8 steps to start a yoga teacher training programme

So you’ve decided that 2022 is going to be the year you finally join a yoga teacher training programme. Firstly, congratulations! Setting the intention, with conviction, is the most important part, as yoga teacher training is a life-changing experience and you need to be ready to grow and change. But, what now? How do you actually go about choosing the right programme for you, and knowing how to prepare yourself? We’ve compiled this step-by-step guide to show you exactly what you need to do to make this intention a reality.

Step 1: Commit to your practice

While you certainly don’t need to be at the peak of your physical ability to join a teacher training, the programme will challenge you physically and mentally, so, to get the most out it, we recommend to have at least 4 months (ideally 6 months) of consistent yoga practice under your belt (consistent means at least 3 times a week.) It’s also a good idea to try out different yoga styles before your training, so that you know which exactly you would like to become certified in (more on that in step 3!). This also exposes you to a variety of poses and flows, so that you can enter into your training with a bit more experience of yoga and knowledge of your body and what it can (currently) do.

Step 2: Decide if you want to train part-time or on an immersive course

Pre-covid there were two main types of training: a part-time course, usually non-residential, or an immersive full-time course, often abroad. (Now, with covid, there are also blended trainings, with a shorter immersive in-person part, and the rest online and slower paced.) Students often choose to do a part-time course at the school or studio they currently go to, although you don’t have to be a current student to join a studio’s training. But you do have to be living close to the school to do this kind of training, as accommodation is not usually provided, and the benefit of this kind of course is that you don’t have to take time off work (the training usually takes place over several long weekends or in the evenings). This could be a good option for you if you have a teacher you really love and would like to train with, or if you plan on working at the studio where you currently go as a student (it’s not guaranteed, but studios often take on their trainees after graduation, as teachers). On the other hand, many people find this option challenging, as you still have other commitments going on in your life at the same time as training, like going to work, looking after your family, etc. Going away somewhere on a full-time course offers you a truly immersive experience, where you can live and breathe nothing but yoga for 3 (or so) weeks. This can be intense, but, as a result, more transformative than training bit-by-bit. In addition, since they are generally abroad, immersive trainings give you the opportunity to travel and experience a new culture whilst you train. Given that they only last around 3 weeks (for a typical 200hr training), you will also be certified in a much shorter period of time than with a longer part-time course, which might be good if you want, or need, to start teaching asap.

Step 3: Decide where you want to train, and in what style

If you’ve decided an immersive course is for you then the next step is deciding where in the world you want to do your training, since there are literally trainings all over the world! Do you want to combine your training with travelling? Or is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit? There are also practical questions to consider, like do you need a visa for the country you’re considering? Any vaccinations, quarantine requirements, or safety considerations? If money is an issue, or you don’t fancy a long-haul flight maybe an immersive training closer to home would be the best option, in which case why not check out our articles on the best trainings in Europe, the UK, and the US?

Whether you’ve decided on a part-time or immersive training, you also need to think about what style of yoga you’d like to train in. The most common is Hatha yoga, or a Hatha-Vinyasa blend, but you could also choose to specialise in Ashtanga-Vinyasa (like the training at All Yoga), Rocket, or even a more obscure tradition like Tantra, Aerial, or Kundalini, for example. When deciding which style to train in, think about not only what you enjoy, but also whether a certain style might give you an advantage as a teacher in your area (or wherever you plan to teach). For example, maybe there are five Hatha studios in your home town, but no aerial schools. Training in aerial might therefore be a good strategy to help you stand out from the crowd (or it could be risky, if there’s no demand for it!).

Step 4: Choose the school

Once you’ve decided on the type of course you want to do (immersive or part-time), the style you want to train in, and the country you’d like to do your training, the next step is to choose the school! A good idea is to choose a school that has been personally recommended to you, or (if you don’t know anyone who trained there) that has received excellent reviews. Check that it’s also accredited (usually with Yoga Alliance) if that’s important to you, and what the teaching faculty looks like (how much experience they have, for example). You could even try to attend a class by the teacher(s), as many have online live classes now since covid. Ultimately, you’ll get a feel for a school once you’ve done a bit of research, so go with your gut.

Step 5: Check travel requirements, visas etc.

The training is now booked; what next? If it’s abroad, then you can now book your travel arrangements, as well as checking whether you need a visa and if you need any vaccinations, so that you have plenty of time to get these arranged before you leave. You’ll also need to check if accommodation is included (if it’s an immersive course); if not, it’s worth asking whether the school can recommend local places to stay, as they might even be able to offer some discounts if they have a partnership with certain hotels (etc.). If you’re planning on doing any further travel after the course has finished, this can now be booked, although it might also be a good idea to book as little as possible to keep yourself open to new possibilities (for example: there might be another student on the course who is also going travelling so you can go together, or maybe someone knows a good place to stay that you hadn’t thought of). At the very least, check whether you can stay longer in your accommodation once the course has finished, even just for a night or two, and, if not, book a few nights somewhere after the course, so that you’re not panicking in the last few days of the training. You need to also think about how much money you need to budget for, not only for onward travelling, but also things like laundry, which can really add up during a training (as you might need to change your clothes several times a day in hot weather!). If you don’t have any further travel plans you need to book your transport to and from the airport (sometimes this is offered by the training school for a small added fee, or you can ask your accommodation provider).

Step 6: Check out the recommended readings

Most trainings will send you a welcome pack several weeks before the training starts, including a list of recommended readings. While these are never usually mandatory, it’s a good idea to choose one or two to read before the course starts, as this will enhance your training experience, and, in the whirlwind of life-after-training, these readings can often slip off your radar, yet they offer invaluable teachings not only for life as a teacher but also for life in general.

Step 7: Make sure you have everything required

Also included in the welcome pack will usually be a list of what to bring with you, such as towels, yoga accessories, etc. Most trainings will expect you to take your own yoga mat, but you might want to consider taking a travel mat instead of your usual mat, especially if you’re doing more travelling after the course, as some mats can really add to your luggage allowance on flights (my liforme weighs almost 5kg for example!). Although it’s tempting to buy a beautiful new mat for the training, you might want to reconsider… not only because you won’t have time to test it out for grippy-ness (etc.) – and you don’t want to be sliding all over the place during the course! – but also because some trainings will ask you to draw on your mat for alignment practice, and you might be hesitant to draw on a very expensive, beautiful mat! If you know that you need certain yoga props for your practice then you should also get in touch with the school to check whether these will be provided, because, if not, you’ll need to factor these into your suitcase capacity.

Step 8: Pack your bags and go!

All that’s left now is to pack your bags and you’re ready… or are you? The last thing you need to prepare is yourself – mentally, that is. Hopefully by this point you’re committed to the idea of transformation and have a desire to learn and be taught, but make sure you’re also leaving with an open heart; be willing to let go of past assumptions and beliefs, and to be receptive to what the training has to offer. You might find it contradicts with what your current yoga teacher has taught you, for example, and that’s ok. You don’t have to totally forget everything you’ve already been taught, but at least be willing to hear another perspective, another way of doing things, and you’ll be sure to get the most of the experience.