By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
How long does it take to become a certified Yoga teacher? These days, the average training program will last three to five months. Some courses are foundational (200-hour level) and others are designed to build on the foundational knowledge absorbed within one’s original 200-hour course.
Being a yoga instructor is a very rewarding position, especially if you have a passion for helping others grow mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It is your opportunity to touch someone’s life in a positive way, teaching them to be flexible, how to build their strength and how to enhance their life, through a feeling of unity with all life.
Teaching Yoga to others is a form of service, and while it may seem like a fun job, it is a very serious and focused career as well. Many people who want to become Yoga instructors often wonder how long training takes in order to become a certified teacher. The answer varies; depending on your level of commitment to learn. Outlined below is the general criteria needed to become certified.
Where to Begin Yoga Instructor Training
The first logical step in becoming a certified Yoga instructor is to have practiced Yoga yourself for at least a few years. Most programs will ask that you have two years experience as a student, because you should understand basic terminology. You must have a basic understanding of the fundamentals surrounding Yoga including:
* Physical and individual growth
* Basic understanding of anatomy
* Focus on alignment when performing specific Yoga poses
* Practicing proper technique.
Levels of Certification
There are two widely recognized levels of Yoga certification:
The first is 200-hour certification, which is something all prospective instructors should complete. This is the minimum amount of time it takes for you to earn certification. There is a slim chance that any facility will hire you without at least the 200-hour certification.
For those who are ambitious and career-oriented, the 500-hour certification is the road for you. More often than not, teachers who have completed the 200-hour certification will continue their studies. The 500-hour certification is also very important if you aspire to open your own Yoga facility someday. However, some teachers just like to study for the expansion of knowledge and the safety of their students.
Once you have completed your training and earned your certification, you have gained the right to place the initials CYT (Certified Yoga Teacher) after your name to signify your certification. This really helps with credibility in the Yoga community at large.
Short Cuts for Aspiring Teachers
On the road to become a certified Yoga instructor, you will notice some people looking for an easy path without challenges. Many people want to skip the part of a course that makes them feel uncomfortable. Most commonly on the path to become a certified Yoga teacher, some interns would prefer to avoid the practical exam (practicum). This is when you demonstrate your teaching, observation, communication, and student safety skills. Why should you bother with all this preparation for teaching classes? To be honest, almost every facility will have you teach an audition. Guess what? The practical exam is preparation for the auditions in the future. Believe me, you will be glad you prepared for your practical exam, because a prepared teacher has a big advantage at an audition. Preparation sets the tone for each class you teach and you get better at it – Day-by-day.
There will always be someone who wants to cut corners. Instead of taking a 200-hour foundational course, he or she might take a shorter specialist course or a refresher course for experienced teachers. However, the people hiring teachers take credentials and experience into consideration. Specialist courses and workshops are designed to enhance our teaching skills, but they are not designed for skipping by the foundational aspect of teacher training. Additionally, if there is an accident in one’s class, the credentials of the instructor will be under intense scrutiny. Insurance companies frown on the idea of paying claims for instructors who are not properly certified. If a case is determined to be instructor’s negligence, it is really important to have a foundational certification.
How Long Will a Well-Rounded Yoga Certification Course Take?
Training may take place at a physical location, while other programs offer training courses that are taken in the privacy of your own home. You move through home study Yoga teacher programs at your own pace. You will also benefit by working hands-on with Yoga friends or a local certified instructor, which can be done in combination with home coursework.
As mentioned above, the average time to complete a 200-hour course is between three to five months, but most teachers choose to be students for life. Completing the 500-hour course level may take from six months to a year for successful completion. Again, it all depends on your level of commitment and how fast you want to get the training done.
Which Subjects Will I Learn During a Yoga Teacher Training Program?
How to become a certified Yoga teacher is more complex than it may seem. Most foundational training programs consist of segments, which cover traditional material or are designed in compliance with a registry’s guidelines. However, it can be difficult to decide which program is the right one for you. Here are some general subjects that you can expect to learn during your Yoga teacher training program.
Yoga Ethics and Lifestyle
Generally speaking, most interns don’t want to learn about Yamas and Niyamas. These are the first two limbs of Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Path and they apply to life today. The interesting part of working with teachers, from my point of view, is how much they appreciate the Yoga Sutras after a few years of teaching. Nevertheless, ethical conduct is what we strive for as Yoga teachers. Nobody is perfect, but we should do our best to do no harm to others.
Anatomy and Kinesiology
It’s important for Yoga teachers to understand basic anatomy and kinesiology, which is the science of how muscles, joints, bones, ligaments and tendons work together to permit safe movement. Knowledge of the muscular and skeletal systems will give you an understanding of how physical anatomy affects a Yoga practice. By learning how bodies move, you’ll be able to adjust a practice to teach students in a safe and healthy way. Learning anatomy and body mechanics will help you plan your classes wisely.
General Teaching Techniques
Select a Yoga training program that teaches you how to teach. Instructing methodology and teaching language are important because you’ll need to learn how to direct your students through a class in a way that empowers them. Teachers hold the role of overseeing a class, but in Yoga, it’s important for students to feel comfortable not doing certain movements when it doesn’t feel safe.
During a Yoga instructor training course, you’ll be taught how to use language effectively and efficiently. Guiding people about how to move their bodies is challenging. Your Yoga certification program will teach you ways to use language skillfully when guiding a class. After completing your training program, you should be able to cue poses or modifications clearly and concisely, while supporting students with their unique abilities.
Yoga Pose (Asana) Variations
Modern Hatha Yoga is often a physical practice, which means that teachers must have the knowledge to break down poses and understand the transitional movements that form them. Good Yoga instructors know how to target particular body parts in certain poses. They can also modify poses for students who have injuries or conditions that may limit them. During your Yoga certification program, you’ll study the different Yoga poses extensively to ensure that you’re comfortable guiding a variety of students ranging from those who are attending your class for the first time to students who have been practicing for years.
Meditation and Breath Work (Pranayama)
There is more to Yoga than the physical practice. Yoga classes appeal to a wide range of students because many classes cover a wide range of techniques that allow students to become more attuned to their bodies. A complete class includes meditation and pranayama. A comprehensive Yoga teacher training program will cover meditation and pranayama, allowing you to create practices that appeal to more students. With this additional training, you’ll be able to create an asana practice followed by meditation and/or pranayama. Additionally, you can add these techniques at the beginning or halfway through the practice. Your students will appreciate it when you guide them through a balanced practice that has many Yogic aspects.
Sequencing and Movement
During your Yoga training program, your instructor will teach you how to sequence a class. This is an important element because you’ll learn how to warm up the human body and ready it for challenges during the class. Most classes build toward an apex pose or a particular movement. There are different kinds of Yoga sequences. You should learn a variety to help you create classes that are intelligent and safe for people of varying skills and abilities.
While attending your yoga teaching program, you should be given homework to form several classes that you teach to your fellow students. This will give you the confidence to do it on your own upon becoming certified. Good Yoga training programs send certified teachers into the studio capable of teaching classes that are meticulously planned and sequenced. You’ll understand the elements that are key to a proper class and how to connect different postures together.
Yoga Philosophy and the History
When you decide to become a yoga teacher, you are sharing the practice’s pure essence. Your training program will cover yoga’s foundation. You’ll learn why people started practicing it and about its evolution and expansion. You’ll graduate from your training program with a clear understanding of the practice’s philosophical side and how to honor and share it while teaching.
Business of Yoga
To be clear, some interns do not want to learn anything about business. As of this writing, most registries do not give credit for business or marketing hours. Business and marketing are only options, which are often lacking in certification courses. These days, many instructors are teaching full-time. If this is your intention, then you’ll want to make sure that your Yoga teaching program covers this aspect. During the business and marketing session, you should learn how to stand out in the health and fitness market. You might consider the different ways that you can use your training to earn a living. Be sure to learn how to market yourself so that you can do what you love.
How to Teach a Completely Balanced Yoga Class
Your Yoga teacher training program should be prepared to direct students through a balanced sequence, one that will leave them feeling stronger, more flexible and happier. At the same time, you should understand how to teach mantras, mudras, pranayama, relaxation, and meditation. Asana is important, but it is part of what we teach.
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After Yoga Teacher Graduation – Your Practice and Continuing Education
By Kathryn Boland
After you become a certified Yoga teacher, you are looking for a teaching position or maybe you already have one lined up. Nevertheless, you want to have a plan for your own practice time and continuing education. How can we get this done, when it can feel hard to find the time for our own practice and adequate rest? Step one – plan ahead. Don’t leave it until the last minute, or month, or even year! An advantage of this setup is that we instructors know well in advance of when our continuing education (CE) credits must be completed. It understandably might not be on our minds for some time, with all else going on – but most likely it hits us, or comes up in conversation, that we’re due for recertification in the upcoming year.
With however much time you may have between when you decide to start (the earlier the better), and when the study is due, make a plan for tackling it bit-by-bit. Or you may prefer, and have accessible to you, a chunk of a week or two weeks when you can do it all at once (this article aligns with the truth that that’s not the case for most of us – we must continue our work, regardless of a looming recertification deadline). The point is to make a plan. Do the math, and divide out the hours in ways that will work for you.
This first CE credit option might be difficult to fit into that planned framework, as they happen all over the calendar – workshops. And they are one-off events that once completed, are completed as CE credits. Many also often take place on weekends, to accommodate most people’s work schedules. On the other hand, with planning ahead you can take them when they occur and still have those credits accomplished for when you need. Many studios, especially those with teacher training programs, offer workshops designed for teachers, and those interested in deepening their practice or becoming teachers.
These often focus on a particular aspect of teaching, and are advertised with a clear CE credit allowance for attendees. They can be somewhat pricey, as compared to regular public classes, but there are options for making prices more accessible (if they might seem a bit out-of-reach for you). Many studios with work-exchange programs (“work-study”) offer significant discounts for workshops and trainings. Maybe that’s an option you’d like to explore, perhaps for other reasons, and a cheaper way to attend workshops is an added perk.
That same discount might be an option if you teach at certain studios. If it hasn’t been clear, ask! Another option is to barter with the studio owner. It might feel awkward to negotiate from a place of need, but try not to think of it as “haggling”. You have something to offer – your teaching. Inquire if you might be able to substitute a certain number of classes in exchange for attending a workshop. In addition to helping you obtain CE credits, these events can be incredibly informative, enlightening, and so much more. Try not to let finances get in the way of experiencing them.
For independent study, there are a plethora of great resources out there. Yes, it can be difficult for us to find time to read, but we can through anything one page at a time – how I personally am enjoying Meditations from the Mat, a book by Rolf Gates on living the Yogic life in the modern world. I read one to a few pages while drinking morning coffee, before heading into my day. It feels like a much better start to the day than checking email!
Audiobooks are also a wonderful option, because they can be played from one’s device while puttering around the house, doing dishes, cooking, eating, and even showering. Certainly, it’s best to give these resources full attention, but when time is tight in life we must also be flexible. Be mindful of how much you are absorbing and giving what you are hearing due attention; if what you’re doing is taking enough of your attention that you’re missing things, turn it off for a bit and come back to the audio later.
Audible is a great resource for audio books, with titles such as The Heart of Yoga and Chakras for Beginners – Healing Through the Body’s Energy Centers, for under $20. The monthly subscription is $15 – perhaps a value if you use it often. If you might have a free afternoon now and then, the local library has a plethora of resources on many topics, yoga among them. Online articles on yoga are also seemingly endless, in a form one can read in a few spare minutes here and there. Keep track of what you’ve read so you can know when you’ve reached an hour of reading.
After you become a certified Yoga teacher, the point is to, among all these options, find what works for you. Sound familiar? Yes, that’s what we do in yoga practice! Just don’t forget to keep track – yes, again, in ways that work for you – in a journal, Excel spreadsheet, Word document, et cetera (including date, research done or workshop taken, number of hours, and an extra note if you’d like). Perhaps most of all, enjoy the learning, an important part of the journey of yoga. Om Shanti!
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division