I began to consider becoming a yoga teacher after I had been practicing seriously for about seven years—though I still had doubt whether or not I’d been practicing long enough to start teaching. When I started looking at Teacher Training Courses (TTCs) in 2007, however, I was surprised to find that six months of practice was (and still is) a common requirement for the majority of the Yoga Alliance certified trainings. That means that people are often learning to teach yoga before they really know the practice.
How can you teach a new practitioner to teach yoga to others in a 200-hour training? The simple answer is: You can’t. In my mind, a teacher training’s main objectives should be to: 1) supplement an experienced practitioner’s knowledge of the practice by offering textual study and comprehensive discourse on yoga; 2) teach valuable teaching skills, like how to hold space in a classroom, better articulate verbal instructions, and give basic physical adjustments to students; and 3) provide a way for a student to make a sankalpa, or intention, toward becoming a teacher. But to learn the basic practice? I think that, in any field, you should know your subject matter well before you teach it. And in yoga, the subject matter involves deep physical, energetic, and psychological material. So, it seems essential to first have the practice firmly rooted inside you in order to offer it to someone else.
There’s also the question of how the system works. Yoga Alliance’s whole business model revolves around giving out these certificates (and yes, I do have one) and the studios seem to be using TTCs to stay afloat in a rough economy ($2500 per student is a nice chunk of change). So, it’s a market-driven system that may be concerned with the bottom line as much as—or more than—it is with training students to be good teachers.
But, OK. TTCs are probably churning out a lot of people who aren’t yet ready to teach. I guess the real question is: Is that harming anyone? It’s likely that those unqualified to teach will have trouble getting work as a teacher until they become more experienced. And many people in TTCs don’t even want to teach–they just want to devote themselves to practice. (Perhaps there should be different programs for TTCs and Advanced Training, which are often folded into one.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter! What do you think about 200-hour TTCs? Awesome ideas or faulty logic? Did you do one? Would you like to? Write in and share your opinions!
People who are just seeking to learn yoga probably can’t differentiate the teachers who really KNOW what they’re teaching from those who aren’t there yet – unfortunately.
Well said!! I couldn’t be more closely aligned with your thoughts and feelings about this topic. I wish I had a suggestion as to how to remedy this situation, I will pass your comments on to some yoga teacher friends and yogini practitioners to see their thoughts and ideas.
There are many flaws in the Yoga Alliance system. I studied yoga for 20 years and was already a teacher before I got a 200 hr certification. I got the certificate largely out of fear that it would soon be a requirement for teachers. Fortunately I found a program that was broad enough to be worth all the time and money I invested. I grew up in an era where you studied under a teacher and they gave you permission to teach when they felt you were ready NOT when you paid a certain amount and fulfilled a certain number of hours. I do feel too often teachers are ejected from tt programs with a limited number of tools but lacking in ongoing support to develop the skills to a great teacher. Ongoing apprenticeship after a tt program is what is needed. The E-RYT is a step in the right direction there.
The truth is we can authentically only teach what we have processed ourselves in our own practice and each of us will be ready to teach (if ever) on our own time. And even then we are just a vessel for the veachings which of course flow through us. So the depth of the teachers personal practice will be expressed in the depth of the his/her teachings. But it has been my own experience as a teacher that depth of practice is not necessarily what many students are looking for -at least initially. So perhaps newer teachers are fine for some beginners who are only looking for a little sweaty vinyasa and some breathing but not yet ready for deeper work.
The question is are too many teachers happy thinking that since they have fulfilled the 200 or 500 hr RYT they now- ‘know it all’ and do not need to keep practicing. That is the problem I fear from the establishment of tt programs.
Certificates and yoga don’t fit together. It’s completely a commercially motivated system. Interesting story told by Osho:
“A man, very well-known in the West, Franklin Jones, was a disciple of Muktanand — and then his kundalini arose. Muktanand approved: You have become a SIDDHA. Not only did he approve, he gave a written certificate. I simply cannot believe what foolishnesses go on — a certificate that you have become a SIDDHA, enlightened! So of course the man became a SIDDHA and he changed his name. He was Franklin Jones, now he is Bubba Free John, and he has many followers of his own.
Now the trouble came in, because he had become more enlightened than Muktanand ever expected, and he had become a guru in his own right. No he wanted — he came again just a few months ago — now he wanted another certificate. Now he wanted to show: There is no need for me to belong to any master, because now I am a master myself, and my karmas with you, with Muktanand, are fulfilled. So, give me a certificate that I am absolutely free.
Now Muktanand hesitated — this was going too far. So he denied, he would not give another certificate. But the thing had already gone too far. The man returned home, wrote a book, and said: Of course Muktanand helped me a little on my way, but he is not an enlightened man and I dissolve all my links with him. He is an ordinary man. This is how things go. He was an enlightened man because he gave me the certificate, he was the greatest master in the world. Now he is no longer. He is an ordinary man — ‘I dissolve all my links with him.’
These things go on. Remember this, because you can become a part in such a game yourself. Never believe in yourself too much. Remain aware. When you come to me I will say exactly what is happening. Many have gone from me because I will not support their egos and I will not fulfill their wishes, and I will not say what they want me to say. And once they go away, they are against me, they have to be. There are the traps. Not only do the deceivers create them, you help to create them. Don’t be a participant in any deception, be very, very alert.”
I truly agree with you. Who said a piece of payper and getting on the list of RYT on Yoga Alliance registery makes you a yoga teacher. My education and knowledge has surpassed beyond 200hrs and I still don’t have the title of RYT. Does it mean that I am not a qualified teacher ? Ask my students.
When I began TTC I had practiced yoga for about 10 years. It was very apparent at the time who had been practicing for a while, and who had not. I think that if you want to go into the training to teach it should be perhaps different requirements. One requirement being a minimum years of practice. Too many new teachers to yoga are opening studios, and in a very short time beginning TTC! I see that causing potential degradation of yoga as too many very inexperienced teachers in studios teaching. A personal note about trainings, I have now been teaching for about a year and a half and I would like to see all of these workshops and trainings that I have attended at thousands of dollars to be in some way a contribution to further certification hours. It has been valuable to train with teachers that have concentrated their focus in one area, and can really teach that well.
I say live and let live. The system is flawed no doubt but what ‘system’ is not! I myself did my teacher training 3 years after I had started to practice, BUT I was 45… my life’s experience was deep and varied. I started by teaching my friends (dear friends, always helpful and so amazing!) then went on slowly to teach in various settings and have been doing so for 8 years now. Life is so interesting! I always encourage everyone to try new things… Of course I always tell people they should try yoga. I try to steer them in the ‘right’ direction, but that really is up to them, no?
I am still growing in my practice, overcoming physical and psychological obstacles – I injured myself (fell of my bike … ) but was still teaching while incapacitated. Learned a lot from that injury!!! Paths are limitless and you never know what you will learn the most from until you have learned.
Most importantly, one cannot teach or be taught discernment… My 2 cents. Namaste everyone.
Happy to be alive…
After twenty-five years of practice, I too did a TTC, actually I did three of them with three Iyengar Masters teachers. I have a attended myriad workshops. And I know that I still have a long way to go, it’s a constant studying, you never know it all. And if you think you do don’t teach anymore. I am always learning,reading and practicing. I have been teaching now for eight years. Do I think that they are churning out too many inexperienced teachers, Absolutely. And most of them are found in health clubs, not so much in the smaller studios. It’only my opinion.
As a participant in a TTC, I see many positives. Attending a TTC is a commitment by the student to take the next step and opens the possibility for another role (as a teacher) in the student’s practice. The format of the TTC based on the structure of YA requirements is a good compromise to deepen the study of Yoga. Not all of us have access to a guru, spending months/years in India, or attend university courses. At the end, TTC brings more teachers and consequently more students to yoga.
There are always fear about the right practice or teachings of yoga, but I trust that life will bring balance. Each of us (as students or teachers) will have our journey, experience of yoga, and the wisdom to choose the right teacher for us.
I am one of those people who started a Yoga Practice and shortly after, decided to become an instructor and went through a 200 hour training. I did this after the age of 60 with a back problem that only started to get better after I started Yoga on my own. I have 30 years experience as a fitness professional and live in a small rural area where there are no Yoga Instructors. I felt that Yoga had helped me so much that I wanted to help others in the same way. I had to spend a lot of money for my 200 hour certification because it was too far away to drive back and forth. However, I am now bringing Yoga to a small group of people in my area who would otherwise not have the benefit. I will never recoup the expenses from the training, but I love to teach and the teaching pushes me to continue my own Yoga Practice and learning. I understand what everyone is complaining about, but I feel that each case is different. Years of practice do not necessarily make a good instructor; rather it is passion, pursuit of knowledge, intelligence of practice and a gift for teaching that make good instructors.
That is great you are offering yoga in a small area, you don’t have to know everything to teach, I like the phrase, “Only teach what you know” and as long as we “do no harm” it is all good, plus you have fitness background, that is a plus. Keep up the good work!
I practiced yoga for 10 years before teachers training also did the 200 hours but I also did Iyengar school for 2 years which really helped with alignment and descipline and went to a Hatha teachers training which was 250 hours it was the best school I went to and I learned alot there and also to keep learning the one thing they focused on if you are not teaching and practicing then be reading never stop learning and that was the best tools of all I have been teaching for 5 years I have a small studio if Yoga is your Passion you well never quit learning I always remeber the quote from Iyengar it takes 10 years to do Trikonasana so I think if you do 200-500 the best teachings is to practice ,the asana ,mediatation, the philosphy and the anatomy use it in your language every day !! and you well be come the teacher you need to be to help heal others it is a lifestyle change no just a form of exercise it is a beautiful Spiritual practice and you work on that every day !! in every way it is a gift !! to share with others .Namaste ..
Teaching is a learning experience, it furthers your understanding of the subject and how to relate to others. Being a teacher doesn’t mean you know everything and yes a certificate doesn’t equal mastery. Some teachers are better than others just as some students are better than others. A teacher is just a student who has made a commitment to share their knowledge with others and who will at times have the honor of learning from their students.
Nice, it leave the ego out… I like that.
To me, teaching yoga should resonate with ones intuitive wisdom and sound authentic to the yogi students, the teacher should be a walking, breathing, inspired, awakened being at all times whether on the yoga mat or off the yoga mat, whether doing yoga, meeting people or performing other chores in life. A strong, diligent, patient yoga practice and many years of practice can help one become a walking, breathing, inspired, awakened being at all times and stand the test of this life.
this type of thing freaks me out across the fitness board. I’ve taken so called “yoga” and “pilates” classes through mega gyms and spas, who seemed to be offering the classes simply because they were on trend. Not only did teachers seem to have an elementary understanding of the practices, the environment also seemed ripe for injury. Here were instructors who barked poses and positions to 30 plus students without offering corrections or really looking at what we were doing. Now, I know that these environments aren’t ideal for the even semi-serious practitioner, but many people get their introduction to yoga and pilates through these venues–and the lack of expertise doesn’t offer a fair introduction to what yoga or pilates is really about.
It is up to the student to do their homework, It I were selecting a college to study a certain subject or even purchasing a car, I would do my research, ask questions and get references. The students, who are paying out the bucks to learn from an unqualified teacher is where change needs to be. Until we educate the public to ask questions such as:
1. How many years have you been teaching?
2. What is your education level and in what subjects did you study?
3. What is your knowledge of injury prevention, A&P, Etc..
4. References, at least 5 or more.
5. What is your philosophy ?
If the teacher cannot or will not answer these, then run, quickly away!
Namaste, Tina Ramsden ERYT (25 years in the fitness/wellenss field) and 12 years teaching yoga
I had been a student of yoga for 8 years before I undertook 200hr TTC. It made me realise I would be an eternal student of yoga & I definitely did not come away feeling ready to teach!! I didn’t really agree with the style being taught! But, I’m so glad I did it though, as it highlighted to me that it would take alot more to make a teacher out of me & that I needed more training.
So I have faith that while many 200hr TTC courses are perhaps lacking, there are many yoga students that train to be teachers out there that just know within themselves when the time to teach really is. Mine came 4 years after doing the initial 200hr TTC. I have done many courses in the interim & it was actually a training where I had more of a ‘mellow’ mental opening, surrounded by a group of very supportive co-students & teachers, that my ‘inner teacher’ came & I felt ready to do it. I’m constantly still learning & I teach only poses that I really know well. I freely admit to my students when I don’t know, I do make mistakes, and that all just helps me to learn more & find out what I don’t know so that I do.