International yoga teacher training courses (YTTCs) are a big business—perhaps even as big as domestic programs. After all, they make for a great excuse to take a trip out of the country and they allow you to finish your training in one month. They enable you to fully immerse yourself in yoga rather than having to balance your YTTC with work and home life.
However, with courses popping up everywhere and seemingly taught by anyone, quality and standards of teaching greatly vary. Before you spend thousands of dollars on your yoga education abroad, you should make sure you’re investing wisely by doing your research.
Assuming you don’t already have a particular YTTC in mind, follow the steps below to make the right choice.
Many studios conduct YTTCs domestically and abroad, giving you the opportunity to test out their teachers at home before you commit to something bigger afar. As an added bonus, studios where you have completed a YTTC are more likely (though not guaranteed) to hire you afterward.
If the local studio route isn’t an option, then you need to pick a location. Programs in Central America are ever-popular, especially in yoga-laden Costa Rica. But they’re also popping up in lesser-traveled countries like Guatemala and Panama. Because Central America is relatively close to the U.S., airfare is reasonable and flights are quick.
Europe, South America, and Asia are also great options. Thailand and Bali are Southeast Asia’s yoga meccas, and we couldn’t talk yoga without mentioning its homeland, India, where YTTCs abound. This is the ultimate place to learn yoga, and a guaranteed epic journey.
When you’re going abroad, weather can have a big impact on your trip. Tropical countries have rainy seasons that may make your experience a little too wet. In India, heat and air conditioning are nearly nonexistent, so you don’t want to be in the hot south during the summer, or the freezing north during the winter. Look at yearly averages so you know what you’re getting into before you book.
Even if there’s one particular program grabbing your attention, it behooves you to pick several in the country or continent of choice to compare. As mentioned, quality varies greatly. Size up three or four programs using the following five steps.
There are numerous styles of yoga in existence—some traditional and some modern inventions. If you’re not sure which lineage is for you, spend a few weeks at your local studio to acquaint yourself with yoga’s many styles. Then find out what style each of the contending YTTCs is teaching. You wouldn’t want to spend a whole month learning something that actually doesn’t speak to you as a yogi.
Get to know the people who might be teaching you. They don’t need to be famous to be good, but one would hope they’ve been teaching for more than a year or two. Ask where and when they completed their own training. Do some Google research. See if they have any online classes that you can watch to get a feel for their teaching style. If you’re going to India, is it important to you to learn from Indian teachers? This can really make a difference in your education.
This is one of the most important steps, whether the program is domestic or abroad. Yoga is an ocean of a science, and each program must carefully pick and choose what to include in the span of one month. It’s very helpful to compare the course content of a handful of YTTCs. Some are more spiritual, some more modern. Some teach Ayurveda and yogic diet, some don’t. Explore several programs to decide which aspects of the curriculum are imperative in your education.
While most YTTCs abroad include accommodation, some surprisingly do not. If you’re unfamiliar with the city or even the country where you’ll be studying, it’s way easier to have food and housing arranged for you. You should expect accommodation to be basic if you’re studying in a developing country. If you want something a little plusher, expect a pricey tuition.
This step might be the most valuable. Ask program contenders to put you in contact with some of their past students. If it’s a good program with satisfied students, they’ll be happy to do so. Past students can give you honest insight into the programs’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as advice for your own journey.
Once you’ve made your well-informed and well-researched decision—taking into account the weather, course curriculum, teachers, yoga style, accommodation, and past student recommendations—it’s time to enroll. Some courses accept as few as 15 students a session, so be sure to book early.
Congratulations, future yogi! You may just be embarking on a life-changing educational adventure.