How many hours yoga teacher training have you done? 200hrs? 350hrs? 500hrs+? There is a seemingly endless array of post-graduate yoga teacher training options. How about a 40hr yin training? Perhaps a weekend course on how to teach kids yoga. What about prenatal, somatics, fascia, acro yoga, adjusting, alignment or a course to help you market your classes? With such a dazzling variety of trainings, there’s one question I’d like to ask. How much yoga teacher training is enough?
I’ll follow that question up with another one. How much of the training you’ve already undergone do you use in your everyday teaching? Actually, how much of it do you even remember?
When yoga teachers show up at my workshops, I often cover some basic yoga philosophy before launching into practice. We might look at the Panca Kosha (the 5 Sheaths). Or the Doshas. Sometimes we work with the Gunas or the Kleshas. Now these basic principles are included in every teacher training (if your training didn’t cover this stuff, you might want to ask what you paid for…). But only a small proportion of teachers can confidently explain what these concepts mean, let alone how to apply them in their teaching.
The knowledge gap is especially noticeable in teachers who completed a 200hr course over a short period of time, such as during 2-6 week intensive program. It simply isn’t possible to absorb, retain and integrate the philosophy and practice of yoga that quickly.
And this is my point. Yoga is an ongoing process of learning and practicing that takes time to understand. I’ve been reading The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar every year for twenty years. Each time I pick it up, I find something I’m certain I’ve never read before. I puzzle over how I can have overlooked something so important – did that paragraph magically appear since the last time I read it? Of course, the wisdom in the book hasn’t changed. It’s my ability to understand that wisdom in the intervening years that has changed.
The arrival of ‘quickie’ yoga teacher trainings has set up the expectation that yoga can be learned quickly and in bite-size chunks. After graduation, many 200hr teachers embark on a post-graduate training binge, attending a smorgasbord of workshops and short courses. It’s fun, it’s eye-opening, but how much can be absorbed in a one day training, a weekend workshop or even a multi-day intensive?
Anybody who’s trained or worked as an educator knows that students need to practice what they’ve learned over a period of time in order to consolidate and retain their knowledge. That’s why we spend 12 years in basic education and 4 years doing an undergraduate degree. It takes practice, repetition and growth over time to build solid, lasting competence in any skill.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for short yoga courses – they can be a great way to get a taste of a particular yoga style or technique. But deep, lasting, satisfying mastery takes time and consistent effort.
So, back to the original question – how much yoga teacher training is enough? Perhaps it’s not a question of how many hours you train for. Perhaps it’s more about the quality of the learning experience. Is a teacher who’s done 150hrs of half day, one day and weekend workshops workshops over the course of a few weeks as confident and informed as a teacher who’s spent 150hrs diving deeply into a particular aspect of yoga over many months or years?
Perhaps the quality of the course is another important factor. Is a course that attracts accreditation from several professional bodies and is taught be senior teachers with decades of experience the same as an unaccredited course taught by somebody with relatively little training and experience themselves?
As of December 2015, 52,746 yoga teachers were registered with Yoga Alliance and more than 14,700 new yoga teachers registered for the first time that year. Most of those new teachers will have done the standard Yoga Alliance minimum 200hrs training. I’d say there’s a strong argument in favour of many hours of post-graduate yoga teacher training – firstly because 200hr is not, in my opinion, enough training to be a competent yoga teacher. But secondly because, in an increasingly competitive market, yoga teachers need to differentiate themselves. A good, high-quality education and plenty of experience is one way teachers can stand out in the crowd.
Maybe we can never have enough yoga teacher training. If the quality of the training is high, the depth of the teaching is profound and both student and teacher participate in a joyful celebration of their mutual love of yoga and service, I for one will never stop learning.
Learn more about Adore Yoga's advanced teacher training programs here.
Nikola Ellis is the founder of Adore Yoga, yoga therapist, counsellor and teacher trainer. She conducts regular trainings that help people of all ages, shapes and abilities enjoy the benefits of yoga and meditation, including Meditation Facilitator Certificate Trainings; Level 1 200hr Teacher Training and Post Graduate Yoga Teacher Training in Mental Health, Adaptive Asana and the Foundations of Yoga Therapy and a highly regarded professional 650hr Graduate Certificate of Yoga Therapy.