Yoga Teacher Training, Part I

March 14th, 2014 | Posted by Alison Spath in Life

I think I took my first yoga class in 2002.

I was 23.  I talked fast, I thought fast, I liked things fast.

Yoga was slow.  It was uncomfortable, it was kind of boring.

Did I mention yoga was slow and I liked things fast?  I did not really like yoga.

Yoga books for teacher training

Still, there was just something about yoga that kept me coming back to it.

My Yoga Journey

I dabbled with yoga in the years that followed my first class, but it wasn’t until 2009 that that *something* finally clicked.  I tried a yoga class podcast at yogadownload and liked the Vinyasa style classes they offered.  I was surprised at how easy it was to follow the audio instructions and that each class came with a PDF pose guide to help you if you needed a visual.  I liked that I could do it in my own space, in my own time without feeling self-conscious about the way I looked in each posture or if I was doing it right.  Most of all, I simply liked the flow and movement of Vinyasa style yoga.  This is what yoga can be like?  I like this!

I also had a “why” this time – I was using yoga as way to stretch and strengthen my muscles from running and as a part of cross-training/active recovery on non-running days. I took a yoga classes or two at the YMCA, but yoga in my living room with Dawnelle or Jackie was my favorite.  This was also when I first began to wonder more about yoga.  I would find myself with questions during practice, wanting to know the story behind the poses and what was happening on a physical level in this pose or that pose.  Am I doing it right?  Why do we do it this way?  I began to think that maybe “some day” in some vast, unknowable future I might like to become a yoga teacher.

Yoga made it’s next evolution in 2010 (AKA, The Hardest Year of My Life) and 2011 (Things Are Getting Better But Still Sometimes Sucky).  I had found a couple of good instructors at the YMCA and soon realized the psychological benefits that can come with a regular yoga practice were helping me through an exceptionally challenging time in my life.  (Sorry to be so vague.  All that really matters is “life was hard” and “yoga helped”.)  It felt like cheap therapy.  Yoga practice helped me begin to understand the importance of staying present and to stop allowing myself to get worked up by worry or the thoughts that filled my head.  I felt safe on my yoga mat and my practice began to feel sacred.  I noticed that I was starting to carry the calm and peace I found during yoga practice with me “off my mat” and into my everyday life.

The next turn came in 2012 when life had returned to normal (with the exception of a surprise pregnancy) and I started taking prenatal yoga as a part of my physical and emotional preparation to HBAC.  This was when I first discovered the joy of practicing in a real studio with a great teacher.  It was nice to see the same faces (and growing bellies) week after week and the teacher did a wonderful job helping us feel connected to our community, our bodies and our babies.  I clearly remember driving home from a class one evening feeling totally “blissed out” and was very grateful for the role that yoga was playing in my life during that time.

When Kaz was about 7 months old and knowing what I knew now about practicing in a real yoga studio (as compared to my living room or the aerobics studio at the Y) I started going to class at the small studio close to home in early 2013.  I was a little nervous – what if everybody else is awesome and I look like an idiot?  But as it turned out, the classes were well attended by people with a wide range of yoga skill and experience, and the instructors were warm, welcoming and knowledgeable.  I was home.

Just as I was starting to look into the various options for teacher training, I learned that my studio would be offering its first ever teacher training that fall.  I was very excited at the prospect of participating in the training at my studio and (thanks to yoga!) had complete trust that it would all fall into place the way it was supposed to.

So this is where I am today.  A regular yoga practice that I love and in the middle of teacher training, working toward my 200 hour yoga teacher certification.  And let me tell you – teacher training has played a very significant, incredible evolution in my yoga practice.  More so than I ever expected.

I want to share my yoga and teacher training experience here because reading personal blogs about teacher training was one factor in my letting go of any reservations and to just go for it.  (Basically, if you are asking yourself “is teacher training right for me?” I can already tell you the answer is probably “Yes!  Do it!”)

What I Know About Teacher Training So Far

I’m approaching the half way point of my 13 weekends of teacher training (October – June.)  When all is said and done, I will be a 200 Hour RYT through Yoga Alliance as my training program meets the Yoga Alliance Standards for Yoga Teacher Training.

As I understand it, most 200 hour teacher trainings are broken down into two parts, Immersion and Teacher Training.

Immersion is what you might gather from that word – being immersed in yoga. It’s not about how to teach – it’s simply learning more about and really sinking your teeth into Yoga.  We spent the first five weekends (two 6-hour days) breaking down poses, learning the alignment principles and how they relate to anatomy (and some basic anatomy in general).  We learned about the history of yoga and yoga philosophy including epic texts, myths, gods and goddesses.  We also covered Sanskrit, meditation, pranayama (breath work) and Ayurvedic health and medicine.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of these topics and have continued to learn more about some of these subjects in my own time.

Even if you have no interest in ever teaching yoga, immersion will in all likelihood deepen your personal practice in ways that you can’t yet understand.

(Spoiler alert: it has been amazing and life changing.  No exaggeration.)

I can identify three reasons my practice has grown.

The first comes from simply learning more about yoga!  The second reason is the increased frequency of my yoga practice.  As a part of teacher training we’re encouraged/required to get to class at least twice a week.  Our tuition covers an unlimited number of classes at the studio, so I can practice there as often as time allows.  Most weeks I get there twice a week, sometimes three and I get on my mat at home almost every day.  I’ve also gone back to a couple of classes at the YMCA and other studios in the area, mostly to broaden my experience with different styles of yoga and to observe other yoga teachers with my new, different perspective.  No matter which way you slice it, you’ll be practicing a lot.

The third reason my practice has grown is because I’ve got two amazing teachers who are passionate about yoga and frankly, are just really good at what they do.  Your teacher(s) will definitely matter, so if you’re considering training with a particular teacher and studio, I recommend getting to a few of their classes to be sure you like their style and approach to yoga.

Actual Teacher Training began two weekends ago.  We are now learning how to teach yoga!  I’ll tell you more about it in a “Yoga Teacher Training, Part II” post when all is said and done.

Logistics: Time, Cost and Options

When I first began to look into teacher training, I’ve found trainings that got you through the 200 hours in fewer calendar days – meaning that training dates were jammed into a bunch of days or weeks in a row.  That approach was not feasible for me and my responsibilities at home, but I could see how it might work or be appealing to some.

The training I’m doing is at the studio I’ve been practicing at for more than a year now.  The schedule they decided on worked well for me and the needs of my family.  It’s been one weekend a month from October through February, twice in March and then will be every other weekend from April through June.

Before I knew about the training at my studio, I looked into YogaFit, a nationwide training program that breaks training down into sessions.  The upside to YogaFit is that it allows for flexibility as it’s less demanding on your schedule and your wallet.  Trainings are offered in “levels” and you go for a weekend when a training session is offered in your area.  The cost is also broken down because you’re paying for one session at a time, as compared to paying for an entire 200 hour course at once.

The downside (I have to imagine) to YogaFit is what you miss out on.  I’m very grateful to have the same two awesome teachers leading my entire training, and the connection with my fellow yogi trainees has been very rewarding.  It’s definitely a bonding experience to spend 200 hours with the same group of people, going through the same process and steps together.  We have all become friends and it always nice to see each other at class between training weekends too.

Tuition cost can range anywhere from $2600 to upwards of $6000 depending on location and who is leading your training.  (My studio allows us to make payments and even offers a “work study” option to help cover the cost of tuition!)  The YogaFit trainings are closer to $300 – $600 per session.  It is obviously an investment in both time and money.

When you’re looking into the various options for teacher training in your area, the biggest factors to consider are definitely “Who” (is teaching), “When” and “How Much”.  If you don’t know where to start, my suggestion is to ask around.  Ask your yoga teachers where they took their training or if they know of any trainings that are being offered.  Check the websites of studios in your nearest cities or simply search the web for “[Your City] Yoga Teacher Training”.

Teacher Training Isn’t Just For Aspiring Yoga Teachers

Anybody can take teacher training – there are a students in my training who don’t plan to teach, some who aren’t sure and others who definitely plan to teach.  (I fall somewhere between “some day” and “definitely”.)

Whether you know for sure that you want to teach, think you might want to teach someday or have been practicing yoga for a while and just want to learn more - immersion and teacher training are worth looking into.  While you could easily study yoga on your own and go to all the yoga classes you can afford and have time for – there is no replacing a great mentor or two who can share their knowledge and experience with you while accompanying you on your journey.

My experience with teacher training so far has been very positive and I have no trouble recommending it if it’s something you might be considering for yourself.  I’ll share a Part II upon completion this summer!  Do you have any questions about teacher training that I might be able to answer?  Have you taken yoga teacher training and have any thoughts to share?  Fire away in the comments.


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