You have decided to follow a yoga teacher training, but how much experience should you have to take this step? This sounds like a very obvious question to ask and yet it’s quite a new question. The first yoga teacher trainings were given in the 80s by seasoned teachers to loyal students. These students would share their practice with their teacher for a long time, before being initiated into teaching. These days the teacher trainings are open to anyone who is physically and mentally healthy and ready to take the responsibility of following a training. This created opportunities for many different people to enter a teacher training. Besides future teachers, any level student can now join a teacher training to deepen their practice. This means you don’t need much experience to enter a yoga teacher training.
We have not mentioned it yet, but you need to keep in mind is that we are talking about becoming a yoga asana teacher. The term ‘yoga’ is most of the times loosely used to describe the ‘practice of yoga asanas’. When we talk about becoming a qualified and skilled yoga teacher, what is actually meant is becoming a qualified and skilled yoga asana teacher. This distinction is an important one to keep in mind. It doesn’t mean that as a yoga asana teacher you will merely teach the physical aspects, as if yoga is just another form of exercise. If you feel ready for it, you can convey some of the underlying concepts of yoga during your classes (if your students are ready for it, too!).
If your goal is to become a yoga teacher, it can be quite intimidating in the on- and offline world of yoga. You might think of the endless stream of pictures on Instagram of perfect yogi’s or the amazing students you meet in yoga studio’s. Often social media shows you the yoga teacher as someone with an impeccable body and stamina that students can look up to. This is a misconception on what being a yoga teacher means. Teaching yoga and practicing yoga are two different activities. Someone who practices yoga in an advanced stage doesn’t necessarily have the skills to be a teacher. Most of your students will never look like the famous yogis on Instagram, why should you be any different? Every person has their own limitations and every yoga teacher has difficulty with certain poses. By showing your own challenges, your students will relate more to your teaching and they will be more open to explore their own challenges.
So what does it take to become a yoga teacher? First of all, you need to have a strong desire to learn. With this important ingredient, you can overcome any obstacles in becoming a teacher. There have been many cases to show this. For example, students who hardly speak English and completing their training with high marks. Another example is a student arriving to her training in crutches and finishing her training as an excellent teacher. You can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. This desire is also closely linked to your attitude. Often the less experienced yogi’s are the disciplined ones. They achieve the most growth and show the best results in their teacher trainings. Even a seasoned yogi is usually a beginner in teaching. This makes the teacher training challenging for anyone.
Being a teacher means that you are irreplaceable. Instructions and demonstrations can be found anywhere, but a good teacher can eventually motivates students to aspire more. You will know how to give your students the right answers at the end of a class. This is the moment that you can pass on knowledge and advice in a personal way. Being a teacher means knowing how to help others to acquire knowledge, competence and virtue. It’s more than demonstrating and instructing students into poses. It’s providing students with a challenge, giving the right information to increase body awareness and to be there to prevent any injuries. These are the tools that are handed through a teacher training and they do not require the teacher to perform the outcome.
An online instructor will not be able to correct anyone. This is where you can excel as a teacher. Looking at your students body, you will know what stops them from going further. To gain this knowledge, it’s important to find a yoga teacher training that is offering anatomy alongside the asanas and corrections. You will learn that not everyone will be able to do all the asanas. As a teacher you have to motivate your students. At the same time, you will discover what stops your student from going further. Learning the difference between a challenge and a limit is something that will take you time to understand. You will have to teach and observe your students, focusing on their practice instead of your own. By gaining this ability as a teacher, you will have an invaluable role in the practice of your students.
In the end, the goal is to become a person that can lead a class with confidence. This confidence comes not just from your own practice, but from the knowledge and hands on skills you take home from your teacher training. A well rounded yoga teacher training will give you knowledge in yoga philosophy, teaching methodologies and functional anatomy. This will form your basis on which you can build your teaching portfolio. Ask yourself, how do you study best? Do you work well under pressure? An intensive training of a month could be your thing. Would you like to space it out? Then there are many teacher trainings spread out in weekends.
We advise our students to start teaching as soon as possible to preserve the confidence you will get after receiving your certificate. Another part of this confidence will come through self exploration and development through your own practice as well as the classes you will give. Being a yoga teacher means a constant gain of experience. No matter in what stage you enter the world of teaching, with consistent effort and professional awareness, your experience will only get better.
Omkar Jain is a lead teacher trainer with teaching experience of over 5,000 hours. He has been teaching at Arhanta Yoga since 2011 and has become an essential member of the team.
Omkar was born and raised in India, and grew up with traditional values. He has studied with various reputed teachers like Saraswathi Rangaswamy (daughter of Sri. Pattabhi Jois). His classes are fun and challenging for students of all levels. He teaches with focus, discipline and humor at the same time. His ability to comprehensively transmit knowledge helps students to mature into conﬁdent teachers.