Are you in love with yoga and want to take the next step in your yoga journey? I suggest that you become a yoga teacher, not to teach, but to learn!
Since there are, in my mind, two ways to BE a yoga teacher, I’ve separated this post into two parts: the path to becoming a teacher, and the way you become a great teacher.
Part 1. How to be a yoga teacher: the path
Well, there are really many paths, but most people start generally like my path did. I started doing yoga as a way to stay in shape and to create a little calm and space in my hectic life. And that’s how I still view my yoga practice, a combination of poses (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation.
I quickly fell in love with the way yoga made me feel. It was, and still is, the most holistic treatment for my body and soul. By that I mean it’s sort of a “one stop shop” for physical and spiritual wellbeing.
However yoga goes beyond that! There’s so much behind every back bend and sun salutation. At every class and around every pose, there is a lesson and an opportunity for deeper understanding. I wanted more! And that’s how most take the step to go through yoga teacher training. Not necessarily to teach, but to dive deeper into the yoga journey.
And financially it isn’t a bad choice either. Don’t get me wrong, teacher certification isn’t cheap, ranging from $2,500-3,000 for a basic 200 hr certification (we’ll dive deeper in a bit for what that means). But when you’re already paying a minimum of $10/class, then $10 x 200 hours is pretty close to what you’d pay anyway! So why not spend that money with a focused objective, to go down a structured educational journey with experienced teachers?
So that’s the justification for many that sign up to teach. Out of about 20 that were in my 200 hr certification class, only a few of us are teaching, but I’d say not that much more than that had the intention to teach. Heck, I didn’t intend to teach! I had a busy life working at a corporation, I barely had time to take classes! Something in me just wanted to dive deeper and it is the case for many of us who embark on the yoga path regularly over an extended period of time.
So, you still want to know how to be a yoga teacher?!
First, what is a certified yoga teacher?
Here is a break down on what Yoga Alliance requires for each of their certification designations (also seen here):
Designations,Definitions,Training hrs competed[attr style=”width:100px”],Teaching Hrs completed[attr style=”width:100px”]
RYT 200, Registered Yoga Teacher ,200,no teaching hrs required
RYT 500, A RYT with a min of 500 hrs of training,500,100
E-RYT 200, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. Can be director or primary instructor of RYT200 program,200, 1000
E-RYT 200 RYT 500, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. Can be director or primary instructor of RYT200 program, 500, 1000
E-RYT 500, Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. Can be director or primary instructor of RYT200 or RYT500 program, 500, 2000
RCYT, Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher, 95 (in addition to RYT200), 30
RPYT, Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher, 85 (in addition to RYT200), 30
Second, where to get the yoga certification
There are TONS of certification programs out there. To narrow your search, you first need to think about these five things:
1. Type of Yoga you’re into: This might determine which certification program you do. Specialty yoga variations such as Baptiste Power Yoga, Iyengar, Anusara, and Bikram require their own programs that aren’t as readily available as a teacher’s certification programs that cover hatha and vinyasa.
2. Location of the Program: Do you want to take it in the city you’re in? Do you want to make a journey out of it and do an immersion in a far away place? This criteria most likely is influenced by, and influences, the type of schedule you will be able to do.
3. Schedule: Do you have the time to take a month and get it done fast? Some make this happen while taking a trip to a foreign country. However, if you need to get this done while maintaining your “normal” life and its responsibilities, then you can find programs that offer weekend or night classes in a periodic fashion. The latter may allow for a more profound experience as you are immersed in the yoga world for a longer period of time in your life.
4. Instruction: This is probably the most important thing to consider. The type of teacher you become will be influenced by your teachers. Be assured that you enjoy and respect the teachers that you’ll be spending a lot of time with. Take their classes! More than once! Talk to them after class and get to know their past students.
5. Your ultimate goal: If you just want to learn from an amazing teacher that you know well, then sign up with that teacher! But if you EVER want to teach at a studio, health club, gym, private company, or anyware for that matter, then it will be very important that you sign up for a program that gives you a respected certification. And that means that the program is Yoga Alliance accredited.
Part 2. How to be a yoga teacher: the way
Just because you have a certificate doesn’t make you are a teacher! Sure, you can teach, but remember the quote above from Phil, “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn”.
Teaching is at once a selfish and selfless act. You need to learn to teach and teach to learn. Just going through poses to get a workout isn’t a yoga practice, and just relaying a sequence of poses in a crowded studio room isn’t teaching.
You have to Learn in order to Teach! So first, you have to want to learn!
You know how yoga is often referred to as a journey? Life is as well? This is because these endeavors never stop, they never cease to provide opportunities to create new experience and wisdom. That is why you should never stop learning yoga and never stop teaching it.
The way to be a yoga teacher is to learn yoga and to teach yoga.
Now, to be a Great yoga teacher, you have to keep your drive, your love for learning yoga. This will transmit into quality, creative, teaching, and your students will love you!
But to round out this post, here is my list of qualities that, I believe, make a great yoga teacher.
#1. A desire to learn (of course): This creates an instructor that has many of the qualities below, including in depth knowledge, sensitivity to others, creativity in their program, and honesty in their practice.
#2. Presence and Communication: This is the basic quality that makes a teacher a great educator. There are many great articles written out there specifically about communication in the yoga classroom, like this one and this one, both from Jason Crandell posted onto yogaglo and yogajournal respectively. To sum them up:
- Don’t use filler words like “like” and “uh”
- Limit your instruction to what’s necessary, don’t bombard your students with everything you know about a pose
- Be direct and concise with your instruction, avoid the passive voice
- Be creative with images and your own metaphors
- Provide clear landmarks with your instructions
- Learn student names and use them!
#3. Adaptability: As a teacher, you will teach to all sorts of students. To be versitile, creative, and empathetic in your teaching will help you be successful in reaching all these different students with varying skills and goals.
#4. Humility: No one likes to be taught by an arrogant stick in the mud! There’s no bigger turn off for a student than a teacher who presents him/her self as THE expert. Yoga is about learning, even as a teacher. If a student can’t see this in a teacher, then they probably won’t see that teacher again. Be warm, have fun, and learn!
#5. The Details: Things like a good music soundtrack, making adjustments, working the room, timing of your program, intimate knowledge of random yoga lore. These are all things that come with time and add to your arsenal of tools to use while you teach.
#6. And finally, physical skill: While it is important to possess the knowledge of how poses feel and how they make you feel, I’d say all of the above would be more important as a teacher of yoga. Remember, we’re all on this journey together. You can give sage advice while taking it!