Yoga in Western countries may have started life as a something of a hippy niche, but over the last 20 years, it has entered the mainstream at a phenomenal rate. With this popularization of an ancient Indian tradition, there has been a huge growth in organizations offering yoga teacher training. Gone are the days when students had to travel to India to gain qualifications. But the plethora of courses has created its’ own problems - not least in the question of quality and whether a course is recognized by the appropriate local and international associations. The prospective student must also ask themselves a number of important questions, the most fundamental of which is the type of yoga they wish to be trained in. But also, the wider question of what direction they wish to take their training in once completed. This article will address all of these points, and help provide a framework with which students may better choose amongst the many courses offered.
There are more styles of yoga available today than there has possibly been ever. Some represent a continuation of older traditions, that are relatively unchanged. This includes hatha yoga, and styles by Desikachar and Iyengar. Others represent a synthesis of different methods, even whilst being shrouded in mystical origins. For example, some have suggested that Ashtanga yoga is not derived from the yoga Korunta, but from a synthesis of traditions that may have included early acrobatics!
Some styles of yoga are very modern, and evolved more out of an adaptation to the West. Bikram yoga is a good example of this - and perhaps a very extreme one, given that Bikram copyrighted ‘his’ yoga poses and they way they were taught, despite yoga being essentially in the public domain.
Most people who train as teachers in yoga do so in a discipline that they have been practising already. This does make logical sense, as it's important to be passionate about what you do for a living. There is the additional experience that people will have with a particular style of yoga that no doubt makes it easier than starting from scratch in a different style.
But other issues may come into play when choosing a yoga school. Is the style of yoga you like well supported in your area? Is there sufficient demand for that style? Understanding who these particular styles of yoga appeals to will help later on when you set up your own yoga business, as it will guide your marketing, choice of location, logo, and business identity. It's worth thinking a little bit about these things before you make a time and financial commitment to getting qualified.
Finding out whether your course is accredited nationally and internationally is an important step. There are various governing associations at different levels around the world. For example, in the UK there is the British Wheel Of Yoga. In Australia, the government keeps a list of accredited training courses through the Australian National Training Authority. For a yoga specific association, try the Yoga Teachers Association of Australia. Globally, there is the International Yoga Teachers Association, which is available in many countries. There is also the American Yoga Association, Yoga Scotland, and the European Union Of Yoga.
Each of these organizations may have different standards by which they measure courses. But they do provide a good guideline for selecting providers with a minimum level of professionalism, integrity, and quality. You could look at contacting teachers who have gone through their training to find out what they thought of the course, and perhaps go to a few of their classes to get a feel for what is being taught.
Before going into any course, it's a good idea to have some sense of the bigger picture. For example, are you looking at combining yoga with other healing modalities, such as massage, nutrition, meditation, or some combination of all of these. There are some teaching colleges that integrate yoga with other modalities, both locally and abroad in India. For the sake of continuity, and ease of integration, it may be easier to look at this before any study is actually done. It may prove easier to study with an all-in-one provider who will provide a clearer way to integrate these different aspects of health.
In some ways, this broad integration of yoga with health is more closely aligned with the true nature of yoga, according to some teachers such as Desikachar. But Indian style yoga is not the only one that offers this approach, with the Japanese ki, or Ki yoga often integrated with macrobiotics and shiatsu.
If you're interested in going more deeply into yoga training for your own personal practice, as opposed to a prelude to teaching, studying abroad can be a truly rewarding experience. If you're looking for teaching qualifications, it may be wiser to choose an institution in your own country, at least initially. Because it should be adapted to Western learning styles, the structured environment it provides will be easier to learn in.
Yoga training can be intensely rewarding, and life changing in many ways. Provided you choose a course that is accredited, in a style of teaching you like, and that has good community support, it could be the start of a great new career.
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