Should I do my training abroad or at the studio down the street? Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, or Kundalini..how do I know which type of yoga I want to pursue? Should I do an immersion training or a training that takes place over several months? A few practical tips and questions to ask yourself when choosing a teacher training.
I've often been asked about my experience doing my yoga teacher training (YTT) in Rishikesh, India (considered the birthplace of yoga). After answering the question more than a few times, I've reflected on both the positives and negatives from my yoga experience abroad. Over the past three years, I've accumulated a lot of thoughts and tips for someone interested in pursuing a yoga teacher training, especially for those curious about doing one in India (or anywhere abroad for that matter). In this post, I will reflect upon my own teacher training and yoga career as well as provide a few pointers for things to think about when considering a yoga teacher training. Ultimately, my advice is that pursuing a yoga teacher training is one of the best investments you can make in your life, at least it was for me!
My YTT Experience In 2013, I bought a one way ticket to India after finishing my undergraduate degree. I didn't think I'd be in India for longer than two months, but after spending a month traveling there with two girl friends, we realized that there was so much more to see in the vastly diverse country. One friend and I planned to visit Rishikesh, India while in the north and stay in a yoga ashram while there. After doing a bit of research on where to go once we got there, we realized that we could do an entire teacher training in a month, with food and accommodation included, for half the price that typical teacher trainings go for in the USA. So we went for it and booked our training a week in advance and showed up to Rishikesh ready to settle for a month after a wild month of traveling.
While selecting which teacher trainings in Rishikesh to do, it was important to me that the training be reasonably priced, have a small group of students to increase the amount of time with teachers, and that there be more than one teacher involved in the training. I ended up doing my training at Rishikesh Yog Dham with 7 other students, which was a perfect number (I recommend no more than 10)! I highly recommend Yog Dham and had a more than positive experience, I have stayed in touch with my teachers and even visited the ashram again the last time I was in India. I went into the training, not necessarily planning to teach afterwards but rather enhance my own personal practice. I had previously been a dedicated student living in San Diego, however my practice had mainly consisted of the hot/power vinyasa style, particularly taking many classes from my talented yogini and best friend, Daniela Kent. By doing a Hatha teacher training, I learned more about the alignment of yoga poses and the different effects you get from holding poses for longer periods of time as opposed to moving through them swiftly, which is common to a vinyasa style class. After the first day, I realized that I had been doing down dog improperly for over three years! The training was really a way to be able to explore my habits and weaknesses and push through them and get deeper into my body and my practice. My favorite part of my training in India was its focus on yoga philosophy, in particular the lessons and meditation sessions we had with our guru. It was incredible to listen to the philosophy from the Indian perspective, in the region of the world where Yoga was first developed. Another component that I really appreciated was that my anatomy section was taught by an ayurvedic doctor, which allowed us to learn the foundation of ayurvedic practices and principles. Not to mention, we were able to perform various body cleansing practices also known as panchkarma throughout my training which helped prepare and cleanse our bodies for an ever deeper experience. As the training came to a close, I was completely committed to teaching once I got back to the United States, but slightly terrified of doing so.
Once home, I practiced on friends for free in parks over the summer and finally landed my first yoga teaching job at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, a climbing gym outside Boston. It wasn't easy and I definitely had some insecurities after finishing my training. I wished that my training had focused more on language and adjustments just to name a few, BUT I realized that you can't fit everything into a 200 hour training and it would be up to me to fill in the gaps of the things my training didn't give me-- I just had to start wherever I was in that moment! It did however open a door of curiosity and opportunity to learn and grow even more as both a yoga student and teacher, and gave me a good perspective on how to help prepare others for pursuing a teacher training. Read on for tips and info when considering pursuing a YTT yourself.
Things to consider when thinking about doing a teacher training...
Should I do my training abroad in some exotic location or at the studio down the street?
Benefits of doing a teacher training abroad: -Can be cheaper (especially if you don't have to pay rent during it!) -You get to experience another place, culture, and possibly language. -You might explore concepts that aren't focused on as much in trainings in the Western World from a different perspective (such as Philosophy, Ayurveda, or Panchkarma). -May not have language and cues as a focus. For example in my training, english was the second language of both my teachers and many of my fellow students therefore cueing positions and language was not focused on as much as some other trainings might.
Disadvantages of doing a teacher training abroad: -You are not connected to a studio or a yoga network in a location where you may plan to teach after, which may make getting a yoga teaching job harder after. -The style you choose to do abroad may not be as popular in the area that you plan to teach once you are back home. The most common styles of yoga being taught in the West is without a doubt, Vinyasa, which could either make it easier or harder to find a teaching job depending on where you want to teach when you get back.
What style of yoga do you want to do your training in? If you don't know the answer to this question, try out a bunch of different types of yoga from various teachers. Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, Forrest, Kundalini, Restorative, Yin are all different types of yoga that you can pursue for a training. Iyengar has a heavy focus on alignment and uses props often whereas Hatha and Vinyasa are more general and a really great way to enter into teaching. However it may be that you prefer a training that blends all the different types of yoga, with a more holistic and multidisciplinary approach. For example, my good friend and yogini Daniela Kent has done just that with her Integrative School of Om based in San Diego, CA. Daniela is an Iyengar trained teacher who taught mostly Vinyasa and Hot Yoga until completing her 300 hour teacher training when she began to incorporate reiki and yin yoga more into her practice and teaching. Her trainings pull from all styles of yoga (Vinyasa to Restorative) and have a heavy focus on philosophy.
Look at the syllabus of various trainings. What books do they require, how much time does the training devote to asana, alignment, adjustments, philosophy, anatomy, meditation and ayurveda, etc and does that match up with your interests and hopes for a teacher training? (Keep in mind the training must meet the basic requirements of Yoga Alliance).
Should I do an immersion training or a training that takes place over several months? My training was a one month intensive and I personally loved it! The immersion schedule meant 6 days a week I woke up at 6am and didn't stop doing yoga or yoga related things until 9pm. The day began with nasal cleansing, mantra chanting and pranayama before a 2.5 hour asana practice. After breakfast I had anatomy and philosophy class for one hour each before lunch, followed by a small break. After we had another 2-3 hour yoga class and then an hour long meditation class before dinner. It was definitely intense, however my yoga practice advanced more in that one month than it had in the 3 years before. The consistent lifestyle, eating practices, and environment really shaped the experience and pushed me to develop very healthy habits and patterns and push my body to new limits very quickly.
However many of us do not have the opportunity to have a month completely free from work or other commitments, in which case there are plenty of trainings that are offered on weekends and friday evenings (or some variation of this) over a period of 6 months to a year. I feel that this schedule of training allows you more time to process the lessons you are learning throughout your training and incorporate them into your daily life gradually. Sometimes it is the timing of a training that calls to us and other times it is the teacher or the studio, whatever it is just listen to your heart!
My biggest advice before choosing at YTT is to take as many yoga classes as possible with a wide variety of teachers that teach different styles, and then ask them who and where they did their training and which teachers they would recommend training with. When you choose a teacher training, you are choosing a mentor, and the practice, methods, and mannerisms of your teacher will impact your teaching -- so choose a teacher and a style that really resonates with you! But also keep in mind that your practice and your teaching can and will also develop over time and that you can always do more trainings and will learn from each and every class that you are apart of, whether as a teacher or a student, for the rest of your yogic journey.
If you have any further questions about choosing a yoga teacher training or doing a training abroad or in India, please feel free to reach out to me for more questions!