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Factors & Considerations When Choosing a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) or Yoga Immersion Program

Introduction & Overview

When choosing a yoga teacher training (YTT) or yoga immersion program, you might consider the following factors:

  1. Your objective or intention
  2. The objective of the program
  3. The style of yoga to be focused on
  4. The backgrounds of the trainers, including styles/lineage and years of practice and training experience
  5. Length of time of the program as a whole
  6. Structure of the program elements, particularly mentorship and practicum
  7. Learning materials included with the training and learning materials required or suggested to be purchased separately

Your Objective or Intention

Your intention may simply be to deepen your study of yoga, which is a fine objective. Even though that’s a general desire, it will still be helpful in choosing the best program fit for you, as it can help you to refine your choices based on the philosophy and style of practice you’re drawn to.

If your objective is more specific and relates to learning to practice or to teach a particular style of yoga or particular yogic techniques, then clarity of that objective is necessary in order to make a choice that’s most likely to support your objective.

Consider answering these questions to help you clarify your objective, and to share with trainers you are considering studying with:

  1. How long have you been practicing yoga?
  2. What branches and style(s) of yoga have you practiced?
  3. What is it about yoga that inspires you to want to deepen your study?
  4. What do you want to change as a result of deepening your study of yoga?
  5. Have you taught yoga? If so, what styles and for how long?
  6. Do you want to teach yoga in the future? If so, what knowledge, experience and credentials do you want to obtain from a training or immersion?

Program Objective & Strategies

Overview

Different programs are based on different assumptions, foundations and techniques. And they’re administered by trainers of vastly different backgrounds and experience levels. Whether or not you’re aware of these baseline aspects of a program, you’re making a decision among choices that differ on far more than such obvious factors as price and location. Therefore, this is the area that likely offers you the greatest payoff for studying prior to choosing a program.

You’ll be more able to make an informed decision about programs if you familiarize yourself with the meaning of yoga, the branches of yoga, and the emphases of various styles of yoga.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is defined in many ways. For the purposes of choosing a program, it’s important to understand that these variations exist so that you can consider the various assumptions and foundations of the programs you’re considering.

While the word “yoga” is used in many ways, it’s generally describing 1) a philosophy and/or 2) a set of practices and techniques.

Different programs will display different levels of honor and emphasis of the historical roots and philosophy of yoga. Yoga encompasses a vast and profound philosophy:

  • The origins of yoga philosophy are traced back to the The Vedas (veda = knowledge) of India, estimated to have been written between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. The verses within The Vedas are said to be revealed scriptures, having been heard by enlightened sages (rishis), seers in states of deep yogic meditation, or samadhi.
  • In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Deepak Chopra and David Simon explain, “Yoga is the practical aspect of Vedic science.”
  • Yoga becomes more defined in The Upanishads (which include hundreds of philosophical texts) and is the primary focus of The Yoga Sutra, The Bhagavad Gita, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita.

The following expert definition is fairly comprehensive and inclusive:

Yoga is an ancient science of health for the physical body and balance for the mind and emotions that provides the foundation for the spiritual journey whose destination is self knowledge. – Joseph LePage, Yoga Teachers Toolbox 2005

And this expert definition emphasizes the practical purpose:

Yoga is a way of moving into stillness in order to experience the truth of who you are. It is also a way of learning to be centered in action so that you always have the clearest perspective on what’s happening and are therefore able to respond most appropriately. – Erich Schiffmann, Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness 1996

Other common definitions of yoga include:

  • The stilling of the modifications of the mind
  • Equanimity of mind
  • Union of body, mind and spirit
  • Uniting of consciousness in the heart
  • The science of right living
  • Wisdom in action

Program Strategies

Over time, people have developed multiple branches of yoga and many techniques within those branches that are designed to honor the intention and meet the objectives of yoga as defined above.

The key differentiator among programs may not be how exactly a trainer defines yoga, but how he or she proposes learning and practicing yoga philosophy and techniques.


Style of Yoga

There is nearly limitless variation in techniques and approaches that are called “yoga.” Even within what might be called “traditional” styles of yoga, the emphasis can vary dramatically.

  • The particular emphasis of the program will greatly determine the type of knowledge and skills you’ll have upon completion.
  • The difference between programs within the same style will be more subtle than the difference between programs from different styles, which can be dramatically different.

Branches or Paths of Yoga

The primary branches or paths of yoga are:

  • Bhakti – Yoga of Devotion
  • Karma – Yoga of Action
  • Jnana – Yoga of Wisdom
  • Raja or Classical – Yoga of Patanjali
  • Tantra – Liberation in the World
  • Hatha – Yoga Through the Body

While each of these paths represents a deep philosophy and traditional approach, each trainer will have his or her own perspective on applying the teachings. Asking questions about this topic will help you to understand the foundations upon which the various programs are based.

Styles of Yoga

Styles of yoga can be categorized broadly as having a foundation in:

  • Enlightenment and Spirituality
  • Alignment
  • Vinyasa, or
  • Therapy

Many are blends of the earliest lineages and some represent a chosen sequence or style of an individual teacher. Even with so many different types, it’s common to find teachers who meld insights from multiple schools of thought.

For a list of more than 60 styles with their founders and links to more information, see Yoga Lineages & Styles.


Trainer Background & Experience

Learn who will be administering the programs. A program may be administered primarily by one or two trainers, or there may be a team. The trainers may be steeped in a particular style of yoga or may come from diverse backgrounds. Some programs will administer various modules with the assistance or leadership of experts in anatomy or biomechanics, Ayurveda, yoga therapy, kirtan, or other areas of expertise.

Here are some questions to ask about the trainers of the programs you’re considering:

  1. What are the names and websites of the trainers who will be administering the program?
  2. For each trainer, what is their background and years of practice and training experience?
  3. Which style/lineage and teacher(s) do they most model their training upon?

See Also

Program Structure

While there is no one right way, it makes sense to compare and contrast how the various programs are administered.

  1. What is the length of time of the program as a whole, and how are the time blocks broken down?
  2. How are the content modules broken out within the time blocks?
  3. How much practice teaching is included in the program?
  4. Is assisting and mentorship included in the program and if so, how?
  5. What learning materials are included with the training? How is the manual broken out and how detailed is it?
  6. What learning materials are required or suggested to be purchased separately?

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