This time slightly over a year ago, I’d just started my yoga teacher training with Yoga Professionals and YMCA Fit who kindly offered me a course discount in return for writing about my experiences. Anyway, I’m pleased to say that I’m now qualified to teach. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get the results back from an exam before.
In all honesty, a year ago, I had no idea it would be this much work. I thought that because I’d signed up to do one of the cheaper yoga teacher trainings, there wouldn’t be as much work. Don’t be fooled! There’s a lot of independent learning.
I’d chosen this course, partly because I wanted a thorough training in anatomy and physiology (my weaknesses at the time), but also because I was on a budget. In addition to doing a yoga TTC, I was already doing a year long 200 hour meditation teacher training as well, and also had plans to do a Master’s degree.
However, I’d wanted to teach yoga for a while and figured that I would always be able to do additional teacher training workshops and a BWY integration course further down the line if I wanted to. Yoga teacher training is something I feel is continuous. I just needed to breathe and build a foundation first.
My background with yoga
I started practising yoga in 2001 when I was given a book written by BKS Iyengar for my 15th birthday. Prior to this I practised gymnastics for six years and took up yoga purely because it felt good and it worked as a nice transition from the floor work in gymnastics. Over time, I developed a deep interest in meditation, but to begin with I enjoyed yoga mainly for the physical benefits and remaining flexible.
Since then I’ve been to India several times to practise yoga and meditation and stay in a Sivananda ashram for a few weeks. I’ve also fallen in love with so many different styles of Yoga which in some ways made it difficult to know which type of yoga I wanted to teach.
This is one of the reasons I chose not to do a teacher training course in a specific type of yoga. I figured that I could take specialist courses later on if I felt inspired to do so.
Before the course started
We were advised to read The Complete Guide to Yoga prior to the course which was written by Conrad Paul who is the main teacher on the course. I’d never done any of Conrad’s yoga classes, so in a way, reading his book was my first introduction to the course.
Whether you’re doing this teacher training or not — if you’re into yoga, it’s genuinely a really useful book that is free from preachy language. Not so much with yoga, but I’ve noticed a theme lately in meditation books — they all claim that ‘their way’ is superior.
The Complete Book of Yoga is actually a pretty objective book, that’s clear, easy to read and also goes into a lot of depth. After I’d finished it, I felt really pleased that I was going to be taught by this guy.
This was probably the easiest part of the course and something I started several months before the start date. However, some people also started the yoga journal during the contact hours and were able to complete it in time.
For this part of the course, as the name suggests, you have a to write a yoga journal documenting 60 hours of yoga practise. This was quite a useful exercise to do just to see how my own practise was progressing. Plus, during the yoga journal I started practising Mysore style Ashtanga yoga which was interesting to write about and compare to Sivananda yoga — which is what I was mainly practising at the time.
My only criticism here is that in hindsight, I think the yoga journal could have included some lesson observations. It would have been useful, for example, to observe 10 different teachers outside of the other students on the course. Now I’ve finished, I’ve been doing this with yoga teachers on Youtube. It really helps just to watch and make mental notes about what works and what doesn’t.
I can’t really fault this part of the course. I thought my teachers Conrad and Annie were really good and clearly passionate about what they did. They were also both really supportive and even outside of the contact hours, Annie always answered any questions pretty promptly.
Initially, when I looked at the course structure I saw that there were nine contact hours and I thought, that’s barely anything, but overall I must have spent about 500 hours on the whole course. There’s a lot of independent learning involved.
During the contact hours we practised yoga, learnt how to teach and structure classes for different abilities, as well as being taught yoga theory and meditation. We were also continuously practising our teaching on each other.
As part of the course we had to design a 10 week progressive yoga programme for mixed abilities, which also included creating lots of lesson plans and a final assessment where we each had to teach a yoga class.
The majority of people on the course put in a lot of effort here. I’m glad I put the work in, but I also got the impression that it was pretty hard not to pass the practical assessment.
The yoga worksheets took me about a week to complete and were extremely in depth. Questions included, ‘Describe the vedic period of yoga’, ‘Describe the four paths of yoga and their relevance in modern day yoga practices’ and ‘List and summarise the four chapters of the yoga sutras’.
Please note, that these worksheets were not exams — they were more like coursework that you could complete and submit in your own time.
Online learning and exams
I found the online learning pretty hard. This was my first introduction to learning something online and it wasn’t pleasant.
I’m not from a physiology and anatomy background and I thought I’d find this part of the course really fascinating, but unfortunately, the information was delivered in such a dry way, it was hard to stay enthusiastic. For example, some of the videos featured this guy speaking in a monotone voice who was clearly just reading word for word from something.
To be fair, some of the online parts of the course were really good like the parts on bones and muscles because it was interactive, but there wasn’t the same level of consistency throughout.
In the end, I ditched learning online and bought the manuals for Principles of Exercise Level 2 and Anatomy and physiology Level 3. I then found it easier to learn from the books, but that’s just my personal preference.
When it came to the exams, the Anatomy and Physiology Level 3 exam was probably the hardest exam I’ve ever done and I actually had to re-sit a few times but I got there in the end and I couldn’t have been happier.
If anyone is revising for these exams right now, I found using the Khan Academy really useful which is a free online learning platform that is interactive. There’s a whole section on anatomy and physiology and it’s taught in a way that really engages you.
I also bought the book Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff. Again, the book goes into a lot of depth and really helps you to understand everything rather than just throwing information at you.
This course has provided me with a solid foundation for teaching yoga which I’m grateful for, and although I struggled with the anatomy and physiology I’m pleased the course went into so much depth.
As for teaching, I practised throughout my training — teaching cover classes and providing lunch time sessions where I worked. I also did some yoga and meditation workshops at a festival over the summer.
During the course, I had this idea that once I’d qualified, I’d be sending my CV out to every gym, but right now, I’m focusing on working 1-1 with people so I can create really tailored programmes. It also means I’ll be able to use all the different styles of yoga I’ve practised over the years.
In terms of future training, I’ve been looking at some of the teaching intensives Triyoga offer. YMCA Fit are also offering Vinyasa Flow immersion courses which again, are pretty reasonably priced and seem quite creative.
For now though, I think the real training is in the teaching itself.