July 14, 2020

Finding the Right YOGA TEACHER TRAINING For You

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Every passionate yogi inevitably asks themselves, “Should I do a yoga teacher training?”

Regardless of whether you want to teach yoga or not, I always recommend, “When the time is right, do it! It’s life changing and you won’t regret it.”

With that said, a training requires an investment of time, energy and money. In this podcast, I will share 5 key tips to help you to find the right program for you.

Hope you enjoy this inspiring episode!

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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The BE ULTIMATE Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited.]

Welcome to “Finding the Right Yoga Teacher Training For You.”

On this week’s podcast, we’re going to be talking about yoga teacher training, something that I’m very, very passionate about. I want to share with you five key tips if you’re someone that’s thinking about doing a yoga teacher training.

Now, look, every passionate yogi eventually comes to this place within their path where they start considering this, where they really start seriously considering whether they want to do a teacher training or not. It’s very common that as you start to explore the possibility of this that you start to doubt whether you’re advanced enough in your yoga practice. You start to doubt whether you’re even good enough to do a yoga teacher training.

We often have this image inside of our head that if we do this teacher training, we’re going to be in a room surrounded by all these perfect advanced beautiful yogis that we don’t belong with. I know this because I hear this all the time within the teacher trainings that I’ve led for over 15 years. It’s very common. People are nervous when they start their first teacher training. Some people even pull out the day that the teacher training starts because they feel so much nerves.

For many people, they don’t even want to necessarily teach yoga. They just want to deepen their practice.

Finding the right yoga teacher training for you can be one of the most magical experiences of your life. It’s almost not the right vernacular to call it a yoga teacher training. It’s almost like we should call it a life training, so much more than just learning the alignment of poses. It’s so much more than just the postures and the asanas. It’s almost as if you feel like you’re learning the secrets of the universe. We explore those questions in teacher training. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What’s going to bring more meaning into my life?

I’ve had the honor of facilitating yoga teacher trainings since 2005. I’ve led them internationally and have had people from just about every continent that have come through my teacher trainings. I’ve also led teacher trainings in many, many different formats. Our Holistic Yoga Flow teacher trainings are highly respected and highly rated on Yoga Alliance.

I’ve been in the shoes of you as a student also many, many times. I’m still a student. I remember what it was like before I did a teacher training. I remember what it’s like to walk in there on day one and feeling nervous.

But what I want to do in this podcast is I want to share five key tips for you to consider when looking for yoga teacher training. Hopefully, these five tips will help guide you in the direction where you end up where you belong. And then ultimately, when you come to the end of your teacher training, you will be so happy that you made the choices that you did.

Tip #1 – “Study with a teacher whose style you love.”

You want to make sure you’re spending your time, energy, your hard-earned money to go study with somebody you resonate with. When you do their classes, you feel like it’s fulfilling. It’s meaningful. That it gives you everything that you want physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The reason why I say this is because I know a lot of people have made the mistake where they’ve signed up for a teacher training based off of a venue or a destination. So, for them, they may say, “Oh, I want to go to training in Bali or India or Costa Rica or Thailand or whatever it is.” And then they get there, and they’re a underwhelmed with the actual leaders of the teacher training and then with the teacher training itself.

So their priorities were wrong. They were choosing a destination or venue over the instructor or the style that the instructor teaches. We’re going to talk about this a little bit later. But you may go to Thailand or India and go somewhere that’s amazing. It’s tropical. It’s warm. It’s by an ocean. But then you get there, and you’re learning a style of yoga that’s not the kind of yoga you want to teach or practice.

I also see people making the mistake where they choose a teacher training based off a yoga studio that’s well-known. It’s recognized nationally or maybe internationally. And again, they go there because it’s more famous. They’ve heard more about this place. But then they do the training, and they don’t resonate with the teachers leading the training. They don’t resonate with the style. They’ve chosen the venue and the studio more than the importance of the actual teacher.

You also want to make sure when you’re deciding who you’re going to study with, you’re studying with a teacher that has a lot of experience under their belt. There’s teachers out there that are published. They have books or featured in well known magazines. They’re doing conferences and workshops around the country or the world. They have online videos. The more experience that a teacher has, the more that they’re going to be able to offer you as a student.

Sometimes another mistake that people often make is they choose a teacher based off of how many followers they have on social media. And look, to be very, very honest with you, I know yoga teachers out there that may have 100,000 followers on Instagram, but they can’t fill a yoga teacher training, let alone a yoga retreat. They have to cancel these events. Just because somebody has a lot of followers on social media doesn’t always mean they are a credible and experienced yoga trainer.

You really want to take a holistic approach and look at is this teacher teaching at different studios? Are they teaching at well-known reputable yoga retreat centers like Kripalu? Are they getting invited places? Because if they are, it means that they’ve already been vetted. It takes a lot of the legwork out for you.

You’re also looking for somebody whose students go on to teach, especially if you want to teach. If somebody leads a training but their students aren’t getting out there and getting jobs, then they may be teaching a training only great in theory. If teachers aren’t coming out of that training and going on to teach, then something is not right. It’s called a ‘teacher training.’ So we are meant to train people to teach. We are meant to empower you to go out there and teach. And if you don’t get that at the end of a teacher training, the mission has not been accomplished.

In our teacher trainings, this is one of our highest promises and priorities to our students. We say, “If you follow this method, we promise you by the end of the teacher training, without a shadow of doubt, you will be able to teach.”

It’s all about empowering the students so that the student is no longer dependent on the teacher. They may need to be dependent on them throughout the course of the training, but at the end of it, you do not want them to be dependent on you. If they are, you haven’t done your job well.

“A good teacher can never be fixed in a routine. Each moment requires a sensitive mind that is constantly changing and constantly adapting. A teacher must never impose the student to fit his favorite pattern. A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence. A teacher is never a giver of truth. He is a guide, a pointer to the truth that each student must find for himself. I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

-Bruce Lee

So much wisdom in that quote from Bruce Lee. And it takes humility to be a teacher. That it’s not about putting your agenda onto your own students. You’re creating an environment that’s safe, that has integrity. And that the student gets the space they need to fail, to make mistakes, to struggle, to be challenged, to move through adversity. But at the end of that process, through all that challenge and all that adversity, they’ve been molded into this person that’s been totally transformed physically, mentally, emotionally, and soulfully.

A good teacher is a guide who’s going to take you to the Mt. Everest of a teacher training. You want to choose a guide that understands the pitfalls, that’s proven themselves time after time that they can get people safely all the way to the top of the mountain.

Tip #2 – Pick the right yoga genre of what you want to study.

There’s so many different styles of yoga out there. There is power yoga. There’s vinyasa yoga. There’s Hatha yoga. There’s Kundalini yoga. There’s yoga therapy. There’s Iyengar. There’s yin. There’s restorative. There’s so many different genres of yoga. Some trainings even do a little bit of all, but I recommend when you do your first teacher training that you choose the genre that you resonate with the most. Whether that’s vinyasa, whether that’s power, whether that’s hatha, you want to make sure that again, just like you’re choosing a teacher that you like their style, you also enjoy the style.

Some people will go, again, somewhere tropical, somewhere amazing, but then they don’t really resonate with that style. And I don’t want you to make that same mistake. Some trainings teach a more modern approach to yoga. Some teach a more traditional approach to yoga, and some do a really good job of finding the synergy between both. Make sure that you research. Make sure that you figure out what style it is and that it resonates with you.

I’ve studied with more modern teachers like Bryan Kest who is the originator of power yoga. I’ve studied with Annie Carpenter who is very well known for combining vinyasa with Iyengar principles and is very alignment-focused. And then I’ve studied with more traditional teachers like Srivasta Ramaswami who is connected to the Krishnamacharya lineage. And so the Ramaswami training is very different than the Annie Carpenter training. They’re both fabulous, and they’re both great. I started with more of a modern approach, and then I also went and did the ancient approach.

Through Holistic Yoga Flow, I really try and find the respect for having one foot in the world of Lineage and tradition and where this stuff has come from but also to have one foot in the modern world – where are we going? Where are we moving to within the yoga industry? – and to be open and flexible to new potentials and new possibilities.

Tip #3 “Choose whether you want to do a training ‘in person’ or ‘online.’”

Now, obviously, if you can swing it in person, it is going to be a more superior experience because, on one level, you’re going to have more community. You’re going to be in a room with other people, and the community aspect is a huge part of it. Athough you can get some of the community online, it’s never the same as being there live in person. But the reality is for some of us, maybe we have two kids at home, and we can’t go off and do a teacher training. Or the person whose style we love doesn’t live in our city. They live in another state or country. Our only opportunity to study with those teachers that we love is through an online platform.

Also, if you’re doing it online, usually the way that it works is that it’s a lot less expensive. You’re not having to pay for travel. You’re not having to pay for room and board if you’re going somewhere internationally. You can do it on your own at home. So you want to factor that in, and you want to look at the big broad perspective of all those different pieces of the puzzle.

Again, I would recommend, if it is your first training and if you can swing it, to go in person. And then down the road, you can do some online trainings because the in-person experience is so amazing. It’s so life-changing.

Tip #4 – “Find the right format.”

There’s many different ways that a teacher training can be done, and I’ve led just about every format you can imagine. I’ve done it where you do it every weekend, Friday night, all day Saturday, all day Sunday for three months straight. I’ve done the format where you do it once a month for almost a year, and I’ve also done the format like we do internationally where you go three weeks straight, every day, 10 hours a day. So, at 20 days, you get the 200 hours certification.

When we did the three week format the first time, I questioned whether it was possible to get people to be able to learn the huge breadth of knowledge and the yoga philosophy and the sequencing and the alignment. And then be able to get up and teach, I didn’t know if it was possible. But I’ll never forget. At the end of our very first international training in Costa Rica, people did it. They did it. Not only did they do it, on some level, they crushed it because they didn’t have the distraction of being at home. They didn’t have the distraction of having to pay their bills.

So you want to find the format that’s going to work the best for you. For some people, it may make sense to go knock it all out in three straight weeks, and then you get your certification. Boom, you’re done.

For some people, that may be too much, too fast, and you may want to space it out where you’re just doing it on the weekends, or you’re going once a month.

If you’re doing it online, some online trainings, you have to follow a specific structure. And other online trainings, you can do it at your own pace. So all things to consider as you look for the format that works for you and where you are in your life right here right now.

Tip #5 – “Decide whether a Yoga Alliance certification is a priority.”

The fifth tip to consider is whether the training is Yoga Alliance or not. There is some debate around Yoga Alliance. If you’re unfamiliar, Yoga Alliance is recognized as the governing body that distinguishes programs that have met a certain set of criteria of integrity. Yoga Alliance makes sure that these trainings that are Yoga-Alliance approved have a certain amount of hours dedicated to anatomy, to teaching, sequencing, understanding the alignment of the poses, the yoga philosophy, etc., etc.

Now, when you have a certification that has that stamp of approval, very often this can open up your possibilities to get employment as a yoga instructor. For example, if you go teach in a hospital or a school or a prison, a lot of these places are going to be asking you, “What’s your certification?” If it’s not Yoga Alliance recognized because they are the most famous certification in the yoga industry, then you may not get that job.

My teacher Bryan Kest who’s been teaching for 40 years now. He’s been teaching longer than Yoga Alliance has been around. So he had been teaching many, many years. And then Yoga Alliance comes along, and they start saying, “You have to do your teacher training this way.” And he’s like, “Screw you. I’m going to do it the way that I know how to do it best. So his trainings aren’t Yoga Alliance certified, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not an amazing teacher training. Some people or some studios are going to see his name. You’ve studied with him, and they’re going to be like, “Oh, we know Bryan Kest. He’s the founder of power yoga. We’re happy to bring you into our studio and to give you a job,” and you don’t have to worry about whether it’s Yoga Alliance certified or not.

The other thing is this yoga knowledge has been passed down generation to generation for hundreds of years from Guru to teacher, from Guru to disciple without some middleman interfering in the process.

Our trainings are Yoga Alliance certified because we want our students to have the most opportunity when seeking and finding employment. But at the same time, it may not be that important to you, and that’s okay.

You may, again, be somebody that doesn’t even want to teach. You just want to deepen your practice, so it doesn’t matter.

Now, I will tell you this. In our opening circle, we often ask our students, “How many of you are planning to teach?” About half the people will raise their hand and say, “I want to teach.” By the end of the training, once people have learned how to teach, 90% of the people actually go on to teach because they’ve been given a gift. And they feel a passion and a responsibility to go and share this even if it’s just teaching their friends or their loved ones or their family members.

So you may be saying to yourself, “I could care less about teaching. I have a job that I’m happy with. But be open to the possibility that by the end of the training, especially if you’ve been given the gift to teach, you too may want to teach as well.

One last thing is within Yoga Alliance, you have the 200 hours certification, and then you have the 300 hours certification. The 200-hour is just the beginning, and then you can get your 300 which adds to the 200 which gives you 500 hours. And that’s the advanced certification.

If you’re somebody that knows, “You know what? I’m going to do a 200-hour. But I also know that I don’t ever want to stop studying. I don’t ever want to stop being a student. I know that I’m going to want to keep exploring. I know I’m going to want to keep doing more,” it’s something to consider. When you’re choosing your 200-hour teacher training, does that school also offer more training with the 300-hour so then you can be on this trajectory for a long time? At the end of it, you can get 500 hours and be an advanced certified yoga instructor. Some teachers now are even doing 1,000-hour trainings because yoga has so much to offer. You could study it for lifetimes and lifetimes and lifetimes.

So let’s recap the five tips.

Number one, study with the teacher that you love.

Number two, find the genre or the style that resonates with you the most.

Number three, choose whether you’re going to go in person or whether you’re going to do it online.

Number four, find the format that works for you, that works for your schedule the best, where you are right now in your life.

And number five, is it Yoga Alliance or not? And does that matter to you?

Now, I want to shout out my teachers, give some payback to my teachers because if it wasn’t for my teachers, I would not be here.

Shout out to Bryan Kest, Govindas, Annie Carpenter, Jai Uttal, Srivasta Ramaswami, Tiffany Cruikshank, Jack Kornfield, and Tara Brach.

I would love for you to come study with me in some way, whether that’s in person, online. I would be honored.

To get to lead these teacher trainings is one of the things that I’m most passionate about my life. My wife Lauren and I have been leading these trainings. So if it ever feels like the right fit, we’d love to have you on one of our teacher trainings down the road when it feels like the right time.

Many blessings wherever your path takes you. I hope that these five tips help you to find the training that works for you.

Let’s finish now with the BE Ultimate prayer.

“May we bring strength where there is weakness.

May we bring courage where there is fear,

May we bring compassion where there is suffering,

and may we bring light where there’s darkness.

May we be ultimate!”