Answers to the top 5 questions about how to choose a yoga teacher training program.

During my first year as a yoga studio owner, I received an e-mail from a woman who was considering taking a 2-week yoga teacher training program in Mexico. She asked me if, as a studio owner, I would hire somebody who had completed that training. I wrote back to commend her on having the common sense to do this basic research before jumping in, and told her the truth:  I would be unlikely to hire somebody who had done such a short training. For me, it is important that the teachers I hire have completed a program that is longer than a few weeks, and I look for teachers who have studied with people who I know and respect. At the time I had not yet launched my own teacher training program, Yoga Conservatory, so I recommended a local program that I admired. She ended up studying there, and a year later she reached back out to me. After she demonstrated  an impressive integration of her knowledge and training, I offered her a job at my studio!

With so many yoga teacher trainings on the market these days, and the level of investment of time, money and energy involved, it is worthwhile to put careful consideration into which program you attend. I have compiled these FAQ’s based on the many conversations I have had with potential teacher trainees over the years.

FAQ #1: What does it mean to be a “certified yoga teacher” vs. a “registered yoga teacher”?

It is important for potential yoga teacher trainees to understand that the yoga industry is unregulated in most states. What this means is that anybody could start calling themselves a yoga teacher at any time, and there are no legal restrictions around that. Even while there are no legal regulations, there are plenty of ethical and professional implications.

“Certified”: Any program can say that they are “certifying” you, whether or not the program meets common industry standards. For example, I could create a “coffee drinker certification”, have my graphic designer whip up a beautiful certificate, and award my husband with this honor any morning of the week. Yes, he could easily become a “certified coffee drinker”, and would only have to meet the standards of my made up program. This is not to say that all certifications are meaningless–there are many great training programs out there that offer certifications, but do not confuse that with a professional license, and remember that these certifications do not have to meet any industry or peer reviewed standards, so it is more important than ever to research the integrity of the teachers and programs that offer “certification”.

“Registered”: The most common industry standard for the minimum training somebody should receive to become a yoga teacher is set by the Yoga Alliance. There is some disagreement amongst yoga professionals as to whether or not it is important to become a registered teacher with the yoga alliance, and whether or not their standards are sufficient or well enforced. That being said, most potential yoga teaching opportunities will prefer or require that candidates are at least a 200-hr RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) with the Yoga Alliance. Once you have been teaching yoga for a while, you may qualify to become an ERYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), and if you complete a 300-hr program at a qualifying Registered Yoga School you can become a 500-hr RYT or ERYT. To learn more about the Yoga Alliance and their standards, visit their website

FAQ #2: I have seen ads for online yoga teacher training programs that are a fraction of the cost of most live programs. Can an online program really make me a yoga teacher?

One important consideration is the distinction made in FAQ #1. Yoga Alliance standards require a minimum of 180 live contact hours, which means that all online yoga teacher training programs would not qualify for Yoga Alliance registration. They may still “certify” you, but whether that certification is sufficient depends entirely on your goals. In my opinion, the best yoga teacher training programs are ones that:

-offer you live, embodied instruction with qualified teachers

-build a strong sense of community with your fellow students

-give you plenty of hands on experience teaching to people in the room

None of these things can happen in an online training, but you could potentially learn some of the more cerebral aspects of yoga teacher training in an online program.

If you want to work in the yoga industry, online programs are unlikely to get you very far with most of the people who hire yoga teachers. More importantly, they are unlikely to equip you to master the craft of teaching yoga. Overall, I cannot recommend pursuing an online YTT unless you are supplementing it with a live training.

FAQ #3: What about these programs that can be done in 2 weeks in an exotic location? I like the idea of becoming a yoga teacher quickly.

Similar to FAQ #2, some of these fast and furious training programs may be skimping on the actual requirements to become a registered yoga teacher. Remember, you need 180 live contact hours, minimum. If the program is able to cram that many hours into a short period of time, it may qualify you. However,  it is my opinion as a yoga professional and somebody who frequently hires yoga teachers that these programs are not sufficient to prepare you for teaching yoga. They may be a good jumping off point, but most of the yoga teachers I know who are working professionally who have done one of these trainings have gone on to do secondary or supplementary trainings in order to build their career and viability. Here are some questions I would ask before signing up for an international training that is done in short periods of time:

-Is this training and/or teacher internationally recognized? Will the people who hire yoga teachers in the town where I live know and trust this brand?

-Will this training give me the time I need to practice and integrate what I am learning?

-Does this training qualify me to become a 200-hr Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance?

-Will this training allow me to build meaningful relationships with my teachers and fellow students?

FAQ #4: I have always wanted to do a yoga teacher training, but I don’t know if I want to become a yoga teacher. Is that a thing?

Yes! In fact, 80% of the people who attend yoga teacher training programs are doing it for personal development, or to supplement their skills in another profession. If you are looking for a program that emphasizes personal development, I suggest meeting with the program director to determine whether their YTT is a good fit. 

Side note: This is one of the areas that Yoga Conservatory specializes in. Our diverse group of graduates includes educators, therapists, social workers, life coaches, corporate professionals and more. The thing they all have in common is the desire to grow personally and to integrate the tools of yoga and mindfulness in the way they serve others. You can find out more about our program here.  

FAQ #5: Do I need to be able to perform specific poses (asanas) in order to do a yoga teacher training program?

This depends on the program you are looking at. Some programs are more focused on the physical aspects of yoga, and do require that students can accomplish specific poses to either enter or graduate from the program. Yoga Conservatory does not have this requirement. We welcome teacher trainees from a variety of ages and physical abilities. Our program puts more emphasis on the whole experience of yoga (philosophy, mindfulness, ethics, therapeutic and functional movement, the ability to modify and adapt yoga poses to the individual) than it does on the accomplishment of specific poses.  

If you have additional questions about how to choose a yoga teacher training program, request a 30-minute free consult with me here and we can chat.

If you are interested in finding out if Yoga Conservatory, the innovative 200-hr yoga teacher training at Yoga Refuge, is a good fit for you, please consider joining us at our next info session on June 8th

Ready to sign up? Apply now for the fall cohort of Yoga Conservatory! There are just 10 spots left, and our early bird deadline is July 1st, 2019.

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