwise, your imposter syndrome will kick into overdrive and you won’t be able to muster up the courage to teach. Even if you do make it through the demo, you’ll still be confused and you won’t know how to keep your students safe despite your best efforts. 

  6. How long is the 200 hour YTT, and WHERE is it located? Listen, I love the idea of going to Bali for a month and studying/practicing yoga, but this is NOT something that will create a confident teacher. If anything, it will give you a great, exotic yoga vacation. If you’re looking for that, then sign up to do a YTT in Bali. But don’t expect to be able to teach afterwards (unless it’s something you live and breathe already — ahem, a specific tradition). 

  7. Be prepared to work with a yoga teacher mentor afterwards. 200 hours of training is simply not enough. It might sound like a lot, but it’s not. Most teachers of any other subjects have to go through years of training — and teaching — before they become teachers. Think about it like this: your high school biology teacher had to complete at least their bachelor’s degree before landing a job in your school. During this 4-year teaching program they had to student-teach for 6–10 months of the school year, at least 6 hours a day. That’s 6 hours x 5 days a week for at least 6 months….you can see this is way more than the allotted 5 hour yoga teaching minimum in most 200 hour YTTs. 

I do strongly believe you can be a confident yoga teacher after your first 200 hour yoga teacher training, as long as you look for the right things in your training, and take the appropriate steps to get there. So, take this bulleted list and compare it to the YTT you’re looking at. My hope is that you’ve now got tools to learn from, and live by, so that YOU can be the teacher you’ve always wanted to be. 

Much love,Jenni Sol

If you’d like to learn more about being confident teaching yoga, I’ve created a new masterclass, How to Teach Yoga Confidently NOW, and I’d love for you to have it free. Register here, and use the special code YOGATEACHER at the checkout to get it free. Keep me posted, and let me know how your yoga training is going. 

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