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How to Use a Yoga Teacher Training to Become a Smarter Yoga Student

I have always liked having smart students in my yoga classes, even the smart-assy smart ones. Their questions over the years have helped me examine, re-examine and occasionally even re-work my premises, prejudices, preconceptions and even some of my most cherished notions of what constitutes ‘yoga’. Those smart students have helped me stay awake and alert and accessible.


When I lead 200-hr. Yoga Teacher Training courses, I include a ‘Personal Practice’ option. These folks study right alongside aspiring teachers, but they do not have to complete the student-teaching requirements (nor do I certify them at the end to teach). I had been running my yoga center for two years before I led the first iteration of the ‘Personal Practice’ course, and that course became the foundation for my 200-hr. YTT. It was really helpful to ‘lab’ my material and develop it in a hands-on classroom setting.

Smart yoga students often ask really good questions. They’re usually practicing asana on their own, or reading yogic texts. They are paying attention to the ‘results’ of their inquiry in the laboratory of their bodies, in their social interactions, and even their world views.

Those of you who are enjoying your yoga classes, who have curiosity and questions about the ‘Why’s’ of what your teacher is saying or doing, why not consider a basic yoga teacher training?

  • Think of the course as ‘Continuing Education’. People enrolled in 200-hr. Yoga Teacher Training courses should understand that 200 hours does not a good yoga teacher make. However, it’s often a very solid start. You’ll get the basics of asana, lifestyle, theory, philosophy, history, meditation, breathing and more. That foundation will help you practice on your own with more confidence. It may even whet your appetite for going on retreat, or taking a weekend workshop. Having a grasp of the basics in turn provides a foundation for deeper learning when those opportunities arise.
  • Feeling too old, too young, too ‘different’ to enroll? Perhaps that makes you an even better candidate. People in YTT courses are often of the same ‘tribe’ already. It can be a bit of shock to step onto the teacher’s mat in the early, ‘post-grad’ classes and have to deal on the spot with the ‘real’ people who show up, ready for guidance.
  • Does the cost prevent you from considering the course? Speak to the teacher about the availability of scholarship, barter, or work study. Ask if there is an option for those who don’t want to teach, but who do want the in-depth studies within the dynamic of group learning.
  • Imagine that participating in a Yoga Teacher Training buys you time to be with yourself in the extraordinary stew-pot of this approach to health, wholeness and life.

My first official Yoga Teacher Training was with David Swenson: 40 intense hours of Ashtanga Yoga in lovely Asheville, North Carolina. I came home with washboard abs and the knowledge that I could probably get just about anybody from Point A to Point B within the Ashtanga Yoga system. When I returned to Massachusetts, all starry-eyed and eager to apply my knowledge, I co-taught a class with a couple other Ashtangis under the supervision of a more elder instructor.

That experience sucked, but I didn’t give up or suffer in an unhealthy situation. I hitched up my yoga tights and asked a local studio owner if I could teach at her venue. She hired me on the spot (even though she didn’t ask me to whip out any of my cool Ashtangi moves). In my own class, I was able to let my teaching style emerge and develop, and to my early students I owe a debt of gratitude. They gave me space to practice being a Teacher. They asked me questions, and engaged willingly in exploration. They forgave me when I was wrong or late or struggling with self-doubt.

And that, my peeps, is yet ANOTHER reason why learning to teach yoga is so awesome. The learning, and then the actual teaching, humbles you, can even break you, and then it gives you space to re-form, re-group, and carry on.


From the Dept. of  Shameless Self-Promotion: My next 200-hr. Basic Hatha Yoga Teacher Training & Personal Practice Course begins in January, 2014. We’ll be meeting in Mansfield, MA. one weekend a months for 6 months. There is more information here on the website. Other trainings are being planned for Mid-Coast Maine, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I’d love to see you alongside me and other smart, curious folks, exploring this world of Yoga.


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