July 26, 2013

Quiz: Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training is a Big Deal. ~ Meta Chaya Hirschl

Teacher training programs are everywhere you look and you may be wondering,”How do I decide what is good for me and what are the differences?”

Here’s a short quiz to help you sort out the choices. Of course, there are no “right” answers, only what is right for you.

Here’s how to take the quiz:

Set aside some time, sit quietly for a few minutes, breathing evenly and with a soft smile.

Take out a piece of paper and write numbers 1—10 down the edge with a few lines between each number.

Read each question and write down the answers that come to mind, there may be more than one answer, and write the questions that arise.

Then, after you’ve finished the quiz, go back and re-read your answers and then read the considerations I offer at the end.

1. First why are you looking to take a yoga teacher training program?

  1. You are interested in yoga and want to learn as much as you can about it for your own growth.
  2. You have a specific physical injury, limitation, challenge and you want to investigate how to heal using yoga.
  3. You want to change careers and you don’t really know what to do but you have the feeling using yoga to go deeper into your True Self will help you on your path.
  4. You want to gift yourself the time and commitment of true self care.
  5. You know you want to teach yoga.

2. How do you feel about location, do you want to:

  1. Stay local and near your home.
  2. Stay in the United States but in an inspiring locale.
  3. Travel to an exotic place.
  4. Do as much work online as possible.

3. What time approach are you looking for:

  1. Intensive immersion where you are residential with other students and away from the distractions of your ‘normal’ life.
  2. Weekly classes with long weekends in your area so you can still work and live at home.
  3. Time spread out over a period of months.

4. What content is important to you, you prefer:

  1. A broad and rich understanding that includes not only poses and breathing, but philosophy, yoga therapeutics, yoga anatomy and energetics, as well as mudra, mantras, and chanting.
  2. A focus mostly on poses.
  3. A focus mostly on a specific style of yoga, like flow, Ashtanga,Bikram, Baptiste, Iyengar, etc.
  4. A focus that includes not only Hatha yoga but Karma and Bhakti yoga as well.
  5. Learn yoga poses for myself but also enough technical content that I can safely teach yoga to others.

5. What kind of teachers do you want to study with and what kind of training should they have to support your goals:

  1. Teachers who have studied exclusively with one teacher or guru and value and respect lineage.
  2. Teachers who have studied with a broad group of teachers and styles and incorporate what is valuable to them from these sources.
  3. Teachers who have taught yoga for a number of years.
  4. Teachers who are open and willing to help and listen to your specific needs.
  5. Teachers to guide you not only to learn about yourself but are able to help you read others as well.
  6. Teachers with credentials, both from Yoga Alliance, from other groups, and perhaps other training, professional and academic.

6. What group/class size works best for you? Do you learn best in

  1. larger groups (great than 25)
  2. medium size groups (15-25)
  3. smaller groups (10-15)
  4. one on one mentoring programs

7. How long has the teacher training program been providing the curriculum and does it give you access to graduates?

  1. Does the program give you details about graduates with the ability to contact graduates?
  2. Do you have access to faculty and a description of the curriculum?
  3. Has the program been around for more than five years?

8. What about graduate rates and assessment criteria?

  1. Do you understand the requirements for graduation and can you meet them, if you want to receive a certificate?
  2. Do you have concerns about being able to finish or complete the requirements?
  3. Is the Program registered with the Yoga Alliance, a Registered Yoga School (RYS) as this may be important to potential employers and insurers.
  4. What do past graduates say about the program?

9. Does the school have a code of ethics, is this important to you?

  1. Just as you need to have an intention or mission statement, does the program you are considering have this? If so, does it resonant with you?
  2. Does the program have a code of ethics that they can supply to you and is this important to you?

10.  How proficient does the program require me to be before I start the 200 hr sessions?

  1. Some yoga teacher training programs require you to have a specific skill level, be sure to check that out.
  2. Some programs assume you will work at the level you are and build from there.
  3. Does the program you are considering have clear criteria for preparedness?

My Thoughts on Choosing a Teacher Training Program:

I took my first teacher training program long before I ever considered teaching. It was my birthday month in 1999 and John Friend was coming to town for a week long teacher training. I was really looking for a break from being the mother of two small and highly energetic daughters, so I thought of that first training as a gift of self-care, which it was.

What brings us to a yoga teacher training varies for each person and certainly doesn’t have to mean you want to hang your yoga shingle out and start teaching, but it can. I eventually took five teacher trainings to learn as much as I could and of course, I am continuing to learn. And that is another salient point about yoga training: it actually never stops and that’s the good news!

We have thousands of years of yoga before us and thousands of personal experiences and moments to integrate, so the learning continues, as far as I know, forever.

I’ve taken yoga teacher trainings in far away places, like San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and within a couple of miles of my home in Albuquerque. Of course, our immediate schedules and needs often dictate what and where to go but I’d offer this as the main point: Find the right teacher and program for you and go to that. I wouldn’t try to save money or time with your intense yoga work. The greatest distance we can seek is the space between thoughts and that is what yoga teaches us, calm and equanimity.

Go for quality first, when you are clear about your intentions.

How you can fit the training into your life is your creative act, but seriously, if you can take a break and immerse yourself, that can be especially transformative.

Yoga is so often misunderstood as that ad campaign that shows poses that it is easy to forget that yoga is not simply poses, as wonderful, delightful and delicious as they are. Yes, study with teachers who definitely know anatomical principles, teaching techniques, reading bodies and fun flippy poses. But unless you are seeking simply a physical fitness program, don’t sell yourself short of the immense cornucopia of yoga practices and philosophies.

Find teachers and a program that can show you how to open doors to your authentic self, now that’s yoga!

Teachers are a personal choice and that means it is yours to make. Please do beware, however, any teachers who are self-described gurus who ask you to give up your natural curiosity or questioning. Of course trust your own intuition and instinct as, unfortunately, there are unscrupulous folks who are aiming for something egoic and vain. But you’ll recognize that if you let yourself relax and feel the energy of the person.

The size of the class usually indicates how much personal attention you are able to receive from the faculty. You may want to have specific concerns address or you may want to fade into a large group, just know your preference.

You may already know your learning style, for example, you may know you are a kinesthetic learner who understands best by moving in space and touching, or perhaps you learn best by listening and looking, or perhaps you are a combination of these learning styles.

Each training program probably has an overall approach and you can find out about that by asking to see the curriculum and talking for former students.

There is such a diversity in approaches to assessment. Some programs just have the student teach a short class while other programs require tests and papers and practicums. Find out what assessments are required and how former students responded to them.

Sadly, there have been a number of ethical violations in the yoga community of late and so we are reminded again of the importance of committing to values and standards that uphold our best and most authentic self. This should be explicitly stated in writing by any yoga training program.

Of course, even if it is, there is no guarantee that it is followed, but at least the intention has been set.

How students show up for yoga training depends on what is required by the school that runs the program.

In my experience, both as a graduate of so many yoga trainings and designing and running a yoga training program for more than nine years, students arrive in all abilities and skill levels.

And do you know what?

I have notice that everyone benefits, no matter where they begin, they grow and transform and it is absolutely amazing, but then, that’s yoga!



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Asst. Editor: Kathleen O’Hagan/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Lululemon Athletica

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Meta Chaya Hirschl