An advanced yoga teacher training program (such as a 300-hour or 500-hour yoga teacher training) can be an exciting decision – assuming you’re ready for it. Maybe you “think” you are ready for it since you just completed your 200-hour in the last year, but is that enough of a prerequisite to take the leap to doing a 500-hour yoga teacher training?
My recent observation is people are treating yoga teacher trainings like college degrees: you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree and then logically you move on to get your Master’s within a year or so. In the yoga world these days it seems many are graduating fresh out of a 200-hour training program and then moving on to obtain a 500-hour yoga teacher training almost immediately (i.e. with very little yoga teaching experience).
A good Master’s program highly suggest you have a couple years of real world work experience under your belt before applying. And for good reason. Experience cannot be bought or found in a book. Likewise, the experience you’ll gain teaching yoga can’t be learned from another or found in the newest yoga book on Amazon.com
Teaching yoga is very similar to being a yoga student. The more you practice yoga, the more comfortable you’ll become in your body. Your curiosity will grow as your body and mind starts to open. Sometimes you’ll have small “light bulb” moments of awareness while at other times in your practice you’ll encounter the big “ah- ha” moments. These can be really key in developing your personal yoga practice and key to your teaching…especially when they happen while you’re teaching. And every yoga practice is a new experience whether you are the teacher or showing up as a student.
Think of teaching a yoga class like being a scientist in a laboratory. There are a few known elements going in. The day/start time of the class/experiment. The style of yoga class being taught and the students showing up are like the ingredients for the experiment. The room size could represent the measurements for each ingredient. Like a scientist who doesn’t really know what’s going to happen until he starts mixing the ingredients, as a yoga teacher you don’t really know what’s going to happen during the class until you start asking people to move into the first few postures. Outside noise could compete with the sound of your voice, so you need to adjust on the spot. As you see how the students moving and breathing (or not) you begin to get a sense of what the class really needs. You begin to see each student as an individual with his/her own unique challenges in every pose -no one posture will look the same for all students. After class you may encounter questions you could probably never imagine getting that might even challenge you to re-frame how you cue a certain pose or teach a particular technique in the future. Something to note here: Your students can be your best teachers. And often they are offering you “teacher training” you can’t find anywhere else.
Consider teaching at least a couple years (and even longer if you’re only teaching 1-2 classes/week) before you leap into your next yoga teacher training. Take the time to find your voice and seat as a teacher. Learn to listen to your students with your eyes. Gain the confidence you need to work with whatever and whoever shows up in class. Figure out who you like to teach (seniors vs. kids vs. beginners vs. all levels, etc.) Decide where you like to teach (studio, gym, office yoga classes, private clients). Get full use out of your 200-hour yoga teacher training before delving into another one.
The point is the more rooted you are as a yoga teacher with your 200-hour certification, the more you’ll get out of your next training. I waited 5 plus years to do my 500-hour training with Sri Dharma Mittra. It would have been a much different experience if I had done a 500-hour training shortly after my 200-hour. An advanced yoga teacher training should propel your teaching to the next level. So ask yourself…if you haven’t been teaching much/that long, then how you expecting a 500-hour teacher training to make your limited teaching experience better?