What I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Yoga Teacher Training

I was 22 years old when I finally took the plunge and registered for my first yoga teacher training program—a 200-hour training with Kindness Yoga. Every weekend (Friday–Sunday) for four months, all I did was practice yoga asanas and study yoga philosophy. Sounds great, right? Not exactly.

May of 2017 I received my 200-hour certification and registered with Yoga Alliance, finally a recognized yoga teacher. I was also fully drained—mentally, emotionally, and physically.

If I am being completely transparent, my yoga teacher training experience was not all hearts and smiles. Looking back, I don’t think I was even completely prepared to take it on because there is a lot more to becoming a yoga teacher besides picking out the right yoga pants and posting sexy poses on Instagram. Below are three things I wish I knew before going into my first yoga teacher training program.

Many Types of Yoga

Surprisingly, not a lot of yoga teachers know that there are many different styles of yoga. From yin and restorative to Hatha and Vinyasa, the practice of yoga asanas is a diverse landscape. My training program was focused on Vinyasa yoga—commonly known as “flow” yoga. While I knew there were several other styles of yoga to choose from, I impulsively chose vinyasa because I practiced it the longest without fully understanding the intricacies of each style of yoga.

Different Training Styles

Yoga trainings come in many different forms: from weekend trainings geared toward full-time workers to retreat-style intensive trainings. As a full-time employee I participated in a weekend training. On weekdays I spent forty hours working in an office, on weekends I spent more than fifteen hours in a yoga studio—never fully immersed in either one.

Different Teaching Styles

During my 200-hour training I furiously wrote out every single word uttered by my training leads—convinced they held the secrets to becoming a successful yoga instructor—even though I didn’t always agree with what was said. It wasn’t until I finished my 200-hour training that I realized I didn’t have to follow every “rule.” Each yoga teacher has a unique style: some are quiet and structured, and some are cheerful and spontaneous.

During my yoga training I was constantly “corrected.” “Be less fiery, don’t tell students to jump back into chaturanga, don’t demo too much, walk around the room more,” they would say. The more I listened, the worse I got. Finally, I hit a low point: I couldn’t trust my instincts and I started to stutter while teaching. I second-guessed myself at every turn. I spent hours trying to memorize the “right” way to teach. It was exhausting.

Not Everyone in Training Wants to Teach

While the allure of yoga has spread far and wide (and with that the allure of teaching yoga), not everyone who signs up for yoga teacher training is looking to teach full-time—some not even at all! I was shocked when part way through my yoga teacher training some of my fellow students were admitting that teaching wasn’t in their plan. My first question was “Why go through a training then?”

Some expressed that their goal was to dive deeper into their own practice, which I can totally understand. Others utilized the next 16 weekends as a group therapy session, which I was less understanding about. While I am sympathetic to those that gravitate to yoga because of past trauma, I was not happy about spending hours listening to those traumas (some of which were incredibly gruesome) be rehashed, session after session.

After successfully completing my first yoga teacher training, I needed a break, so I ceased all yoga practice for weeks. I was convinced I was doing everything wrong and would make an awful teacher.

It wasn’t until I met several other teachers and compared notes that I understood—there is more than one way to teach yoga. I am a fiery person, so I teach fiery sequences. One year later I learned that there is more than one way to learn yoga. And it wasn’t until after I participated in a supplemental yoga training—Yoga Nidra Part 1 & 2 with Jeremy Wolf—that I learned that not all trainings involve a deep dive into each students’ past traumas. I wasn’t planning on participating in additional trainings for a while after my first experience left me so completely drained. But now, after everything I’ve learned, I can’t wait to participate in another 200-hour or a 300-hour training. This one will most likely be an immersive retreat-style experience in Bali or Thailand or India—with a little less seriousness and a little more fire.

Finding the fun in yoga.
Falling out of dancer pose and recapturing the fun of yoga.

Below I put all of the above information into an easy-to-check list. And if anyone out there is reading this and still confused, feel free to reach out to me through the contact page above and shoot me a note. I am here to help!

To Do Before Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training Program:

  1. Do research on the many different styles of yoga. 
  2. Practice each style of yoga (that you are considering) and figure out which one best suits you (and your teaching style).
  3. Do research on the training styles available to you—retreat style, weekends, etc.
  4. Do research on the yoga studios that offer the style of yoga and training style you prefer.
  5. After you’ve narrowed down your search, reach out to the yoga teachers leading the training and ask about their teaching style, experiences teaching, absence policy, and any additional questions you may have. (I personally would ask if this training is geared toward those looking to teach or those looking to deepen their yoga practice.)

Until next time,

Leah Pinkus

2 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Before Starting My Yoga Teacher Training

  1. Good food for thought if I ever take that leap of doing the teacher training. I feel like I still have a lot to learn in my own practice before that, though. Anyway, I nominated you for the Liebster award on my blog (see last post). 🙂 big hugs 🙂 xxx Anne

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