What to look for in a 200-hour yoga teacher training program:
Congratulations on your decision to become a yoga teacher or to take your yoga practice further!
It’s no small move, and YTT is most certainly bound to change the trajectory of your life for the better.
I know it can be overwhelming as you sift through all of your options and attempt to weigh the pros and cons of each program.
And since this is one of the most frequent questions I get from my community, I thought I’d outline all of my best advice for you right here.
What should you be looking for? How do you know if the program is good?
I’m going to help you tackle these questions and more, below.
For quick reference, use these links:
- Is it local?
- What’s the yoga style?
- What should I look for in my teachers?
- What’s the duration?
- What’s the schedule?
- A word about online trainings.
- What about Yoga Alliance registration?
- What’s a reasonable price?
- Final encouragement
Let’s demystify, shall we?
1. Is it local?
On a pretty regular basis, I’ll get a question in my inbox that looks something like this:
“I am searching for a YTT program, and I think I’m going to do this one in India with XYZ Yoga Teacher. Have you heard of them, and are they any good?”
Questions like these pain me because I so want to help!
Unfortunately, the chances are very good that I have never heard of XYZ Yoga Teacher, and even if I had, it’d be impossible for me to vouch for the quality of their teacher training program.
So this is usually what I recommend:
You want to be a yoga teacher, so I assume you’ve been doing at least a little yoga lately, right? Hopefully in person?
Lots of studios have opened back up post-covid now, so if you’ve been online this whole time, that’s cool but I’d encourage you to get to a studio if you can!
Assuming you’ve been taking classes, who is your teacher, and do they offer a YTT? If they don’t, ask them if they know of a local studio that does offer one.
This is why I put an emphasis on local (when possible):
I believe it is incredibly important that you connect in some way with your teachers and the style of yoga that they teach. You’ll also know whether they have a gift for offering hands-on facilitation.
In addition, you’ll be able to connect with a local community of yoga practitioners, and you’ll be able to network with people in your area.
If the studio is somewhat local, you can go and take a handful of classes and figure out if it’s going to be a good fit.
Taking classes is honest-to-goodness the best way to get a feel for whether a studio’s program will be right for you.
If you’re not able to take classes with your future trainers, you will have no way of knowing whether you find them credible, knowledgeable, reliable, or even just fun.
In the case that you live in an area where you have a ton of choices, read on for ways to weigh one program against another.
In the case that your primary teachers have been online, you can ask them if they teach trainings — but be aware of pitfalls to online programs (which I’ll share below).
In the case that you live in an area with few or no yoga studios, you can absolutely look for online or retreat-style trainings. Of course, it’s harder in this situation to know what you’re signing up for. So I’ll tell you exactly watch out for in this case too.
2. What's the style of yoga?
This might sound basic, but you’d be surprised how many people embark on a yoga teaching journey without knowing which style of yoga they’d like to dive into.
A Hatha-based training is going to be very different from a Kundalini-style training, so just be sure that the training you take is steeped in the style of yoga that you have fallen in love with.
There are a few nuances to this advice, so let me offer you a list of common styles and help you decipher which ones fall under which umbrella.
- Hatha Yoga Broadly speaking, if there is breath and posture, it can be called Hatha. Hatha ends up being a pretty big umbrella under which many styles of yoga can be taught. For this reason, it’s tough to go wrong with a Hatha training — unless you absolutely know that you love a certain, more specialized style like, let’s say, Ashtanga or Yin. (Even in these cases, I believe you’d still do well to study Hatha and specialize later. But that’s up to you.)
- Ashtanga Yoga A lineage that took root with a teacher/scholar named Krishnamacharya and was popularized by Pattabhi Jois, this is a demanding, very physical style of yoga that teaches the postures and breath in a very specific order from which students are not to waver. If you love it, you love it. But don’t accidentally sign up for an Ashtanga YTT if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into!
- Kundalini With ancient roots and a modern incarnation that was brought to the U.S. by Yogi Bhajan in the 1960s, Kundalini is a very specific style of yoga that focuses on uncoiling the powerful energy that is said to sit at the base of your spine. Its emphasis is on breath and kriyas, which are executed repeatedly for minutes at a time.
- Vinyasa This style of yoga, which links breath with free-flowing movements that are sometimes held as postures actually grew from the lineages of Hatha and Ashtanga. If you are in love with Vinyasa, then you can’t go wrong with a Vinyasa style training; but it also wouldn’t be a bad idea to establish your training foundation with a Hatha or Ashtanga YTT.
- Yin With primarily seated postures that are held typically upwards of 5 minutes, Yin yoga targets the practitioners’ fascia, thereby unlocking stuck energy. It too is a very specific style. You could train in it exclusively, but doing so will limit you to teaching only Yin. It may be best to train in a more general style and then to take a shorter course that trains you in the teaching of Yin.
This is nowhere near a comprehensive list. I’ve left out many styles, like Sivananda, Viniyoga, and Jivamukti to name a few.
The bottom line is that you should study either in the style that you have fallen in love with or the style whose lineage gave birth to the style you love. If you’re not sure, ask!
A Word of Caution
If this is your first training and you go with one that is too specialized, you will be limiting yourself.
In some cases, trainings bill themselves as a comprehensive overview of many styles. If that’s the case for the training you’re looking into, I’d just look into the qualifications of the instructor and make sure they have enough experience with each style.
3. What are the teachers like?
It is awesome if you have connected with a teacher who just so happens to have taught forever, studied under a deep lineage of gurus, and lived the yogi life for many incarnations.
But it’s okay if that’s not who you study with for your first training. In many cases, the teacher who will best be able to communicate concepts to you is going to be one who is only one or two steps ahead of you, not a thousand miles ahead.
You probably already know that the 200-hour is the most basic training there is. If you’re serious about your yoga journey, there’s a good chance that you’re going to go on to a 500-hour or at least sign up for many more modules and trainings and specialized offerings over the course of your teaching (or practicing) life.
At this early stage, I believe it’s more important that your teacher is someone you connect with, someone you trust, and someone whose classes you find fun or calming or uplifting or whatever it is you turn to yoga for.
Often — but of course not always — the most enthusiastic, deeply steeped trainers are going to be the ones who remember pretty freshly what it was like to be a total newcomer to teacher training.
On the other hand, someone who has run trainings for many years has had the chance to improve and refine their offering. So how do you choose?
Here’s a checklist of things to look for in a teacher trainer:
- They know their stuff — either because of their own training or studies or experience. If you’re not sure, ask. (I’ll say more about whether I believe a Yoga Alliance registration is important below)
- They have a regular, ongoing practice of their own. They’re not all business, or all study. They’ve got a good mix of personal sadhana (practice) that might include, reading, meditation, posture, breath, or more. Their commitment to the ancient practices of yoga seems genuine.
- They have time for you. It can be tempting to study with a “big name” in yoga. If you do that, just be sure the program isn’t so huge, or so corporate, or even so well delegated that the teacher will barely know your name. Then again, you might just find excellent mentors among the less well-known teaching staff — if you’re open to it. If you’re not sure about how much time you’ll get with the lead teachers, inquire.
- Ask for reviews. I know a couple of really good teachers in my area with a few flaws. Ask anyone who’s taken a training with them and they’ll tell you: “She kept shifting the meeting times for our training,” or “They kept adding more assignments than the original syllabus described.” In one funny case, the trainer was known for reaching burnout every year and dropping the ball for a couple of weeks before picking it back up again. But you know what???? People LOVE these teachers!! All instructors are going to be flawed. You’ve just got to ask around to find out what these flaws likely are, and then ask yourself if they’re flaws you can live with.
- What’s their specialty? Some teachers shine when it comes to anatomy, others with class design, or hands-on adjustments, etc. In the best cases, a teacher will have a team of trainers who basically fill all the major gaps. In some cases, you’ll find an extremely well-rounded teacher with experience in a variety of areas. Still, it’s great when the lead trainers have the humility to bring on experts.
- Trust your gut. Do you get creepy vibes from this teacher? Greedy vibes? Are they overly exclusive and not inclusive? Learn to absolutely trust the darker feelings you might get from a person in a leadership position because often your instinct will be correct.
The take-homes here are: assuming your teacher is qualified to do what they do, do you get a good feeling from them?
Do you think you’ll enjoy spending time with them in the coming months?
Is this someone you think you’d like to learn from?
If so, consider taking the leap! But look into a few other things of course too.
4. What's the duration?
I’m just going to say it outright. Don’t take a month-long training unless you absolutely know that you are going to take a 300-hour next.
There are some exceptions to this, which I’ll describe below. And I know I’m going to be pissing off some of the people who are participating in the cash grab that is the month-long, retreat-based YTT.
Here are the exceptions:
- You are such an experienced, devoted yogi that you’ve already earned your honorary degree. YTT is just your chance to make it official.
- The month-long retreat is just one portion of a more involved training.
- You’re just too psyched for the convenience of this training, and you promise to sign up for deeper trainings as soon as you’re done with this one.
There is just so much to cover, so much to ABSORB in a 200-hour training that 4 or 6 weeks just cannot do it justice. You will be left feeling like you need a review in every subject area. You’ll feel like you’re missing some pretty serious layers of information, and you may end up lacking the confidence to get out there and teach.
Sorry to come down so hard on these types of trainings. I just really do believe that while they may be an excellent business decision for studio owners they are not the most excellent way to convey complex and essential information.
As a rule of thumb, 6 to 12 months is a duration that will give you enough time to fully integrate the information you’ll be presented with without being so desultory that you’ll lack the coherence and community that can come along with participating in a really great program.
5. What’s the schedule like?
It’s a casualty of life that most of us cannot dedicate every waking moment to our yoga practice. If you can, that’s amazing!
For the rest of the world, a YTT schedule simply has to be able to work for our lives. That’s why it’s important to get a clear understanding of what the calendar is going to look like.
Be sure to ask:
- How many times per week or per month will I have to attend training?
- How many times per week am I expected to attend classes?
- How much time will I spend doing homework and projects?
- What happens if I have to miss a week?
Chances are good that you will have to re-organize your life a bit in order to make YTT work — and that’s as it should be!
But be sure the reordering of your life is going to be a realistic one, and be sure you’ll be able to remain committed for the duration of your training.
6. A word about online trainings
As a former yoga studio owner and lead YTT trainer, as well as someone who has hired many yoga teachers over the years, I will tell you that I would eye exclusively online trainings with some suspicion.
I don’t believe this is my Gen Z irrelevancy coming to the fore. After all, I’m someone who teaches exclusively online. I LOVE the online space. It’s just that, when it comes to training, you’ll have to take care to make sure you’re getting a quality program.
Here’s what you should consider:
- If you want to train primarily online — great! But ask your future trainers how they will address the 2 biggest gorillas in the room:
- How will they approach (and hold you accountable to) learning hands-on assists? In my view, there is simply no substitute for in-person training when it comes to understanding things like alignment and hands-on adjustments. A very thoughtful trainer could get around this by assigning you in-person partner work where the partner(s) give you feedback on your assists.
- How will they foster a sense of community? The bonds you build with your fellow trainees can end up buoying you through the ups and downs of training and well beyond! Many people meet best friends in programs like these. How will your trainer facilitate community building in the online space?
- If your online training offers in-person modules, look carefully into their location and pricing. Will a plane ticket be involved?
- Ask yourSELF whether you’ll do best with an in-person or an online environment. Some thrive in the online space. Others find they’re not as accountable, or they miss the tactile nature of an in-person experience. The choice might come down to you!
- Consider whether Yoga Alliance credentials are important to you, and get a good understanding of whether this training will enable you to register as an RYT if that is your desire. Yoga Alliance was forced to grant a lot more leeway to online programs when covid came along. In the wake of that, it’s clear that some things — like online learning — are here to stay. As of this writing, it’s not 100% clear how YA will adapt once their interim exemptions and guidelines have expired.
When it comes to online trainings, make sure you sniff out the programs that are just out there to take your money. I don’t want you to go through a training and come out feeling like you didn’t get the depth and quality of knowledge that creates confident, competent teachers.
If you choose to go with an online-exclusive training, take into consideration what you might be missing without the in-person interactions. And most important: Be absolutely sure you trust your trainers to give you the best learning experience they possibly can.
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7. How important is Yoga Alliance registration?
This is gray area, to be sure.
To quickly summarize what the Yoga Alliance is and does…
It’s basically the closest thing to an accrediting body that the yoga world has.
It is limited in its ability to oversee teaching centers and teachers, but it is not entirely without merit.
As of this writing, they operate with a social credentialing system — meaning: they rely on student reviews to decipher whether studios, teachers, and trainings are actually delivering on their promises. It’s not a perfect system, but at least it’s a system.
What it means when a school is registered:
In order to register as a training program, or Registered Yoga School (RYS) — in addition to paying yearly fees — a school or studio must fill out a rather involved application. And it’s not just any application.
The application includes a lengthy syllabus creation process. The syllabus must cover a certain number of hours in each category — like Techniques, Anatomy, etc. (For a complete list of subject areas, visit Yoga Alliance here)
When I registered my studio as an RYS, it took us months to develop this application, and frankly the process helped us think thoroughly through our offerings.
All of this said, our program ended up far exceeding the suggestions set forth by the Yoga Alliance.
Will I need to be an RYT in order to teach?
The quick answer:
I will share that, when it came to hiring new teachers, my studio co-owner and I did not care a lick whether the teacher was registered with Yoga Alliance (but it certainly was not a deterrent if they were).
What mattered to us was that they had at least a 200-hour training under their belt and that we felt confident in their ability to lead great classes based on their sample teaching interview.
If you’re not sure…
Your best bet is to ask around at the studios you’re interested in teaching for. Do they require Yoga Alliance registration?
Bottom line is it will never hurt to take a training from a Yoga Alliance-registered program.
There are certainly amazing programs out there without Yoga Alliance registration. Just be sure to ask around about their rigor, credibility, and quality.
8. What should it cost?
Now more than ever, the price of YTTs is wide-ranging.
At the time of this writing, competitive YTTs in my area (90 miles north of New York City, so perhaps on the high end of mid-range for the country) are in the ballpark of $3,300 USD.
I have noticed some online trainings as low as $300 or $600, and I would absolutely not advise you to take one of these trainings if it is your first 200-hour.
Expect the price to be not too far off from a semester’s tuition at a local college.
If the program is truly professional, it’s probably going to be priced professionally.
If you’re bootstrapped, know that most studios will offer a timed payment plan. Some will even offer scholarships. Make sure to inquire.
9. A final word.
In the years I led teacher trainings, I never met a person who wasn’t forever transformed by the experience.
If you’re not sure whether you should do it, let this be your encouragement to take the leap!
So many great programs are operating out there, and you will always have the option to continue your studies if the program you choose now doesn’t deliver in every way you want it to.
This is a lifelong journey, and even the most experienced teachers are forever students.
Your choice to make yoga a bigger part of your life is going to make the world a better place.
- Go local if you can
- Make sure it’s the right style of yoga
- Choose teachers you like and trust
- Select a duration that makes sense
- Be sure the schedule will work for you
- Be cautious about online trainings
- Yoga Alliance registration might matter. It might not.
- Expect it to cost a few thousand, but ask about options.
- This is the start of something amazing!
Let us know how it goes!
Leave a comment below to let me know if this helped or if you still have questions.
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