Choosing a yoga teacher training program can seem like a daunting task… because it is.
Teacher training is a huge commitment of both time (anywhere from 2 weeks to over a month) and money (from $2,000 to $20,000), and it can be hard to know what’s important before actually going through a training yourself.
You don’t know what to look for, and there are just so many options!
No worries, I’m a crazy question-asker, and these are the 24 questions I wish I’d known to ask before deciding on a program:
1. How does spirituality factor into your program?
relating Buddhism (my own spiritual practice) to yoga for my final presentation
Many yoga programs have a strong Hindu focus. This may mean your yoga program might include chanting to gods, devotional practice, and learning about Hinduism, or it may mean that the instructors already assume you have a solid understanding of Hinduism and accept it as your belief system. Whether this is a positive or a negative depends on you. If you have strong beliefs, you should check in advance whether you will be accepted into the program, or if there may be any practices you’re uncomfortable with.
2. How many hours of practice teaching are included?
teaching a practice class
Getting hands-on experience teaching is one of the most crucial parts of your yoga teacher training: don’t underestimate its importance. Creating flows, balancing your classes (with difficult and “easy” poses), and providing corrections are all valuable skills that are best practiced under the experienced eye of your teacher trainer, who can provide super important feedback, advice, and critiques.
3. Are there any required readings?
If there is required reading (or even suggested reading), make sure you do read the books (and bring them with you, if possible, like on an easy-to-transport Kindle like I do).
Your teacher trainers wouldn’t require the books without reason, there’s obviously important information they want you to glean from them. You may even see some reading-related questions on your final exam.
4. Are there any at-home assignments?
Some schools decrease their number of contact hours during the program by requiring you to complete at-home assignments and/or volunteer teaching hours. If this is a requirement of your school, make sure you can complete it (like, you have a yoga studio nearby, and/or have the materials necessary for the assignments).
5. Are there any days off?
going for a hike on our day off
If you have work you need to do, friends you want to meet up with, excursions you want to take in the nearby area, or you know you’re the kind of person that needs a day or two of decompression while learning, days off can be crucial. Find out in advance when they’ll be, so you can plan accordingly.
6. What’s included?
3 daily vegan meals were part of the program I attended
Most full-time programs include some combination of accommodation, meals, and supplies. But you’ll want to check the details and know just what your money is getting you. For example, how many meals are included (and are meals provided on days off)? You don’t want to assume the price includes private rooms, and show up being assigned to a dorm room, or leave your yoga mat at home only to find out that the training doesn’t lend mats out.
7. Are there any expected additional expenses?
yes, I definitely bought a handmade mala from a fellow trainee
If most students spring for a fancy post-training dinner in town, or there’s the opportunity to buy a one-of-a-kind mala or eco-friendly yoga mat, you’ll want to have extra cash with you. Some common extra expenses include laundry cost, excursions, massages (if your training location has an on-site spa), and non-included meals.
8. How do you get to the training location?
for my training, I flew to Guatemala City, took a van to Antigua, took another van to Panajachel, took a boat to Tzununa’s pier, and then a tuktuk to my training center
Even if a training seems super cheap, if it takes a full day of travel and is in the middle of nowhere (ie no public transportation), the cost adds up quickly. Heaven forbid, this also means you’ll be more isolated in case of a family emergency requiring you to head home, or even if you just get cabin fever.
9. What is the graduation rate?
If a program has a high drop-out rate (non-completion of the program), or a high number of exam failures, these are both major red flags. Something about the program is turning people off, or not preparing them properly for the exam.
10. What is the teacher placement rate?
If you are completing training and your main goal is to teach (not just personal development or working on your own practice) knowing the percentage of graduates who end up teaching is VERY important. Some schools offer YTT mainly for personal practice development and don’t have a strong focus on fully preparing future teachers with the hands-on skills necessary for leading classes.
11. How safe is the training center?
the training I attended was in a small town on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala
If you’re going to be spending pretty much 24/7 in a location, you’ll want to know how safe it is.
Ask your teacher trainer point-blank: Have there been any incidents in the past year? This could range from petty theft from rooms to assaults.
12. Can I talk to former students?
This is important because you can get the full scoop (and ask a few key questions as well). If a school is hesitant to connect you with former students: red flag.
If you do connect with a former student, you can use any of the questions you’d ask a school. In particular, I’d ask regarding safety (#11) and teaching hours (#2) as it seems that too many schools misrepresent both.
13. How many trainings have already been completed?
during the final graduation ceremony
Practice makes perfect, and I think this goes for teacher training programs as well as their students. If a school has graduated thousands (or even hundreds) of students and completed dozens of trainings, they’ve probably worked out all (or most) of their newbie kinks and problems.
14. Are there any prerequisites?
Common prerequisites include completing required readings (already mentioned), having a solid personal practice (some schools require 6 months, some require several years), and depending on the program: experience with a particular style, a personal meditation practice, or ability to complete or hold certain poses.
15. What is the style of yoga?
me teaching my last practice class
My advice: you want to choose a program that fits with your preferred style of teaching/practice. There’s nothing wrong with trying out new styles, but if you’re a vinyasa-lover through and through (and that’s what you plan to teach), but your school teaches only slow, traditional Hatha and nothing about creating flows or teaching transitions — you’re going to have a harder time taking what you learn about teaching and using it in the actual classes you teach.
16. Do you provide any help in landing jobs?
Some schools provide heads-ups on potential teaching positions, offer intern programs, or give a membership to a yoga teacher job postings site.
Most programs seem like they don’t provide much assistance in acquiring jobs, if at all.
17. Is there any contact post-training?
Some programs check in on their graduates periodically after completion. Many don’t provide any follow-up. Some have a Facebook group for graduated teachers.
18. What is the demographic of students?
Laughing with fellow students Photo: Mahadevi Ashram
This is an important consideration for me, that I didn’t realize until after completing training. If you value diversity, you may want to specifically seek out a program that values diversity as well… otherwise, you could very likely end up in a training with only upper-middle-class white people.
19. Do you provide scholarships or reduced fees?
Piggybacking off of the previous question, if diversity is important to you (in a program and in life), choosing a program that provides scholarships or reduced fees to economically disadvantaged students is an important consideration. It shows a commitment to and understanding of diversity on the school’s behalf, as well as more than just lip service to the universal availability of yoga.
If a school only exists to line the pockets of its teacher trainer(s), you can bet they won’t be offering scholarships or reduced fees.
20. If included – what are accommodation and meals like?
my private treehouse room
If you have special dietary or accommodation needs, this is the time to ask: BEFORE you’ve made your deposit.
Will the accommodation provided be rustic tents, beautiful treehouses, or swampy dorm rooms? Is there hot water? Options for upgrades, private rooms, private bathrooms?
How many meals a day are served, and what do they typically look like? If the provided food won’t be enough for you, be sure to bring snacks. Being hangry can make hours of yoga feel more like torture.
21. What is the daily schedule?
the yoga shala during a class break
If daily meditation starts at 6am and you’ve never been able to get out of bed before 8, you should either think twice about booking, or commit yourself to making this (potentially very positive) life change.
22. Where is the nearest town/store?
If the location is very isolated, know that you’ll likely face additional difficulties and fees in getting there, and that it’ll be harder to get away, if needed. Plan ahead to purchase all your necessary supplies in advance (things like tampons – though I’d suggest trying a menstrual cup! – and prescription medication and eco-friendly bugspray and sunscreen).
23. Do you have a suggested packing list?
The teacher trainers should know more about the location than you do, including the possibility of cold snaps or monsoons, or that the bugs are especially fierce. Definitely find out whether you need to bring your own yoga mat (I recommend a foldable mat for travel), and if there are special clothes required for practice teaching and for ceremonies, or what people typically wear.
Most trainings will require you to bring all-white clothes for practice teaching sessions and for graduation, which might take a bit of looking around to find stuff that’s white and comfortable for yoga.
24. How do I do laundry?
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