yoga teacher trainingI 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!