I am back! And I am sorry for my absence from the blog and my somewhat absence from social media (especially Instagram stories where I bore people with my daily goings on). For those of you who don't know, at the start of September I left my full time job to become self-employed providing freelance marketing services as well as to pursue my dream of becoming a yoga teacher. I have wanted to become a yoga teacher for four years now after I spent an incredible two months volunteering at the Suryalila Retreat Centre set in the spectacular scenery of Andalusia in Spain. My time there cemented my love for yoga and I realised that by becoming a yoga teacher, I would be able to share my passion and share the positive impact that yoga can have on your life. However, at that point I was in my early twenties and I didn't have the confidence or stability (I was travelling and then eventually moving to a new city) in myself to feel that I was ready to pursue my goals yet. Instead, I honed my marketing skills and settled into life in my new city. Bristol is such an inspiring place full of creative, enthusiastic and open-minded people that I don't think I could have pursued yoga teaching, marketing freelancing or even starting this blog without the infectious encouragement of Bristol folk. Finally, this year I booked myself onto the Frog Lotus Yoga (FLY) International 200 hour Yoga Alliance Yoga Teacher Training Certification Course and returned to Suryalila in October. The experience was absolutely incredible and I would recommend it to anyone who loves yoga, you don't necessarily have to want to teach. As I get back to normal life and start my Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes throughout Bristol, I thought I would condense my experience into some handy tips to help you prepare should you decide to sign up for Yoga Teacher Training.
This article is Part 1 of 2 and in this article I have consulted with some fellow FLY graduates who I have credited at the bottom of this page. These tips are applicable across all yoga teacher trainings but I thought it would be useful to highlight that they are from FLY graduates and Part 2 will include tips from a few fellow yoga teachers from across Bristol who have taken other yoga teacher trainings.
1. Think about your learning style
There are a three different types of yoga teacher training programmes. Firstly, you can choose a part-time programme which might take place over long weekends over the space of a year. Secondly, you can choose a mixed mode programme where training takes place during both retreats and long weekends or thirdly, you can choose an intensive programme which takes 3-4 weeks to complete. The Frog Lotus Yoga International programme in Spain is an intensive and I choose it because I wanted to completely immerse myself in yoga. I wanted to throw myself into the training, experience something intense without distractions from my normal day to day life. I also knew that it would suit my learning style; I can learn very quickly and I am extremely enthusiastic but I can easily lose momentum and become distracted. Therefore, a short term programme was exactly what I wanted in terms of an experience but also what I felt would suit me as a person. I would recommend thinking about how you learn and what experience you would like. This will help you weigh up the pros and cons of each style of programme for you personally.
2. What are your expectations for your Yoga Teacher Training?
Do you want to teach? Or are you trying to figure something out? You might be taking it as time away from your normal life to gain some perspective and perhaps help you make some sort of decision. Everyone who goes on a yoga teacher training is there for their own unique reasons and by the nature of yoga, it can't help but be a reflective space. However, in the grand scheme of it, a yoga teacher training intensive is less than a month of your life and to be utterly honest it might not be long enough for you to come across that moment of realisation. Realisations and self-discoveries take time; you might have a revelation but at the same time you might not, and being okay with either of those outcomes will decrease the pressure you place on your time spent at the yoga teacher training and increase your enjoyment of the whole process.
As much as you might be looking for some sort of self-realisation about your life, you might also have heard from friends and/or read the testimonials from many a yoga teacher training programme which more often than not uses this term: "a transformational life experience". Now that I have completed my training I would use this term, it really was! It was the most intense few weeks of my life but I think one of the best things I have ever done and I am not alone with making this exclamation. However, when you are going through the process, hearing these testimonials means that you might expect everyday to be completely enlightening, life-affirming and profound. To be blunt, life doesn't work like that. During an intensive, it is 3-4 weeks of your life and when has 3-4 weeks of your life been a wholly positive experience? As much as it probably won't be a disastrous time, it is still normal life and you will not be continually skating on a 'high of transformation'. There will be times where you aren't enjoying yourself and finding it extremely challenging as well as times when you will be relishing the process and absorbing the information with enthusiasm. If you understand that you won't be enjoying yourself the entire time then again, you will decrease the pressure you place on your time spent at the yoga teacher training and increase your enjoyment of the whole process.
3. Prepare yourself physically
The Frog Lotus Yoga International training starts the day with half an hour of meditation followed by two hours of yoga. That doesn't include the other practical aspects of the course. From what I understand that is a fairly standard amount for trainings and some even include more! For me, I was most worried about the physical challenge so much so that I managed to twinge my right shoulder before the training as I was holding all my stress there. Not only is the practice physically challenging, it is also extremely advanced and you get the chance to experience yoga in a different way to classes you attend at home. It is such a great experience in terms of deepening your practice. By the third day, I had managed to achieve poses that had been a mental block for me namely handstand and forearm balance against the wall. In order to mitigate injury and fatigue, I would recommend practising yoga 3-5 times a week for six months before the training, making sure that you include dynamic and power Vinyasa Flow yoga styles. Attending lots of different yoga classes will help you to immerse yourself in what makes a really great yoga class and you can apply this experience to the classes you eventually create. It can also be helpful to not only attend lots of different classes but listen to online classes; what language are they using to describe the body and what language helps to create a beautifully atmospheric yoga class?
However, in terms of the level of your asana practice, do not worry as much as I did! Everyone is at different levels on the course and the teachers are accomodating for that. Some people struggle with particular poses due to their physical anatomy or injuries and some people might be able to do a pose first time. A great piece of advice a friend said to me was that if you have struggled with a particular pose then that will surely make you a better teacher; you understand the challenge and the need for consistent practise. Being able to pike into a handstand like an Instagram yogi might not necessarily make you a good yoga teacher; teaching yoga is about creating an atmosphere and guiding your students.
4. Prepare yourself mentally
I was expecting to be physically exhausted but I (and others) were not prepared for how mentally exhausting the process would be. During an intensive you are learning a huge amount of information and I am still flabbergasted that I managed to understand, retain and even now I can still recall the information I learnt. It is a testament to the structure of the course as it enabled us to absorb huge amounts of knowledge during our relatively short amount of time there. It is, however, extremely tiring and so to help you cope, I recommend creating flashcards with the Sanksrit and English names of the poses and learning the names of the muscles and the bones in the body. The training will have a reading list so make sure that you familarise yourself with those books. By learning from the books beforehand, you can focus on learning the stuff that you can't find in the books while you are at the training.
Prior to the training, you could also ask the course organiser for an example of a 'typical' day and also for an indication of how many days off you will receive. This should give you an idea of the expectations of the course and help you prepare mentally.
5. Practical things to take
- Protein bars/granola bars/nuts/snacks/chocolate
- Shorts and loose evening clothes (I promise you, you will want relief from spandex, sports bras and leggings constricting your limbs)
- Flashcards for learning Sanskrit and English names of the poses
- Project style book for note taking that has separate sections for the separate subject areas covered by the training
- Insulated water bottle
- Insect repellent
- Nice dress/outfit for graduation
- Rehydration sachets
- Walking boots/hard-wearing trainers
- When you pack your casual clothes, cut the amount in half, you will be living in your yoga clothes
6. Make friends!
Your yoga teacher training isn't just learning in-depth about yoga asana, philosophy and class sequencing, it is also an opportunity to meet people who share your passion. You must like yoga quite a lot to consider spending a large amount of time and money dedicated to learning more about it and it is quite rare to find other people who are equally interested in your passion. You can learn a lot from each other, make lasting friendships and if you are planning to teach professionally then it is a great networking opportunity. I also think that it is an excellent way to ride the emotional rollercoaster of the yoga teacher training. You are all sharing this experience together and if you are prepared to get a little bit deep with one another then the overwhelming nature of the training will definitely be lessened. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that and what better way to halve that problem than sharing it with someone who understands exactly what you are going through.
7. Make sure you switch off
During my training, I started my day of learning with meditation at 7am and then finished by reading and doing my homework in bed at 10pm. Meditation was a great way for me to reset for the day and I don't think I would have had the mental capacity for all the learning without that half an hour of stillness. I would think about what I achieved in 3-4 weeks at home and what I achieved in 3-4 weeks at yoga teacher training...turns out I can be way more productive than I thought. In order to cope, I do think it is good to have small, mindless ways of switching off throughout the day for perhaps ten-twenty minutes. Do you have a game on your mobile phone or tablet that you could play? Do you like to watch any particular YouTube channels? Or perhaps you can download some Brooklyn 99 or any other easy sitcoms from Netflix to switch off to. I brought a novel to read while I was there but I didn't get very far as my brain was fried at the end of the day. We also got into a habit of going for a walk after lunch or dinner and this was a great way to get away from the centre, have a mental break from all the learning and stretch our legs.
8. Prepare your friends and family
Your friends and family will be excited to hear about how you are getting on during this significant time so I suggest preparing them so that they know you might not be able to be consistently in touch. Perhaps you want to completely shut off from your home life (it depends on why you are there) so manage their expectations and tell them you will be in touch when you are back. They can also be an invaluable support when you are feeling overwhelmed. Scheduling some catch up calls in advance can make it easier for you to find time to chat to loved ones and can be a real boost when you need some encouragement.
9. Prepare for after the training
What are your plans after the training? I suggest booking some time after your training so that you can meet up with a loved one or perhaps have at least a short holiday on your own. I spent some time in Seville with a fellow trainee and it was such a great way to enjoy the high of completing the teacher training and to gently return back to normal life. It meant that when I got home I couldn't wait to start teaching my own classes and I felt rested and recovered. If you have to go home straight away, then why not organise some sort of celebration. It can feel a bit like a whirlwind; you complete your training, the last day is a graduation ceremony and celebratory meal and then it is all over. It is quite jarring so riding that wave of celebrating your achievement is important; you have worked so hard, why not recognise and enjoy that! Also, you might not feel ready to start teaching straight away when you get back from an intensive and that is okay! It is a lot of information to digest and so you might just need a little bit of time to regroup. The Frog Lotus programme specifically suggests that you teach 10 free classes and I do suggest practising with your friends and family straight away so that you avoid building it up in your head. Teaching is practise and soon it will begin to feel more natural. Many yoga teachers take multiple teacher trainers so there is no harm in waiting until you feel ready to charge for classes.
10. And finally, be open-minded, open to others...
...and enjoy yourself! Every single yoga teacher training graduate told me how positive their experience was so go for it, have an incredible time and good luck!
Here are a few more articles to help you prepare for your yoga teacher training:
- Survive Yoga Teacher Training: How to Prepare from Yoga Journal
- 10 things to know before yoga teacher training from Ekhart Yoga
- Yoga Teacher Training 101 from The Journey Junkie
- Getting Ready for Yoga School from Yogi Times
Thank you very much to the following FLY graduates for their contributions to this blog post. I have linked to their social media accounts, so please follow them!
Sophie Tolley, Yoga Teacher based in Edinburgh, United Kingdom: @sophtimusprime
Kitty Lam, Yoga Teacher based in San Francisco, California, USA: @heartspaceyoga
Kristen Hoagland, Yoga Teacher, Dancer and Dance Instructor based in New Jersey, USA: @kristenhoagland
Danielle Derouin Kim, Yoga Teacher based in Lakewood, Ohio, USA: @yogattagiveback
Annette Toomey, Yoga Teacher and Fitness Instructor based in Whitstable, United Kingdom
Elaine Collins, Yoga Teacher based in London, United Kingdom
Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook