Becoming a teacher opens up a whole new perspective on yoga. But how do you choose a course? Sue White covers the ins and outs of teacher training options.
For the yogis of bygone eras who learned their craft through sitting at the feet of their guru, today’s world of yoga teacher training would be almost unrecognisable. It’s true: yoga teachers of the new millennium are spoilt for choice. Eager teacher trainees can now choose both the teacher and the method of study that suits them, with everything from residential programs to distance education and intensive courses on offer.
So how do you decide? Some trainees choose based on their preferred style of practice, while others just want to take on training with their favourite teacher or local school. If you don’t follow a specific path of yoga, deciding can be difficult, and in these cases the answer often comes down to cost or convenience. If you are going with a school you don’t know, take some classes with them first—as anyone who knows even a little about yoga soon learns, approaches and styles can be vastly different.
Many students take on teacher training simply to deepen their own knowledge. It’s a valid choice, but whichever way you go, be prepared to put aside time, open your heart and mind and get ready to see the world in a different way. Although you can expect to pay anywhere from $3000 to $12,000 for a training, you’ll find that your favourite teacher will often have done more than one—yoga teaching is seen as a field where the learning journey is never ending.
Let our overview of the major styles and schools serve as a guide, and remember, while the styles and approaches may differ greatly, we’re essentially all on the same path. With that in mind, open your heart and get ready for the journey.
Styles to Consider
Snapshot: Founded by American John Friend, Anusara is a style of hatha yoga that combines a life-affirming Tantric philosophy with a focus on alignment.
Training: Either choose to become an Anusara certified teacher (a long road, taking many years) or an Anusara inspired teacher, which requires extensive study with a certified teacher, 100 hours of Anusara immersion and two years of teaching experience before you begin. “The training radically improved my teaching, giving me confidence to skilfully weave powerful alignment principles with uplifting heart-centred philosophy, resulting in transformative classes that students love,” says Cassandra Missio, certified Anusara yoga teacher.
Typical cost: Depends how you get there, but expect to pay about $8000 for inspired accreditation and $12,000 or more for certified accreditation.
Good to know: As the journey towards full Anusara certification requires 50 hours of contact time with John Friend, you’ll likely need to make a trip to the United States (although he now travels regularly in the Asia Pacific). Neither qualification is accessible until after you have another hatha training and some teaching experience under your belt; as well as ongoing experience with Anusara as a student.
Accreditation: All Anusara trainings are certified with US-based Yoga Alliance.
Locations: There are certified Anusara yoga teachers in most capital cities in Australia, offering immersions and teacher trainings.
More info: www.anusara.com
Snapshot: The founder of this flowing hatha practice, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, passed away in 2009, but the Ashtanga yoga lineage remains strong around the world.
Training: Traditionally, you had to travel to India numerous times to study at the source, with Sri Pattabhi Jois (Guruji) himself. Today, the lineage holder is his grandson, Sharath Jois. After regular visits (we’re talking a few months at a time, over a few years) Sharath (or formally, Guruji) becomes your teacher and eventually you may be offered authorisation to teach. This is still the position of the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) in Mysore, however some accredited teachers are now beginning to run their own trainings here in Australia. “A student needs to first become a ‘good’ student… someone with a strong mind and overwhelming enthusiasm… Maybe after 10 years of tasting and experimenting with yoga, maybe then they might be ready to teach,” says Sydney-based Ashtanga teacher, Eileen Hall.
Typical cost: Depends how long you take.
Good to know: There are differences of opinion about the possibilities of Ashtanga certification in the Australian community, however KPJAYI says it is “the only authority able to authorise or certify individuals to teach the Ashtanga yoga method as taught by Sri K Pattabhi Jois and R. Sharath.”
Accreditation: As Ashtanga training is not a Westernised training, accreditation is given through the institute in Mysore, India. However, the institute’s website states: “Students travelling to Mysore should not come with the expectation of obtaining authorised or certified status.” The idea is that you come to learn, not to get a certification.
Locations: Mysore, India
More info: www.kpjayi.org
Snapshot: This 90-minute practice, created by Bikram Choudhury, uses 26 postures (asana) and two breathing practices, all done in a heated room.
Training: All training is in Los Angeles; you’ll need to be at least 21 and have a certificate from a local Bikram teacher saying you’ve been practising the style for at least six months. The nine-week intensive training runs six days a week. “I love the discipline of Bikram Yoga; the heat, the intensity and the sweat. It gives me strength, toning, flexibility and stillness of mind,” says Simon Phelan, a Bikram Yoga teacher.
Typical cost: US$7000 for training plus US$3900 for accommodation (more in a private room).
Good to know: A typical day at teacher training starts at 8am and lasts until at least midnight, including two daily Bikram Yoga classes.
Accreditation: Successful graduates receive certification as Bikram Yoga Method Instructors. You’ll need to travel to Los Angeles every three years to do a shorter, recertification course (US$250).
Locations: Los Angeles, US
More info: www.bikramyoga.com
Snapshot: Dru Yoga is an accessible form of yoga based on flowing movements, directed breathing and visualisation. It began in Wales in the late 1970s and is now taught in Europe, Australasia and North America.
Training: Australian courses tend to run in nine four-day non-residential weekends, spread over three years. In between modules there is a comprehensive reflective practice program and personal mentoring is encouraged. Students are supported to start teaching about 15 months in, after which they can start earning an income from their teaching. “The Dru course offers a complete package: personal development, structure for your home practice, skills to teach and practical ways to give back to the world,” says Judy Charlton, a Dru Yoga graduate.
Typical cost: $215 per month, for three years ($7740 total).
Good to know: Dru Yoga training is not only for those who want to become a teacher; many therapists, management trainers and human resource leaders do the course for insight into yoga’s understanding of body, emotions, mind and group dynamics.
Accreditation: Graduates register with the International School of Dru Yoga, and the course is accredited with Yoga Alliance, Yoga Australia and The Independent Yoga Network (UK).
Locations: Courses run across the country, but start dates vary. In 2012, new Australian trainings will begin in Albury/Wodonga, Adelaide and Melbourne. You can also train as a Dru teacher in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands or Canada.
More info: www.dru.com.au
Snapshot: Unless a yoga teacher training is “labelled” as a specific training in a certain style of yoga, you are generally safe to assume it’s a generic form of hatha yoga following the teachings of ancient yogic sage, Patanjali, and the eight limbs of yoga. The actual practices vary considerably—expect everything from slow, gentle classes in which poses stand alone, through to vinyasa practices, where poses are linked via the breath and flowing movement.
Training: The schedule and commitment varies according to the studio—some are held as intensives over a period of months, others might run one weekend a month for one to three years. Most will involve at least 200 and 350 hours of training (and up to 500 to 1000 hours plus); this includes contact hours, classes and homework. “I love that hatha yoga brings together the energies of the sun and moon, inviting each student to investigate the balance between effort and grace,” says Samantha Nolan-Smith, a hatha yoga teacher.
Typical cost: Varies substantially, but expect to pay $3000-$3500 for a 200-hour course or $5500-$6000 for a 350-hour course. Accommodation might be extra if residentials are involved. In general, longer courses cost more.
Good to know: Many teachers start with a general hatha training and then go on to something more specific down the track.
Accreditation: Some trainings are registered with Yoga Australia, while others have Yoga Alliance accreditation (see Get connected, below). You mainly want accreditation so you can get public liability insurance, or to assure students about the standard of your training.
Locations: Across Australia in almost every capital city. Asking your favourite yoga studio for their recommendations is a good place to start (and so is looking in our directory, at the back!). Yoga Australia’s website (www.yogaaustralia.org.au) lists courses registered with it.
Snapshot: An internationally recognised approach to the practice and teaching of yoga, emphasising a precise, careful and thorough methodology. The 93-year-old guru of the lineage, BKS Iyengar, still practices daily from his home institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. Iyengar Yoga is strictly a term coined by his students (he doesn’t believe in branding yoga). Iyengar Yoga aims at a consistency of form, methodology and approach across its many teachers worldwide.
Training: There are five levels of Iyengar teacher training, each containing two or three stages. Start at Introductory, Level I—you’re still considered in training on completion. You can use the Iyengar Certification Mark at Introductory, Level 2; after a minimum of 300 hours of training, 100 hours of assisting, adjusting and teaching, and passing the rigorous assessments set by the Iyengar Yoga Association of Australia (BKSIYAA). “Taking on the commitment to train to become a yoga teacher deeply changed my life. The ongoing practice has only become richer… refreshing my eyes, and focusing my heart,” says Caroline Coggins, a senior Iyengar teacher.
Typical cost: Many teachers do not charge for apprenticeship-style teacher training. If it’s a course format, training may cost upwards of $5000 during a two-year period.
Good to know: Iyengar Yoga teacher training is renowned for upholding rigorously high standards, just one reason it takes most students five years to complete Introductory (Levels 1 and 2) accreditation.
Accreditation: Introductory assessments are conducted at least twice yearly by the BKSIYAA in Australia, typically in major capital cities.
Locations: Train with the teacher of your choice, across Australia or internationally.
More info: www.iyengaryoga.asn.au
Snapshot: While IYTA is an association of yoga teachers, it is primarily a training body that has trained more than 2000 classical hatha yoga teachers over the past 30 years.
Training: One of the longest-running teacher training courses in Australia, IYTA offers 350 hours of lectures, teaching, mentoring and research over a 12-month period. There are two ways to study with IYTA: Sydney-based students meet once a month (all day Saturday and Sunday) for 11 weekends during the course. The second option is via correspondence (you’ll receive DVDs of the Sydney sessions). Both groups must also attend a five-day residential in Sydney. “At the end of their IYTA training course, students comment that they have thoroughly enjoyed their yoga journey,” says course coordinator, Satyaprem Gibson.
Typical cost: $6500, payable in four instalments. Cost includes a five-day Sydney residential and all course materials.
Good to know: You need three years of yoga experience to apply. An IYTA liaison teacher in each state will supervise and monitor your asana component.
Accreditation: The course is registered with Yoga Australia. You can also apply for full membership of IYTA on graduation to access its free, ongoing continuing professional development.
Locations: Sydney, or your lounge room!
More info: www.iyta.org.au
Snapshot: Founders of Jivamukti Yoga, Sharon Gannon and David Life, have designed a style of flowing vinyasa that brings the philosophical teachings of yoga into the modern classroom.
Training: The main centre for Jivamukti training is in New York, where a 300-hour intensive typically runs once a year. However, with the opening of Jivamukti Yoga Sydney in 2011, Australian trainings may eventually be on the agenda as the community in Australia continues to grow. “The thing which really excited me about doing the training was that I knew Jivamukti integrates the physical and spiritual into classes. I wanted to add that to my teaching,” says Jess Olivieri, a Sydney-based Jivamukti teacher.
Typical cost: About US$6650 plus accommodation costs at New York State’s holistic learning centre, Omega Institute, where the training is run.
Good to know: Training is tough! Expect long days, and no slacking off. You also need to commit to becoming vegetarian or vegan to be a Jivamukti teacher.
Accreditation: Jivamukti Yoga training is certified under Yoga Alliance.
Locations: New York, US; Germany (if you happen to speak German); possibly also Costa Rica in 2012. Australian trainings are on the horizon.
More info: www.jivamuktiyoga.com.au; www.jivamuktiyoga.com
Snapshot: Kundalini Yoga is a dynamic practice that was brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan. Although he’s no longer alive, his teachings of “sets”, or kriyas, remain popular. In class, expect dynamic asana designed to strengthen the glandular and nervous systems, a good dose of meditation or chanting and a feeling that something has just happened.
Training: You can become a Level 1 Kundalini Yoga teacher by training in Sydney, Melbourne or Mackay, Queensland. Formats vary—the Sydney training is run as three six-day residential retreats, while the Melbourne course has a mix of retreats and weekend intensives. The 220-hour training includes 180 hours of classroom instruction, plenty of homework and a 40-day personal sadhana. “Kundalini Yoga Level 1 teacher training is more than simply an instructor’s course. It’s a life-changing experience that awakens a powerful journey into the Self,” says Kundalini Yoga teacher, Patty Kikos.
Typical cost: $3800-$4350 (payment plans and early-bird discounts apply).
Good to know: Kundalini Yoga is not linked to the religion Sikhism, but as the founder Yoga Bhajan was a Sikh, many Westerners are confused about this.
Accreditation: The Kundalini Research Institute in New Mexico, US, controls accreditation. Graduates automatically become members of the Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association of Australia and NZ (KYTANZ). Although it isn’t registered with Yoga Australia, graduates can sign up and register.
Locations: Sydney, Melbourne, Mackay or across the globe.
More info: www.kundaliniyoga.com.au; www.kundaliniresearchinstittute.org; www.3ho.org
Snapshot: Developed by Indian yoga master Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the style emphasises that the physical is only one part of yoga practice.
Training: The two-year, 1440-hour Diploma of Satyananda Yoga Training is intended to be a journey of self-discovery. It requires no experience in yoga to enter. The teaching module (Module 4) comes in the last six months. “I started the course for myself, then during the journey I realised that the rich knowledge and tools taught by this tradition are meant to be shared with others,” says Maria Hadnut, a recent Satyananda graduate.
Typical cost: Fees for the whole course range from $7250 to $13,505, depending on your choice of accommodation. Discounts apply for students living in low-income countries.
Good to know: The diploma is taught through a mixture of residential (ashram) stays and distance learning.
Accreditation: The Diploma of Satyananda Yoga Training is Australian Government accredited, so students may be eligible for Austudy or other government assistance. It’s also recognised as a 500-hour course with Yoga Alliance (the group is currently preparing to apply for Yoga Australia registration, too).
Locations: In Australia, study is held at Mangrove Mountain, NSW, and Rocklyn, Victoria (Modules 1 and 2 only), however you can arrange to do part of your studies at Satyananda academies in the US, South America, India or Europe.
More info: www.satyananda.net/yogic-studies; www.yogavic.com
Upon completing your yoga teaching qualification you’ll likely want (or need) to join a professional body such as Yoga Australia (formerly the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia).
While it’s not mandatory, about 1600 Australian yoga teachers are members of Yoga Australia (others join the US equivalent, Yoga Alliance).
Upon completing your yoga teaching qualification you’ll likely want to join a professional body.“There are discounts with some insurance houses, on conferences and seminars, and members can post events and further trainings,” says Gaynor Austen, chair of the membership and training subcommittee of Yoga Australia.
Professional body accreditation, or eligibility to get it, is required by some insurers as well as groups such as Fitness Australia. “We have agreements in place that anyone teaching in their gyms should have at least a 200-hour training, and apply for registration with us,” says Austen.
To join Yoga Australia, you’ll need to complete at least 200 hours (provisional membership) and at least 350 hours (full membership) of recognised teacher training. If your course is one of the 45 across Australia registered with them, application is simply a matter of sending in your certificate and the $110 fee ($77 if you’re already a member of another yoga teaching association), but if you’ve studied elsewhere, don’t fret. “It doesn’t mean we won’t take you, you just need to outline your training and make sure it covers the areas we require,” says Austen. For more info, see www.yogaaustralia.org.au.
Continuing Professional Development
As new teachers soon learn, most yoga teachers are continually developing their knowledge and understanding of the practice. If you’re a member of a professional body, continuing professional development (CPD) is usually a requirement.
Most yoga teachers are continually developing their knowledge and understanding of the practice.“Our members have to complete 36 points every three years,” says Gaynor Austen from Yoga Australia. “If the training is directly related to yoga, one hour equals a point. If it’s less direct, two hours usually equals a point,” she says.
Workshops, seminars, retreats and conferences all usually qualify as CPD points. While most teacher training bodies offer some ongoing training, groups such as IYTA who make this a priority for members usually have their own methods of calculating points.
Not sure where to start? Yoga Synergy co-founder, Simon Borg-Olivier, offers a well-regarded anatomy and physiology course, which runs annually in Sydney. Yoga Australia offers occasional CPD opportunities to members, and guest teachers often travel to share their expertise with yoga teachers—it can be worth joining mailing lists of yoga schools to see who’s headed your direction or checking the courses and events page on Yoga Australia’s website, www.yogaaustralia.org.au.