How to prepare for a Yoga Teacher Training Course
by Sanjeev Bhanot
“Am I really ready for this?”. This might be a question that is visiting your thoughts often and it is completely natural to wonder if this is the right path for you at this very moment.
Every year we welcome hundreds of new students who embark on this life-changing Yoga Teacher Training. Extracted from their stories and feedback, there are a few things that are worth considering before you start your first course. These tips can offer some guidance so you can start the course with peace of mind.
We would love to help you get fully prepared. To get the maximum out of your Teacher Training Course, the following 12 things are worth giving a thought.
1. Expect the unexpected
“I expected the course to be all about intensive asana exercise and a little bit of theory, but I was wrong. Yoga has so much more to offer than just asana exercises (history, philosophy, anatomy,…).”
Being fully prepared and knowing exactly what to expect from a Yoga Teacher Training Course is a myth. Despite the title of this article, no one can explain in words what will happen and no other person can tell you how you will feel, as no journey is ever identical. For everyone this is an individual and unique experience, a journey to your inner self taking personal and intimate ventures into an age-old philosophy.
When you choose to embark on this journey, decide for yourself to start with an open mind. Leave all of your prejudice at the entrance door. Forget everything you know and allow yourself to view life in a different way. Allow yourself to absorb the experience and to fully observe the present. Enjoy the journey. Surf the wave.
2. Take care of yourself
Taking good and honest care of yourself is crucial for the success of your education. Physical, spiritual and emotional health are all strongly interconnected. By having consideration for all these aspects of yourself, you greatly increase the chance that you will stay healthy. Don’t underestimate the intensity of this training and if possible already plan plenty of time to rest and recuperate before, during and after the weekends. Especially during the weekends of training, ensure a good night rest. Let your family and friends know that during your training weekends, you won’t be able to take care of them or visit their parties. Create space for yourself. Letting your environment know beforehand will prevent misunderstandings and emotional stress.
Physical injuries can occur during any training if you are convinced that you must be able to maintain a certain asana posture in order to become a teacher. These are false belief systems that may hurt you. Listen closely to your body. Remember that you are just at the beginning, that there’s nothing to prove and that the best teachers are the ones who first learn for themselves and only then pass on the wisdom and experience to others. If you ever do get injured during your training, see it as an opportunity to learn about how to deal with it. You will learn by experience and will be able to help your students with similar injuries in the future. Remember that you are the only one responsible for your own health. Be kind to yourself.
“It is health that is the real wealth” Mahatma Gandhi.
3. You are not the first
See if you can find someone who has recently completed your Teacher Training program and contact them. It is very likely that there is a Yoga teacher in your area who has already received the training. Go to her / his classes and see if the style suits you. Every program is different and leading teachers and trainers may vary, so when you talk to a recent graduate, you get specific information to help you determine if a program is right for you.
And if you can’t find anyone in your area, spend some time reading online reviews (at Yoga Alliance) and reviewing the personal experiences of the students who have previously attended this teacher training course. There is a lot to be said for personal recommendations and it is really inspiring to see where students started compared to where they are today. You will also find useful tips to support you during your training.
4. If you do it, do it for yourself!
Ask yourself this question: “In life, why do you do what you do?” Is it your friends, colleagues or family members who have a specific view of you and are you trying to live up to that image in all your personal decisions?
The most important reason to start a Yoga training is that you are eager to study and learn about yourself. Whether you want to teach afterwards or not is actually of secondary importance. You as a unique individual really get the most out of your training by following the lessons with a passion and allowing yourself to absorb them fully. It is only after we have completely undergone something that we can share it from an authentic and pure place.
5. Your fitness level
“Weeks before my Yoga training started, I had so little time that my asana practice was inconsistent. I was embarrassed and felt that it was wrong to become a Yoga teacher, I considered backing out of the training. ”
There is no substitute for experience. It is strongly advised that you start a steady asana practice today if you haven’t so far. It will tremendously help you to better understand how your own body, the vessel of your life, works. The most ideal situation is that you are consistent in your asana practice the months prior to starting your training. Strive for at least 2 or 3 classes a week and visit different teachers and classes to not only diversify your personal practice but to also develop your own educational instincts. Notice what you love most about your favorite classes, listen to the cues and signals your favorite teachers use, observe their use of themes. It will help you to develop your own personal teaching style in the long run.
However, if you have not been able to maintain a consistent asana practice in the run-up to your course, do not be intimidated. Maintain a positive attitude and give trust to your body. An important aspect of authentic Yoga is that it is not a competition. Anyone can do yoga, regardless of the state or shape of your body. Yoga is about delving into the possibilities of your own body and your own life.
6. Embrace the not knowing
Sometimes when you have been practicing Yoga for a while, you can feel like you already know everything there is to know. This course however, is not just about the physical aspect of Yoga. It’s about finding your true direction in life, discovering your true nature, honest communication with yourself and your environment. It’s about concentration, presence, community and connection. It’s about so much more than how far you can stretch your leg. Yoga is not only a work out, it’s a work in.
A situation might occur where you know exactly how to do a certain pose, but your body does not allow it because of an injury or an anatomical restriction. This is where honesty and concern for your wellbeing should lead you to skip the pose instead of trying to prove to other students that you are an advanced asana practitioner. There is nothing to prove. The measures by which you try to value yourself and your worth do not exist.
During the course, there will come a time when you get lost in knowledge. Don’t be impatient with yourself. Accept that education is a lifelong process where you stay curious about all types of knowledge that you will receive, both during the Yoga teacher training and after the program. Both on and off your mat. See this as a journey of discovery; a safe place to be curious, make mistakes, get confused and ask for help. Knowing that you don’t know is a huge strength and it works wonders for the ego! If you feel confusion, ask your teachers, mentors or colleagues for advice. This way you will learn much more than when you pretend to know everything from the start. A good Yoga training shouldn’t be about receiving that piece of paper at the end of the road, it should actually be the opening towards a lifelong journey of Yoga, an authentic experience and true learning.
7. Don’t Avoid Your Emotions
Whether they are your tears or someone else’s, crying is part of the yoga teacher training. Be prepared to be emotional and vulnerable. Discomfort, fatigue, unexpected emotions, and even the feeling of being overwhelmed are perfectly normal if you choose to study something in-depth. But do not forget that you are not alone, because what you go through can be similar to what your classmate experiences. In every training course, teachers and assistants who have previously gone through the same process, will prove to be a very accessible support system.
In this busy world we all have the habit of avoiding our emotions, especially negative ones. We don’t have time or don’t feel brave enough to deal with our raw emotions and so we tend to hide them in little corners of our mind. During the Yoga Teacher Training you have enough time to meditate and you can get into situations where your suppressed emotions come up. Allow for whatever needs to come up to reach the surface. Remember that this training is a safe space.
8. Do Some Research
Most students starting a Yoga training are familiar with asana, the physical aspect of Yoga. However, many other components of this ancient practice are also covered in your training – such as pranayama (breathing) and the yamas and niyamas (ethical guidelines in Yoga philosophy). Broaden your view of Yoga by taking the time to study some philosophy in advance. We use the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as a written basis. But some modern works are also very interesting to read before you start the training. This is not a must, but it will help you better understand certain lectures as some concepts need to be revisited a couple of times before one starts to generate a deeper understanding. Below is a list which will help you pick some wonderfull knowledge:
9. Growth is better in groups
Feeling like a part of a community is important, because Yoga is not just about sports. Yes, doing Sun Salutations in a large group of like-minded people feels great and increases your energy much more than perhaps practicing alone. And yes, we do work hard physically on our mats and there is much positive to be said about that, but Yoga is so much more. Yoga is a path to happiness, and like any good walk, it is better with the company of some inspiring people who help you move forward.
Your Yoga practice includes deep thinking, expansive breathing, conscious eating, learning therapeutic concepts, making patient and conscious decisions about your body and your life, and treating others with respect and kindness.
Growing and evolving like this requires the support of other like-minded people who pursue a similar goal. Right in the middle of a life changing experience, the person next to you who understands what you are going through, is of immense worth. Expect to make lasting connections. The safe and inspiring net of community will motivate your body and mind and open your eyes to your own true and vast potential, as simultaneously you will recognize the potential of the person sitting next to you.
10. Manage your time during your training
In addition to following your teacher training, it’s likely you have to continue to do all kinds of other tasks in your daily life such as maintain your household, your job, your family bonds and maybe your children. In short, you will be very busy. Consider investing in a daily planner and map out session dates and requirements, along with any personal and family obligations. If you have a clear plan for how you are going to invest your time, you should stay on course.
It is also important to seek support when starting this new adventure. Let your family and friends know that you are participating in a rigorous, life-changing experience. Explain the expectations of your program and let those in your support system understand how they can best help you as you go through it.
It is always important to seek support when starting a new adventure.
11. Face to face with your uncertainties
The little monsters of our mind telling us we’re not good enough. Everybody deals with feeling uncertain about something sooner or later. It can be your physical appearance, your background, your skills, your ability to learn and we can go on for quite a while here. Negative thoughts can feed on your energy level and push you to not even start something that has even the slightest possibility to fail. They may keep you away from experiencing real happiness in life, from doing the things that make your heart sing. That is a waste of life.
The truth is that nobody is perfect. And in exactly that way everybody is already perfect. There is only one person to be and that is uniquely you. There will always be somebody better at this or that but nobody will have exactly your experience. Trust yourself and your potential, it just needs a safe and loving ground to flourish. If you want to go somewhere, only you yourself have the power to keep you away from reaching. Focus and hard work will bring you exactly where you want to go.
Be prepared to experience something you have never experienced before, be pushed out of your comfort zone and be part of a true community that really supports and encourages you to achieve your goals.
Whether it’s a change in your private life or a change in your career, preparing for something new is always a challenge. People are creatures of habit and waking up one morning to discover that your life has done a complete 180° is overwhelming to say the least! Remember that changes in life offer new opportunities.
Once you have surrendered to your own practice and Yoga journey, you can fully support others to discover Yoga and improve the quality of their life too. In a world stressed with depression and tension, it is our mission to spread the healing practice of authentic Yoga.