Once you decide to participate in a 200hr yoga teacher training (why would you decide so? We will have a look at it in a moment ;) ) and you step on the market, the offer you find there is overwhelming!
Courses all around the world, colorful photos, people proudly holding their certificates, everybody is smiling, and you can be sure when you read their course descriptions they are going to promise you a life-changing experience!
And you know what? This is actually true.
Not just a catchy marketing phrase, no bullshit. Those people are honestly smiling in those photos and they all went through a transforming experience. It doesn't mean that you will become a completely different person, but something happens....a seed might get planted, a little flame might get lit up :)
So let's see from the beginning, why would you want to attend a YTT? Before choosing your course this is the most important question you have to clarify with yourself. Don`t get me wrong, this intention can change during the course, but make sure you know why you want to participate. Deepening your knowledge, improving your asana practice, get to know your physical body more, get to know your mind more, find access to your emotional body, you are doing your Ph.D. and studying yoga philosophy would be inspiring, your best friend wants to go but she doesn't want to go alone. You feel life plateaued, you feel lost and you need to re-identify yourself. You actually want to become a yoga teacher. Or all these together. Or something completely different. So just ask the question, why do I want to do this? What do I want to take away from this course? Answering this question will help to decide where to turn in the first intersection of the Yoga Teacher Training market.
The next step, pick your style. Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, Jivamukti, Vinyasa, Jin, Power, Restorative, Prenatal, Aerial, Bikram, Sivananda, Acro... if these don`t mean too much to you, I would recommend reading about them, try a few classes to ensure that they/the linage of the training will fit what you're looking for.
Always check the sample daily schedule. It is never written in stone that it will be the exact timeline of your training, but you can see how many hours of asana practice you can expect, what`s the ratio between philosophy, pranayama, meditation, teaching methodology, and anatomy. It can be interesting to see if there is a separate mantra chanting block, how much time is provided for journaling and self-study, what type of workshops are included (if any), partner works, or any additional little extras sprinkled in.
The daily structure brings us to the other big question – what intensity do you prefer.
A 200hr YTT can mean a really intense 4 weeks. Semi-intense on weekends plus 1 or 2 weekdays, or it can be stretched to 6 months, only on weekends. All options have their own pros and cons.
If you want to dive into it, full-on, leave everything behind and make your training your only priority, I would say pack your stuff and go for a full intense experience. But if your circumstances (family, work, money, or any other obligations) don't allow you to do so, or if you feel that it might be a bit too much for you, a longer structured training will be just as strong and an enriching experience.
You can also find sort of “hybrid” programs. For example, our 200 hr Rocket Inspired Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training at Prague Yoga Collective is such a combination. We have a fully scheduled opening weekend, then we go for 2 really intense weeks to Croatia (seaside in June for full devotion to your yoga journey) and after coming back there are two more weekends in the program.
Whether it is an intense course or a more stretched-out one, 200 hours is a lot. Make sure that you resonate not only with the program but also with the instructors. Read their bios, background and have a feel. My personal experience is that from my Indian teachers I generally learned a more traditional approach meanwhile my western teachers had more practical/technical things to add to it. I learned a lot from both.
If you decide to go for an intense training, choosing your spot is important. Do you want a more strict, more traditional approach? Then you might find your expectations in an ashram. Would you like to have more yoga training and a vacation vibe? Your place is at the seaside :)
Whichever you choose make sure there are things in the area where you can go on your day off. Use the opportunity to discover new lands, people, traditions, nature, long swims, big walks, a peaceful cafe, an ancient ruin, a majestic temple, or a bustling market will enrich your experience.
Also important to do your research from the practical perspective – how can I actually get there? I have heard from many people that they are planning on going to Tibet for their yoga teacher training. The majority of them had this idealized vision in their mind until they tried to book a spot and realized that it is not as easy as they thought. Don`t forget to check the obligatory and highly recommended vaccinations and the visa requirements specifically for your country.
If you are not a native English speaker (like me), it is also a relevant question: Where do I want to teach? Maybe you feel less confident learning something totally new in English, but if your plan is not to teach in your home country, you will benefit from studying and getting used to yoga terminology in English from the very beginning.
And where do I wanna use my certificate brings up the big question – Yoga Alliance Certified or not? To be able to register a 200 hr training with Yoga Alliance, the course has to have a standardized framework fulfilling their requirements.
However seeing the “RYT 200hr'' stamp at the bottom of the page (or at the top, because schools want to emphasize it) does not truly guarantee the quality of the education. You can find fantastic courses certified by Y.A. and also horrible ones that are registered under their authority. From an after-course perspective: I have experienced in Asia that they explicitly required my certification to be a Yoga Alliance paper, here in Europe, nobody ever cared (so far). What mattered/ matters is the quality of my lessons.
For quality control, it is definitely a good idea to search for reviews and not only for official stamps of big yoga associations. Read the experiences of former students, but be careful! I know very well that on the last day after the graduation ceremony we all had foggy eyes and said that this was the best experience ever! But during the course, before this euphoric moment, we were complaining sometimes – not enough practice, boring workshops, the teacher was all over the place, this or that learning object failed, the material was superficial, we got useless information instead of spending time with collecting more relevant knowledge and so on.
If you have a chance ask for a recommendation from your experienced friends and instead of “How was the training?” rather raise the question “What was your favorite part? What did you study in this module? How was the teacher's approach?”
Don`t forget not only the teachers but the students also matter. I mean, of course, you won't know who else is signed up for the course, but I strongly encourage you to check the maximum student capacity of the training. I know there are programs out there running with 30-40 students, I am not sure I can stand behind this - neither as a teacher nor as a student. You want to connect, you want to bind. A smaller group (I would say up to 20) serves this purpose better. During the training you will most probably have emotionally strong moments, the intimacy of the group will be an important supporting power.
And as we are at binding, it is also interesting to consider if we wanna travel with a friend or alone. For my first training (first experience in Asia) I planned to go alone and I ended up going with a friend. Traveling together is safer and makes you feel more confident, if you are alone, you might have a more open approach towards the other trainees (perhaps towards yourself?). It is up to you, I don't think any of them is good or bad, just think about it for a moment :)
Lineage, intensity, location, papers, and here we are, a big question: Money. One thing I can promise, your 200 hr training won't be cheap. And you don't want it to be cheap because you want to get a quality education, value for your money. An intense all-inclusive training, a semi-intense, or a weekend course doesn`t matter, you have to open your pocket – but believe me, you will never regret this investment into yourself. The price varies let's say from 1500 USD up to the stars in the sky. Always check what is included – food? What's the meal plan? Accommodation? What form? Study materials? What kind?
A lot of things to consider, right? :) I told you at the beginning, huge market, hard to navigate. If you are like me, do an excel to make your comparison easier – lengths of the course, price and what is included in that price, location and the way to get there (price and time), how much is the course focused on the things you are the most interested in (how many asana practice hours per day, how many pranayama classes, anatomy curriculum, etc.)
Whatever form you choose in the end, most importantly enjoy! It will be a truly transforming experience. You will get stronger, get to know your mind, body, and breath better. Building a strong connection with the different layers of the self, and let me warn you – Yoga Teacher Trainings are addictive ;)