5 Things To Know Before You Start Yoga Teacher Training
So…you just signed up for a yoga teacher training.
Congratulations! You’re about to join the ranks of the approximately 3.7 million certified yoga teachers in the world.
Caption- I totally just made that statistic up, but let’s be real: there are a lot of yoga teachers out there!
All these people sign up for Yoga Teacher Training (YTT, if you’re into acronyms) for different reasons: to get really good at yoga, to “deepen the practice”, or to escape from their children a few nights a week.
So yoga teacher training is a distinctive experience, sort of like an extreme mashup of slumber party, reality television show, and start-up enterprise. Where else would it be normal for a classroom full of adults to sit around on the floor in pajamas talking about spinal alignment and chakras? If you’ve just signed up for a yoga teacher training, here are the top 6 things you should know:
1. You’ll spend all waking (and some sleeping) hours thinking about yoga.
“If I can give just one person the gift that is yoga, my mission on this planet will be complete.”
Well, teacher trainee, you’re about to deepen your practice in ways you’ve never imagined. And by that, I mean that thinking about yoga is about to literally become your part time job.
Except, opposite-day style, you actually pay for this experience.
Most 200-hour teacher training programs require one or two weeknights plus weekend days each calendar week over the course of several months. You’re also required to log practice hours, either at the studio or at home. If your studio requires, you might also get a pretty hefty reading list and be required to “practice teach” to any willing student you can find during your off hours. You will start dropping Sanskrit into casual conversations, talking about how sore you are to anyone who will listen, and actually dream that you are doing yoga.
Some of your friends will think you’ve joined a cult.
If you’re down with this, congratulations: all of the above will pretty much continue unabated if you teach yoga for your full-time job. Before you sign up, make sure you really, really like to do yoga. Like, every day. At your house, at the beach…
On a boat, on a goat? Isn’t there a Dr. Seuss book about this?
2. Talking loudly and doing a yoga pose is way harder than it looks.
So many of the people that sign up for yoga teacher trainings do so because they really like the practice. This is an awesome reason to take a teacher training, but does little to prepare you for what’s actually the other part of the training- the teaching.
Inherent in “teaching” is the ability to explain something to another person. In yoga classes, usually this is done through a combination of talking and demonstration.
Often, circumstances will call for doing both of these at the same time.
If you’ve taken a ton of yoga classes, this sounds easy enough- it’s not like all yoga teachers are Shakespearean actors or prima ballerinas or something. Think headstand into crow pose is challenging now? Try doing it while trying to project your voice to a hard-of-hearing person twenty feet away with a smile on your face. For an hour.
Because when you first start to teach, as you’ll learn, it’s sort of easier just to do the class with the students.
This is called the “do and report” method.
And you’ll get sweaty. And tired. Just like you do when you have to do all that stuff without explaining it to a room full of people. It’s okay though, because…
3. People you’ve known for three weeks will feel like lifelong friends.
I attribute this to the reality-show nature of Yoga Teacher Training: you see the same people for so many hours a week, so alliances (and conflicts) are bound to form.
You bond or break over these things in the same way that couples either fall more in love or get divorced after caring for an infant together. You’re all sleep-deprived, muscle-sore, and groggy with all that Sanskrit and heart-opening work.
I even know a few couples who have formed long-term relationships after bonding over trikonasana adjustments.
4. You might not get super “good” at yoga.
I’ve met so many people who’ve signed up for a yoga teacher training in anticipation of finally being able to do lotus posture. Or handstand. But here’s the thing: the only way you advance your physical practice is with, um, practice. You’ll probably be required to practice a ton as part of the training, and this is awesome. But during the “training” part, there’s usually very little sweating and stretching going on.
It’s more like this.
A yoga teacher training is NOT a cleanse or a bootcamp. If that’s what you’re looking for, consider going on a retreat instead, or just re-commit to your existing practice. The people who “get good” at yoga during teacher training are usually progressing because they’re just practicing more and/or more thoughtfully.
5. You will probably question everything about your life.
Once I read this article on whether going to a “good college” might not be a predictor of success because the college actually teaches you stuff, but because people who are already smart and motivated choose to go to a prestigious school.
Have you ever notice how lots alumnae from “good” colleges will talk about “when they lived in Cambridge” or otherwise obliquely reference the school without naming it?
Yoga teacher trainings have this same self-selection bias. The people who choose to attend are by and large individuals in the midst of a shift or gap: career changers, people in between jobs or projects with free time on their hands, moms with young kids leaving for school… you know, people seeking something.
And people in search of an enlightening epiphany usually get one. Don’t be surprised if your teacher training is the grounds for “major breakthoughs” or “life-changing realizations.” Many of the students attending might have had this kind of lightning bolt hit already: that’s why they signed up for the training in the first place. When you put a bunch of these people in a room together, in pajamas, sitting on the floor, talking about their hearts, this can happen:
One of my favorite yoga-ish sentiments is that you will repeat the same patterns in everything you do, whether that’s a sun salute, driving a car, or having an argument-
How you do anything is how you do everything.
And that’s sort of the point of a yoga teacher training: you get what you put in. The kind of teacher (and participant) you will be depends on the kind of person that you already are. Experiences that stretch you a little (or a lot), whether literal or figurative, have a way of holding up a mirror to your most real self. Enjoy this- it’s a gift.
So, prospective Teacher Trainee, you’ve been warned. Good luck on your training!