Not all programs are created equal. Ask yourself these six questions before enrolling.
Leading yoga classes can be rewarding, but getting certified to do so takes time, money and realistic expectations.
Almost every yoga studio has a teacher training program. If you practice regularly, you have probably heard the teachers or studio owners talk to students about it before class. For the right people, completing a yoga training can be life-changing.
But it's important to know what you're getting into since trainings aren't held to strict, if any, quality standards. While studios can pay to become registered with Yoga Alliance, a nonprofit that represents yoga schools and teachers, they don't have to. Even studios that are registered aren't tightly regulated.
I found out the hard way that not all yoga teacher trainings are created equal. Of the six I've completed, only one was truly worth the money and time. If you think you are ready to become a certified yoga instructor, ask yourself these six questions before signing up:
1. Are you a good fit?
In my opinion, yoga teacher training only benefits people who want to teach. It's a good idea to have at least two or three years of experience as a student before you consider teaching yoga. The best students make the best teachers.
If you simply want to learn about yoga and deepen your practice – but don't know if you want to teach – there are better options for you. Some studios offer immersion programs, for instance, which can be great for learning methodology. In them, you focus solely on learning yoga by studying the poses, the practice and the philosophy behind it. Once you complete an immersion program, you'll probably have a much clearer sense of whether or not you want to teach. If you decide to enroll in the teacher training program, you'll have a strong foundation of knowledge to build on, which helps raise the bar for those who are serious about instructing.
But beware: Many studios do not have any requirements to enroll in their teacher training. In one of my certification programs, a personal trainer who had only practiced yoga twice was approved to get his yoga certification. It held our entire group back.
2. Can you afford it?
Most teacher trainings range from $2,000 to $3,500, but can cost more. It is not cheap. However, many yoga studios offer payment plans. If you are wondering if and when you will see a return on your investment, do some research about the starting rate for yoga teachers in your area. In Philadelphia, for example, new teachers tend to make anywhere from $25 to $50 per class.
But beginners often don't make anything. You may be asked to teach classes for free in order to get your foot in the door. If you are really good, it's likely you'll be asked to teach at the yoga studio where you completed your training. Still, you'll likely get paid an entry-level rate and given time slots that no one else wants. Since such classes don't often fill up, you could lose money teaching them.
3. Do you have the time?
Most teacher trainings are 200 hours total. They are usually offered in two different formats. One is an extended program where you meet for one weekend a month for about seven months. The other is an intensive, month-long training where you attend class every weekday for six hours each day. Either way, the training schedule is demanding and requires sacrifices for both you and your family. Be sure to look ahead at the training schedule. Don't commit unless you're ready to adjust your plans accordingly.
4. Is the studio reputable?
Look for a training that holds you accountable with assignments, has a clear curriculum and sets expectations. A training that requires you to have a base knowledge of yoga before enrolling, demands you practice regularly and is well-planned is a program you'll likely get a lot out of.
5. Do you connect with the teacher?
Because yoga is such a personal experience, and training is very intimate, it's important to find the right teacher for you. To get a sense of how you connect with a potential teacher, be sure to take his or her class at least 10 times and pay attention to the teaching philosophy. If you feel comfortable with and trust with the person teaching the course, and he or she is a knowledgeable, organized teacher, you'll be more likely to enjoy your teacher training experience. If you train with a teacher you don't already know, on the other hand, you run a high risk of not getting a lot out of it.
6. Will the certification get you where you want to be?
A yoga teacher's certification is like a high school diploma: You really should have one if you plan to teach yoga. But the reality is, most studios are more concerned with you completing their in-house training than obtaining any old certification. That's in part because they are trying to offer a consistent product, but it's also because teacher trainings are the largest piece of income in a business model that doesn't favor teachers.
Yoga studios are churning out instructors at an alarming rate. (66,000 yoga teachers alone have registered with Yoga Alliance.) To be a good teacher and set yourself apart, you'll probably need to deepen your studies beyond the basic 200-hour training. It's also a good idea to invest in a business course specifically for yoga teachers.
At the end of the day, if you are serious about teaching yoga, you need to complete a yoga certification program. It is a very rewarding career in which you get to help people and truly make a difference. It is not, however, as glamorous as it is often depicted by studios. But if you are savvy about how you approach your yoga education and you are willing to take the extra steps to become a good teacher – beyond your training program – you can make it work. Just be honest with yourself and what you really want before deciding to get certified.