From how to choose your training to how it will change your life, Jessica Humphries dives into all things YTT
It’s been seven years since I completed my first yoga teacher training, and I can’t begin to describe just how much it turned my world upside down. My regular yoga practice invited self-enquiry, and a new way of looking at life began to shimmer through the cracks of my existence. As I delved into this new perspective I uncovered a whole new relationship with my self and the world around me, inspiring me to take the next step to becoming a teacher.
I’m sure you can relate. Maybe you’re at a time in your life where you’re beginning to see things from a new perspective too. Maybe you’re dreaming of an alternative to the nine-to-five grind. Or maybe you’re just trying to find your way, and the practice of yoga has reveled a glimmer of hope that you trust with every fibre of your being. But here you are. Thinking about becoming a yoga teacher. And when you look back on these moments in years to come, they will be the moments that changed your life.
PREPARING FOR YOUR YTT
How many years of yoga practice do you need?
Students are often required to have a consistent practice for at least two years before they can be accepted into a YTT, although it really depends on the organisation and you. Being a student of yoga and a teacher are two very different things. But what is most important is that you have genuinely been touched by the practice, are interested in its roots and philosophies, are curious about the body and have a desire to share from a humble and authentic place.
How advanced does your yoga practice need to be?
Right before I began my first YTT I felt really nervous because I couldn’t do Crow Pose. My practice was simple and accessible, and it has remained that way. As a teacher, I’ve found this to be a huge blessing. Having a body that doesn’t easily morph into pretzels allows you to relate much more easily to your students. If you’ve been injured in the past, you will know experientially how to modify poses for those who are physically vulnerable. Despite social media portrayals, having a perfect backbend or handstand practice is not a prerequisite for teaching yoga.
How to choose your training
Firstly, completing a registered 200-hour course is the minimum requirement to receive insurance – a condition of teaching almost anywhere. Many people choose an intensive yoga teacher training in an exotic location as an opportunity to combine a holiday with their learning. And while this sounds very romantic, there’s going to be very little time to explore your surrounds while you focus on clocking up those 200 hours (that’s why they call it an ‘intensive’). Choosing an intensive course where you take off for a month and come back a yoga instructor is a wonderful option for many peoples’ lifestyles and is an incredible way to delve deeply into the teachings, but the upside of choosing a part-time course is that it enables you to integrate your learning into your life and begin to embrace a more yogic lifestyle as you complete your studies.
The most important consideration when choosing your training is that you resonate with the teachers and their style of yoga. For this reason, it’s ideal if you have practiced with the studio that you’ll be taking your training with, or it has come highly recommended by a trusted contact.
IN THE GROOVE
You will start to look at your life through a different lens
Influenced by the philosophies of yoga, there’s no doubt that embarking on your YTT will invite you to completely reassess almost every aspect of your life. When I began my first training I was working the corporate grind in Sydney and going out for decadent meals and bottles of red on the weekends. Not long after I finished I had moved to the Northern Rivers to pursue a life in yoga and my weekends were spent drinking green smoothies and walking around the Byron lighthouse with friends. Be prepared to take a look in the mirror and have your values and beliefs challenged, which may lead to some big life changes.
You will be confronted
You will be confronted physically, mentally and emotionally. You will need to surrender control of your schedule to the training, which can be physically and mentally draining. Expect around 3 hours of asana practice per day with lots of sitting and taking in information in between. You may begin to feel overwhelmed. This is the sweet spot – where you begin to observe your patterns. You’ll shine a light on the parts of yourself that you may not have witnessed before, and they’ll come to the surface in all their glory. What manifests as a frustration that you don’t get any free time might be a fear of losing control. Your feeling of exhaustion might gently (or not so gently) point out your willingness to give up easily. Or your anxiety around teaching might be an indication of a deeper lack of self worth. Whatever the training, there exists an incredible opportunity to let go. And in the process you may confront some demons.
You will want to teach, and you can
I have known so many people, myself included, who have embarked on a teacher training with no intention of ever teaching. Be prepared for that to change as the process unfolds, and allow yourself this desire. The fear of not being good enough will likely surface, but don’t let that stop you from sharing. Be uniquely, authentically you, and know what there are students out there who will love you exactly as you are and resonate with your way of teaching and being in the world.
The challenges don’t end when you begin teaching in the ‘real world’. You will go out there full of enthusiasm and eventually realise that yoga isn’t a cure-all, taking it a little less seriously. You’ll find balance, and that might sometimes look like a glass of wine or a mindless moment sometimes. You’ll have a hard time fitting in your own practice if you’re teaching full time, you’ll be confronted by the business side of things, and you’ll come across people and situations that challenge your passion for the industry. But if you’re lucky like me, you’ll find solace and comfort in the practice, eventually learning that putting your feet behind your head doesn’t have anything to do with being a good teacher, but that being a decent human being does. B
Understanding the lingo
Yoga Alliance – A non-profit organisation based in the US that offers a stamp of approval for teachers, ensuring that they meet certain international guidelines. Most teachers offering teacher training apply for and receive membership as it enhances their professionalism. However, many senior teachers believe that there should be more quality control within YA as receiving approval does not require much.
RYT/E-RYT – The Yoga Alliance stamp of approval – Registered Yoga Teacher and Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher. The RYT stamp says you’ve completed your studies, and the E-RYT stamp says you’ve completed studies in addition to teaching a number of hours. The RYT and E-RYT certifications start from RYT 200 hours up to E-RYT 500 hours.
Yoga Australia – The peak professional body for yoga in Australia. They provide support to yoga teachers and the industry as a whole (which is currently unregulated). You are not required to be a member to teach. However, joining YA will give you access to an abundance of resources as well as registered teacher recognition and health fund rebates for students.
200 hours – Also known as ‘level 1’, this is the minimum requirement for gaining insurance and teaching yoga.
300/350 hours – Sometimes taught as an alternative to 200 hours to give students more experience and confidence in teaching, access to Yoga Australia membership, or as a pathway to becoming a senior, level 2 (or beyond) teacher.
500 hours – Also known as ‘level 2’, 500 hours will give you status as a senior teacher. 500 hours essentially combines your level 1 (200 hours) with an additional 300 hours for the full certification. You can usually complete your 200+300 hours at different yoga institutions if you choose, allowing you the opportunity to explore different styles and teachers.
Certificate IV– There are very few schools within Australia that offer this certification. It is essentially a 500-hour (level 2) qualification with extra modules required for government accreditation, allowing domestic students access to financial assistance and international students the opportunity to receive a study visa.
1000 hours – These are becoming more popular for students who wish to pursue a career in yoga. Registered courses and teacher trainings can go towards the accumulation of your 1000-hours or some schools offer 1000-hour trainings for serious yogis.
What teachers have to say about their first YTT
What was the biggest shock?
That I actually loved teaching! I only did my first training because it was a chance to deepen my knowledge. I had no intention of teaching, but I loved it all so much I felt really inspired to share, and it was really fun. Also it was a shock to realise how much there was to learn – the first YTT was just the beginning. Yoga is such a huge body of knowledge to study. I try to take a course every year to keep building my skills. – Lila Kirtana, 41, Senior Trainer for YTT 6 week immersion at Krishna Village, Murwillumbah NSW
How did your lifestyle change?
My first YTT was set over the course of the year at home in Melbourne, so it allowed us to put the lessons into our daily lives. By the end of the year I had changed my diet and become vegetarian, had decided I no longer wanted 2.5 kids and a 3 bed house in the burbs and generally had a slow motion revolution in my world views, priorities and way of living. – Stefan Camilleri, 29, Senior Yoga Teacher Trainer in Indonesia and Australia, Melbourne VIC
What was the biggest challenge?
For me it was patience. I was eager to get out there and share everything I possibly could but I was still developing a skill. Good things take time though. Just like your practice, teaching is like a pot of soup – it takes time for flavours to develop and complement each other. – Rebecca Gonthier, 27, yoga teacher, Northern Rivers NSW
What was your greatest learning?
The experience connected me with likeminded people and allowed me to not only discover the true depth of yoga but also myself. My YTT opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. It’s provided me with the tools to access my inner voice. It’s taught me to be more accepting and compassionate towards myself, to always live in the present moment and has instilled in me a sense of faith in the path I am on. – Elizabeth Muquiney, 32, recent YTT graduate, Gold Coast
What advice would you give to someone considering a YTT?
Take your time, remember the practice of yoga was birthed many many years ago so don’t expect yourself to ‘get it’ during a one month training. I highly recommend to space out your training over 12 months at least. This gives you ample time to practice, read, experience and learn in a relaxed way. Do your research, find a teacher you resonate with, ask about ongoing support post certification and don’t get hung up on having thousands of followers on social media – this does not define you as a good or knowledgable yoga teacher. Let the magic of the practice guide you, make a commitment to practice yoga on and off the yoga mat and most of all enjoy the journey! – Delamay Devi, 39, Senior Prana Vinyasa Yoga Teacher and Teacher Trainer
A yoga teacher, writer and editor, Jess is a Byron local and a long-time contributor to Australian Yoga Journal.