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10 Essentials to Look for When Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training

Choosing a 200, 300, or even 500 hour yoga teacher training can feel like a daunting task. It  seems that everywhere you look a new studio is offering a version of a yoga teacher training, and the options can feel overwhelming. For years I have heard from students and fellow YTT graduates asking for guidance on how to pick a quality training that will deepen their understanding of yoga and prepare them to be a masterful and well prepared teacher.

After years of leading yoga teacher trainings, and mentoring those that are starting their own trainings and personally navigating the new Yoga Alliance standards I have compiled a list of 10 things that should be considered when picking a yoga teacher training. 

1. Which level of yoga teacher training is right for you?

RYS 200, 300 or 500? How do you know which training is right for you? Think of it this way, a 200-hour training is your bachelor’s degree, a 300-hour training is your masters, and a 500-hour training as an accelerated training that will give you your bachelors and masters at the same time.

Most people start with a 200-hour training and then when they feel like they are really steady in their teaching, they choose a 300-hour course that is in an area of learning that they are interested in, or would like to pursue further.

However, just because most people do it this way does not mean that all have to do it this way. If you have the time to commit to a full 500-hour training and are inspired to take a deep dive right off the bat considering enrolling in a longer training might be a great option for you. You can begin teaching after you have completed a 200-hour training, so it is truly up to you and the time commitment you want to make to your course and which option feels best. 

2. Is it compliant with the new Yoga Alliance YTT Standards and a RYS?

There has been a lot of talk around the yoga teacher training world about the new Yoga Alliance standards and how to get your RYS (registered yoga school) to meet these standards and keep your training compliant. While some choose not to register with Yoga Alliance or use the standards, it is important to inquire about the curriculum, and if they are a RYS and if they aren’t why. 

The Yoga Alliance is certainly not perfect, but it is the best thing that we have. Enrolling in a training that is not compliant with the new standards and keeping their RYS status could cause issues for you further down the road as many employers do require that you have completed a training from a registered yoga school before you can teach.

Take a moment to inquire or check that your program meets the new standards and that they are committed to offering you a well-balanced experience that focuses on more than just practicing asanas.

3. Who teaches anatomy? (and is there at least 30 hours dedicated to the topic?)

Here’s the deal, at the end of the day as yoga teachers we are working with bodies and a deep comprehensive understanding of how the body works. What we need to know about anatomy and physiology to keep our students safe is essential. One of the topics that most recent grads say they still don’t have a strong grasp on after their training is anatomy. 

It is important that you look for a training that has a knowledgeable expert in this field teaching you anatomy and that you are spending at least 30 hours during your training on anatomy and physiology. Inquire about who is teaching anatomy and look for professionals like physicians or other medical professionals, or those that have had extensive training in this topic like personal trainers, physical therapists and occupational therapists.

Use caution if your training is taught by someone that has only had a 200 or 500-hour training as their basis for an understanding of how the body works. 

A great source for yoga anatomy is David Keil at Yoganatomy.

4. Be clear on what you want to teach - and choose a lineage that inspires you.

One of the toughest choices you may be faced with is what lineage you will choose to study. Each training should have a clear explanation of which style of yoga you will be focusing on. Although I believe it is important to have an understanding of the other practices - there should be one that is your primary focus in each yoga teacher training.

When picking the lineage, just think about what type of a teacher would you like to be. Do you love your daily vinyasa class that keeps you moving and flowing throughout the class? Or perhaps you prefer more static holds like you would find in a Hatha yoga, or maybe another style like Kundalini yoga or Ashtanga speaks to you. There isn’t a wrong choice here as there are many wonderful styles and it is up to you and what you want to teach.

Here's a great list of 22 yoga lineages.

5. Is there an emphasis on other limbs than just asana?

It is a common misconception that when you do a yoga teacher training that you will be spending hours and hours a day doing yoga classes. If you find a training that touts most of the day spent in practice, take a moment to pause and inquire what other topics are covered and what the balance of practice, lecture, workshop, and self-study will be.

No more than a third of your training should be taking classes, and it is important that these classes are not just about the poses, but also incorporate pranayama and meditation as well. Remember, you are here to learn how to be a yoga teacher, not just take a lot of yoga classes.

6. Are there experienced and reputable YTT teachers?

Yoga teacher trainings should be led by experienced and reputable teachers that have a lot of knowledge not only in the practice, but also have extensive experience teaching yoga and have a passion for teaching teachers. You should have at least one E-RYT 500, YACEP as the lead trainer. Also look for other teachers that have at least an E-RYT 200, or RYT-500 level indicating that they have completed a 500-hour training, or have completed a 200-hour training and have had a minimum of 1,000 hours teaching.

Finding a training that has knowledgeable, passionate, and experienced teachers can be the difference that takes a good training to a great training. Don’t be afraid to inquire about the teaching staff and their skill level, or ask to pop into the studio and meet them before you enroll in the course.  

7. Is there a comprehensive yoga teacher training manual?

Have you ever been to a training, or a workshop and you were so inspired during the course, but then when you got home you felt like you had forgotten a lot about what you did during the day? It happens in YTT as well, and one element that many forget to ask about is the course manual. First, your course should absolutely have a manual. Second, this manual should be comprehensive and be filled with training aids, guides, and tools to help you during your training and after you have graduated the course. This will ensure that you still have access to what was covered in the training even after you have completed the 200-hours. 

8. Is the price reasonable?

You can reasonably expect to spend between $2,200-3,500 for a 200-hour training and a bit more for a 500-hour training. Although price shouldn’t be the only factor when you are choosing your training it is important that you know generally what a training like this should cost, and if it seems that the tuition is way off the mark take time to inquire as to why it is so different.

A studio should always be able to reasonably justify their tuition prices, and should be able to give you a breakdown of why they charge what they do if it is significantly more than what you would expect to spend on a training. Check your local area and see generally what a YTT costs to have an idea of what to expect for your training.

9. Is the schedule doable for your life?

Another factor that you should consider is the schedule and if it is doable for your life. Most trainings are done either in weekend or evening modules over the course of several months to years or are done as an intensive training where you usually travel and complete the course by training for hours each day over several weeks.

Both styles work well for different people, and again it is all about what feels good to you. Make sure that you pick a training that will fit into your schedule so you can attend all modules, and dedicate the time needed to this training.

10. Can you contact past students and get their honest feedback?

Chances are that if a training is truly incredible, there are a lot of students singing it’s praises from the rooftops. Make sure that there are testimonials about this course, read reviews, and ask the studio if they have any recent grads that would be willing to talk to you about their experience.

If it truly is a wonderful course there will be a lot of people willing and waiting to tell you how great it was. You may also be able to ask some questions and get clarifications about what it covered, how your days are spent, and if this training sounds like the perfect fit for you. 

Finally, here's one last pro tip

During yoga teacher training you will be learning how to teach students. You will learn to provide clear instruction, make appropriate adjustments, and offering modifications. To make sure your covered in case there is an injury, we definitely recommend getting liability insurance for yoga teachers.

beYogi has $25 yoga student liability insurance that has 100% of the coverage of the professional policy and is good for the full year even after you become a certified and begin teaching. Get it while your in training so that you can save a ton during your first year of teaching.

Kelly Smith
Kelly is an E-RYT 500 and YACEP certified yoga instructor and Master Trainer, recognized for her expertise in yoga and meditation. As the founder of Yoga For You and the host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her teachings. Kelly's credentials as a location independent yoga and meditation teacher underscore her commitment to spreading mindfulness worldwide. Her days are filled with global travels, offering trainings in restorative yoga, meditation, and yoga nidra. Additionally, she shares her insights through writing blogs for beYogi and recording meditations from her closet.