Are you considering becoming a yoga teacher, or advancing your yoga teacher qualifications? If so, you are at the beginning of a new life path, for the way of yoga is certainly a departure from most modern Western lifestyles.
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. C.S. Lewis
Many people dream of becoming a yoga teacher, but there is a long process of training before this can be achieved. Furthermore, many of these people will spend years considering becoming a yoga teacher, but unsure if it is the right path for them. Enrolling in a 500-hour teacher training, whether you are a new yogi or an already experienced teacher, is a life changing decision which shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here we discuss how to know a 500-hour teacher training is right for you, and what to expect.
How Do You Become A Yoga Teacher?
In most countries and societies, not just anyone can teach yoga. There are different levels of qualifications that must be achieved before someone can call themselves a yoga teacher. Why is this?
For some, this process of yoga teacher trainings may seem a bureaucratic addition to an ancient spiritual art. It’s true – thousands of years ago in India, where yoga was first practiced, there was no formal system of teacher training. However, in those times there was a strong sense of ‘lineage’ between teacher and student, and those students who went on to become yoga teachers had received hundreds of hours of training at the foot of their guru. In modern day, Western society, this ancient practice has been altered.
Currently, yoga teacher trainings exist for multiple reasons. Yoga teacher training exists foremost for the benefit of the students. By properly training all yoga teachers to the same standard, students are able to be protected and kept safe. Training ensures that the teachers are actually knowledgeable enough to be passing down the practice of yoga. Teacher trainings have a legal purpose, in that many yoga studios require insurance, which can only be granted to qualified teachers. Yoga teacher training also exists, for obvious reasons, as a way to advance the knowledge and spirit of potential teachers.
Different Types Of Teacher Training
There are so many different types of teacher training programs that it can be overwhelming for would-be teachers. Different countries have different standards and various acronyms to represent various training programs. In general, though, there are 200-hour, 300-hour, and 500-hour teacher training programs. Each of these titles represents the number of hours of contact with a primary trainer for each program. During yoga teacher training, the yogi learns not just the physical asanas of yoga, but the philosophical basis, anatomy, the history of yoga, how to energetically connect with a room of students, how to safely create sequences, and so much more. Each training program is discussed in further detail below.
200-Hour Teacher Training
A 200-hour teacher training program is the most common, and the minimum requirement for a yogi to be qualified as a teacher. The 200-hour teacher training program will vary based on where it is completed, and who with, but all programs will give a foundational knowledge in the eight limbs of yoga. The 200-hour teacher training may be performed on its own, or as a stepping stone toward the full 500-hour teacher training program.
300-Hour Teacher Training
The 300-hour teacher training program is slightly more flexible than the 200-hour program. Its set up will differ based on the specific school it is being taken at. There are two primary forms of the 300-hour program:
- As an additional 100-hour add-on to the 200-hour program, so the yogi teaches with a 300-hour qualification.
- As a full 300-hour program, completed after the 200-hour program, to give a total of 500-hours.
In either case, the 200-hour teacher training provides a deeper knowledge and more contact hours with a guru teacher. Additionally, 300-hour teacher trainings often offer more time practice teaching and more discussion of philosophy.
500-Hour Teacher Training
The 500-hour teacher training qualification is the highest qualification that is generally offered. It reflects a total of 500 hours contact hours with the guru. It can be completed all in one, or as the sum total of separate 200-hour and 300-hour programs. The extra hours in the 500-hour teacher training program usually focus on yogic philosophy study and meditation.
Specialty Teacher Trainings
In addition to the foundational teacher training programs mentioned above, there are also many specialty teacher training programs. These are often much shorter, and could be anything from a few hours to upwards of 100. These training programs focus on a very specific area of practice, and offer depth as opposed to breadth. Examples of specialty programs include Prenatal Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Yoga for PTSD, and more.
Teacher Training Pathways
It may be clear from the discussion of the many teacher training options, but there are also many different pathways to becoming a yoga teacher. Some yogis may choose to do their full 500-hour training at once. Other yogis may complete the 200-hour teacher training, then teach for a few years, and return to complete their final 300-hours at a later date. Finally, some yogis may complete their 200-hour training and never go on to complete 500-hours. In fact, this is very acceptable and common to halt training at 200 hours. There is not one right answer, and each person should choose the pathway that is right for them and the time they are at in their life. There are benefits to each pathway that should be considered in the context of the yogi’s personal life and goals, before making a decision.
How Long Should Teacher Training Take?
On the surface, it may seem obvious how long a 500-hour teacher training takes: 500 hours! In reality, however, there are many different forms and lengths of the 500-hour teacher training course. There are three general structures for yoga teacher training, which will influence the amount of time for training.
- Intensive: This course takes the least amount of time. For example, it may only last two or three weeks, but involve many hours of training every day. Teacher trainings in this style are often undertaken as ‘retreats’ or as ‘destination’ trainings, where the yogi moves to a new city or country specifically for the training. Although it is more immersive, this style also offers less time for the yogi to absorb what they are learning.
- Part-time: This course style usually involves 16+ hours of training over the weekend, for a certain number of weeks. This will take longer than the intensive course, and is more often completed at a yoga studio in the yogi’s hometown. In some ways, it is like a part-time job. One of the benefits of this style of teacher training is more time for physical and emotional recovery during the weekdays, and time to absorb what they have learnt.
- Long-term: This final style takes the longest. It often involves weekend intensives, spread out over a year or more. This training style definitely offers the most time for absorbing what is learnt, and the least intrusion into the yogi’s daily life. However, it may be years before qualification is reached.
Ultimately, teacher training length can vary by extremes, and is not necessarily dependent on whether a course is “200-hours” or “500-hours.” Instead, the yogi should research into the style of the training program, and what best fits their needs, personality, and life.
How To Choose A Teacher Training School
The teacher training school, or studio, is an extremely important factor in deciding to enroll in a 500-hour yoga teacher training. This is something that the yogi should consider thoroughly before deciding to continue on this path. Yoga teacher trainings are offered at local yoga studios and destination retreats. They are also sometimes offered by traveling yoga teachers, who may be hosted by a certain studio for a period of time. Now there are even online yoga teacher training programs, referred to as ‘E-RYT.’ The yogi should consider each of these options and what is right for them. They should ensure that the school or retreat center have the appropriate qualifications.
The yogi should also consider what kind of yoga style they want to train in. Most yoga teacher training programs will offer a foundational knowledge in all different styles of yoga. Even so, they will often be influenced by the lead teacher and the overall style of the school. For example, a yogi who has practiced vinyasa for many years may not be best suited to undergo teacher training at a kundalini-focused school.
One of the benefits of enrolling in yoga teacher training at a local studio is that the yogi can go to classes and meet the guru, and test out if the school, and more importantly the teacher, is “right” for them.
When To Know You Are Ready
Perhaps the biggest question that yogis face before enrolling in a 500-hour teacher training program is not about the practicalities, but rather… are they ready? Even if the yogi already has a base 200-hour teacher training under their belt, the step to a 500-hour program is a deep spiritual, physical, and even financial commitment. Additionally, it is oftentimes a major life turning point for many yogis. It is not something that should necessarily be rushed into.
However, the answer to ‘Am I ready to enroll in a 500-hour teacher training?’ is not something that can be found in articles, books, or websites. Instead, the answer can only be found within the yogi themselves. More often than not, the yogi is ready as soon as they make the decision to be ready. Being ready for yoga teacher training does not demand any base level of strength, flexibility, or even knowledge of yoga. All it demands is an open spirit ready to learn the path of yoga, and a dedication to pursue this ancient practice.
Some yogis may not even choose to begin yoga teacher training to become a teacher. Instead, many people complete yoga teacher training purely for the spiritual and self-knowledge that is gained during such a mind opening experience. In either case, the best teachers are those who know that no matter what qualification they may have, however many teacher trainings they may have gone through, a true yogi is one who remains a student forever.