Considering Yoga Teacher Training? Caveat Emptor!

Feb 28, 2016 | XTeaching, Yoga Teacher Training | 0 comments

Woman meditating in lotus

Why Caveat Emptor?

It’s hard to imagine that ‘caveat emptor’—let the buyer beware–should apply to yoga teacher training. I mean to say, aren’t teacher trainings and yoga practice meant to express a spiritual approach, one guided by a moral code?

Well, these days, perhaps not. Along with its increase in popularity, yoga has become a lucrative commodity and teacher training an industry. The end result is that, sadly, there are many sub-standard trainings. Since the courses are generally expensive and will require a great investment of time and energy, the keen student should do her homework. 

Fortunately, there is a comprehensive checklist available for prospective course applicants. Mary-Louise Parkinson, teacher trainer and President of the International Yoga Teachers Association*<, has created a list to help applicants find reputable and ethical courses. Mary-Louise says its purpose is to help students ‘look beyond glossy websites and slick marketing. The goal is to find the true purpose of the organisation providing training and its commitment to the support of yoga as an honoured career and lifelong journey.’

Mary-Louise has been kind enough to let me publish this 10-point checklist here. Please feel free to pass the checklist on to any of your yoga friends searching for a professional and principled training.

Teacher training checklist

  1. Is the course a quick fix, condensed, course or a well-balanced course run over time? Does it comply with the minimum 200 or 350 hours. Preferably it will be spread over a twelve-month period, not several weeks.
  2. Is the course based on sound educational structure with a combination of journaling, regular assessments, home-based research, on-line material and written and practical examinations?
  3. Does the curriculum cover Patanjali’s 8 limbs of yoga as a solid foundation level of yoga teaching?
  4. Does the school have a faculty of experienced, qualified lecturers, knowledgeable in their specific subject? Or is it comprised of one or two people delivering the whole course. (This would be a little like attending university with one lecturer delivering all of the lectures.)
  5. How long has the school been around? Does it have the ability to continue to provide education and support into the future (i.e. is it likely to fold when the founder or lead teacher leaves)?
  6. Does the school follow the ethics and values of yoga? Is it non-profit? Does it give to charities and provide scholarships? Is it ego/money driven?
  7. Is the teacher training going to lock you into someone’s brand or style of yoga?
  8. How is the course assessed and how are you assessed in order to ensure you can actually teach a class in a safe, professional manner?
  9. What is the career path offered by the school? Do they offer postgraduate training and Level 2 training, continuing professional development, mentorship, peer programs and a career perhaps as a lecturer?
  10. What are the pre-qualifications of the student? Are you required to have a minimum number of years experience as a dedicated student? Do you need to have a sponsoring teacher to recommend you as a suitable candidate to teach yoga? Or can anyone do the training?
Once you have gone through the checklist, Mary-Louise suggests that you listen to your heart. Take your time to make this important decision. Once you’ve committed to a course, practice tapas (discipline) and patience. Do your utmost to respect the science and teachings of yoga.Study notes for yoga teachers training
As the buyer, shop intelligently. Do your research. Read the testimonials—and not just the ones the studio uses to market their course.
In past years, I completed two teacher trainings as a student. I can say that these periods of study have been growth-ful, healing and fun. You make lifelong friends and form collegial relationships. Once you join a course, put your heart and soul into the journey and then you’ll undoubtedly reap the many benefits.


*One of the strong credentials of the IYTA which has helped it stay true to its yogic values is the fact that it is a non-profit association. It’s been dedicated to the professional training of yoga teachers in Australia and around the world for nearly 50 years. The IYTA has trained nearly 3,000 teaches since its inception in Australia and its graduates have the ability to teach locally and internationally. It’s not headed by a guru, nor is led by a company or CEO. 


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