If you are interested in becoming a yoga teacher, the options can seem overwhelming, as it seems as though every yoga teacher has been practicing their yoga for decades, has gone through extensive training, and can do every yoga pose imaginable. Can you become a yoga teacher without years of experience? At what point in your yoga journey is teacher training feasible?
You do not need years of extensive yoga experience before yoga teacher training but a willingness to learn and a dedication to the practice. However, it is essential to have a committed daily practice of at least several months.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss the various things you need to know or questions you may have before starting yoga teacher training, as well as the different types of yoga teacher training courses. I will also discuss the basic kinds of yoga and the equipment you might need.
Yoga teacher training is a commitment, both physically and financially. If you are considering yoga teacher training, whether for personal growth, professional development, or depth of practice, it is essential to know what you are getting yourself into and what you should know before making the leap!
To join yoga teacher training, you technically don’t need much experience at all. You can sign up from any level, from the very beginner to expert yogi, and you will learn something from online or in-person training. However, to get the most out of yoga teacher training, it is advisable to have at least three months of solid daily practice under your belt.
Several months to a year of at-home practice will ensure that you can follow along, that you have a solid foundation of yoga skills, and that your body will be accustomed to the rigorous daily exercises that are involved in yoga teacher training. Your practice becomes what you teach, so a yoga habit is vital before you begin training.
You can start yoga teacher training without a daily yoga practice, but it will be more challenging to adjust to the daily lessons at first. The most important thing to have to begin training is an open heart, a dedication to yoga, and a willingness to learn.
As a beginning yogi, it is easy to be intimidated by the more experienced, toned, or practiced yoga teachers you see. The teachers on websites and Youtube are often incredibly fit and can do amazing things with their bodies. It’s incredible to watch all of the advanced poses and balances they can complete.
If you want to teach yoga, don’t worry! This does not have to be you. Yoga is for everyone, and so is yoga teacher training. If you plan on becoming a yoga teacher, you will have students of all ages and body types who can or cannot do every move. They will look to you for instruction and example, but not necessarily perfection.
Your ability to do yoga will grow immensely through teacher training, but no one expects you to know every single yoga move and be able to execute them flawlessly. What is important is that you will be able to cue your students in the poses and stay true to the mindfulness of yoga practice.
There are several different styles of yoga practice, and they each have a specific way of being mindful and present. However, you don’t have to be an expert in all of them (or even just in one) to join a yoga teacher training program.
Most teachers focus on one type of yoga for their students. The most commonly practiced yogas are vinyasa yoga and hatha yoga. General knowledge of the other kinds of yoga is useful but not necessary for a successful yoga teacher. If you have expertise in one specific type of yoga, this can inform which kind of training you sign up for.
Each type of yoga has its own presence and function. Some are for specific times in life, and others are for muscle groups or endurance training. Here are a few of the kinds of yoga and a brief description of where they fit in the yoga family:
- Hatha Yoga – beginner yoga, with a focus on breathing and yoga poses
- Vinyasa Yoga – yoga with a cycle of poses focused on movement
- Yin Yoga – yoga with longer poses, focused on breath
- Ashtanga Yoga – yoga with specific flows, taught sequentially
- Kundalini Yoga – yoga focused on stress reduction and chi release, often with breath exercises and chanting
- Iyengar Yoga – yoga with longer poses, concentrated on posture and alignment
- Bikram Yoga – hot yoga, practiced in a heated room for added detoxification
- Power Yoga – a more active type of flow yoga focused on exercise
- Sivananda Yoga – a relaxed form of yoga, focusing on spiritual energy and breath
- Restorative yoga – yoga focused on restoring peace and relaxation, with long poses and meditation
- Prenatal yoga – yoga for expectant mothers and new mothers
- Aerial yoga – yoga with aerial bands, for help with handstands and inverted poses
- Acro Yoga – yoga with partners (for very experienced yogis)
Each of these yoga types fits a diverse clientele and fills a different need. When beginning yoga teacher training, you don’t need to know all of the different types or even a lot about one yoga practice. You only need to be willing and ready to learn about the various types of yoga.
In order to start yoga teacher training, it is important to have a very basic knowledge of yoga and regular yoga practice. While you do not need an in-home studio, the essential equipment, and a space to practice yoga and learn new poses are necessary.
In your house, you should have enough space to lay out a yoga mat and be able to move around it if necessary. It is also helpful to have a free wall to support when you are learning more challenging poses or moves that require balance. This is the space you will use during regular yoga practice as well as the teacher training program.
While the most necessary item is a good yoga mat, there are other pieces of equipment helpful for a daily yoga practice. You don’t necessarily need these to start yoga teacher training, but you will have to eventually invest in them. These include yoga blocks, bands or straps, weights, and occasionally exercise balls.
This yoga equipment can be found online or at yoga specialty stores. Before you start yoga teacher training, you should look at the course and see what is required. Blocks and straps are often used to modify yoga poses for beginners and can be very helpful if you are learning some of the more intense yoga poses.
The following is not an exhaustive list of equipment necessary for a yoga teacher, but remember that you don’t need all of it right away! You can enter yoga teacher training with a cheap mat and some blocks and gradually build up your collection. Below is a list of commonly used yoga equipment and some of my suggestions, but don’t feel overwhelmed – remember that not all of it is necessary to have at the beginning.
The most universal piece of yoga equipment is a yoga mat. While you can find these at any supermarket at an affordable price, it is vital to find a yoga mat that suits your specific needs and will not fall apart with extensive use. There are several different kinds of mats, which serve different yogi needs.
A thicker mat is better for hardwood floors or yoga studios. If you’d like a mat that will last you for years (but is a little pricier), the Manduka Yoga Mat Pro is one of the best mats out there. For a more affordable daily practice mat, I recommend this Gaiam Premium Yoga Mat; it is thick and works on any floor surface.
Yoga blocks are beneficial for adjusting poses to your skill level. They are used for balance, posture modification, and body support. Yoga blocks are generally inexpensive and lightweight – I recommend a Gaiam Yoga Block as an affordable, high-quality option.
Bands and straps are also used for modification of poses, as well as balancing, stretching, and toning specific muscle groups. Resistance bands can help to stretch or gain muscle, but most yogis recommend an actual yoga strap for anything related to balance or deepening your yoga practice.
The Yoga Infinity Strap is unique because it offers an “infinity” looped design, which you can use in a variety of poses. There is also an Infinity Strap Stretch designed explicitly for yogis (more so than an average resistance band). If you are looking for a beginner’s yoga strap with a buckle for length adjustment, I recommend this Tumaz Yoga Strap.
Dumbbells or hand weights are often used in yoga and can be found at any supermarket or exercise store. During yoga, they are used to tone muscles and build strength. Many yogis start with a two-pound weight and gradually move up to a five-pound weight, so a multi-set like these Neoprene Dumbbell Hand Weights is an excellent place to start.
Exercise balls are used sparingly in yoga but can be useful in specific situations (such as prenatal classes or more advanced core strength training yoga). They are not very expensive – a high-quality exercise ball such as this Trideer Exercise Ball can be used for yoga and other exercises.
While most yogis don’t use rollers in their actual practice, they are often utilized post-workout to continue to relax muscles and roll out tension. Many yogis recommend a roller like this High-Density Foam Roller if you tend to carry tension in your back or neck after your daily practice (or even just in the mornings or before bed).
You do not have to be able to meditate to join a yoga teacher training course. The daily practice of yoga does not always involve meditation. Still, the Shavasana (or total relaxation) pose is often included at the end of a yoga session as a way to clear the mind and be totally present on the mat.
Your yoga teacher training will train you to help you and your students be fully focused and present with the yoga mindset of unity and connection between mind, body, and spirit. Although you don’t have to know much of the yoga philosophy before you go into yoga teacher training, you must be willing to learn about it.
Having an open mind and heart is more important than an intensive amount of yoga experience if you plan to become a yoga teacher. Willingness to learn can be more helpful than yoga expertise. Yoga is about more than just the body, and you must be willing to embrace the holistic philosophy of yoga taught in the training course.
Not everyone who undergoes yoga teacher training becomes a yoga instructor! Many people enter the training to further their own practice and learn more yoga forms and techniques. Some people join with the intent of being a yoga teacher and change their minds, and others decide halfway through to become an instructor.
If you are unsure whether you want to become a yoga teacher or not, teacher training could be an excellent place to see what is involved in the process. You will undoubtedly become a stronger yogi and learn more about the practice of yoga in general. Still, a commitment to teacher training is not a commitment to becoming a yoga teacher.
Yoga teacher training varies per instructor and per course, but there is a primary curriculum that you will learn if you participate in a teacher training course. The skills you will learn are not limited to the following list, but include:
- Understanding of the different kinds of yoga
- Basic yoga techniques
- Yoga poses and postures
- Yoga teaching styles and methods
- How to create original yoga flows
- Yoga philosophy and mindset
- Techniques for mindfulness and meditation
- Anatomy and physiology
- How to adapt yoga stances and poses for different populations of yoga students
A standard two hundred hour yoga teacher training will cover all of this and more while increasing your personal knowledge and practice of yoga. While you do not need that much experience to begin a teacher training course, you will end up with all of the skills and information necessary to start teaching yoga independently.
Once you decide that you are ready and willing to embark on the yoga teacher training journey, it is time to pick which kind of training course you should take. There are different lengths of yoga teacher training, depending on how much is taught and how much experience you have.
You can generally train in yoga teaching or train in any yoga specialty, from Hatha yoga to Bikram yoga. It is essential to know the difference between the yoga teacher training courses, so you can decide which is best for you and your intentions and goals.
Fifty and one hundred hour yoga courses generally are for specific yoga training: learning specialties in prenatal, aerial, or acro yoga. These courses are usually taken in addition to the two hundred or three hundred hour general instruction courses and will certify you to teach in those specific areas.
By far the most common yoga teacher training course, the two hundred hour course is offered at many local yoga studios and locations worldwide. A two hundred hour course will train you in all of the basics of yoga: forms, poses, styles, and yoga philosophies. Each training location is slightly different, but the requirements to certify are mostly the same.
A three hundred hour yoga course is the next step for an aspiring yoga master – it builds upon the skills and knowledge learned in the two hundred hour course and teaches you more advanced yoga poses, techniques, and meditation methods. The three hundred hour course is a continuation and deepening for the yoga teacher ready for more.
If you know that you are interested in the two hundred and three hundred hour course, you might consider taking them all at once. A five hundred hour yoga teacher course combines the beginning lessons of a two hundred-hour course with the more advanced training in a three hundred hour course for a more complete and in-depth yoga teacher training.
If you have never undergone yoga teacher training before, the two hundred hour course is probably the best option for you. This is also the course usually requested by studios and certified by the Yoga Alliance (which you do not have to join, but is the closest thing to national certification for yoga instructors and helpful to find a place as a yoga teacher).
If you have already completed the two hundred hour course, taught some yoga, and want a more intense yoga instruction experience, a three hundred hour course will give you more depth of practice and knowledge in the yoga world. This training will bring you to the next level of yoga teaching and strengthen your yogi abilities.
The five hundred hour course is an intense teacher training: not for the faint of heart. It is also more expensive than the two hundred or three hundred, and sometimes hard to find a location that offers it. This could be an option for you if you are confident that teaching yoga is something you want to do for a living and you have a strong, long-term daily yoga practice.
Generally, unless you want a specific yoga specialization, the two hundred hour course is the way to go. Once you’ve completed that and begun teaching, you can decide whether further instruction (whether in a three or five hundred-hour general course or a fifty or one hundred hour specialty course) is right for you.
Whether you are a beginner at yoga or an experienced yogi, you might decide that yoga teacher training is the next step on your wellness journey. Know that you don’t have to have loads of experience to join a teacher training – just a passion for yoga, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to the practice!
- Brett Larkin: How To Become a Yoga Instructor
- Brett Larkin: Levels of Yoga Certification
- Ekhart Yoga: 10 Things to Know Before Yoga Teacher Training
- Body Positive Yoga: Should I Get My 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Certification?
- Arhanta yoga: How Much Experience Is Needed To Follow Yoga Teacher Training?
- Wikipedia: Shavasana
- Yogi Basics: Philosophy of Yoga
- Yoga Medicine: Types of Yoga Styles
- Yoga Alliance: Become a Member
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