Common Misconceptions of 200hr Yoga Teacher Training
Ahimsa’s second teacher training is around the corner (starts August 17, 2017!) and as the work ramps up I find myself thinking about my first teacher training and recent conversations I’ve had with potential trainees. During last year’s teacher training I found myself saying “in my teacher training…” a lot as if I was referring to the 1950s when TVs were black and white. So, I wanted to share what my teacher training was like and also some common misconceptions about teacher training.
1. You have to be great at yoga and able to do all of the poses
NOT true! Forgive me if you are hearing this for a 3rd or 4th time, but the firs time I did a handstand was during my teacher training… in front of the whole group because even after the instruction (don’t worry, we were at the wall) I still couldn’t get up on my own. I still remember that moment because all eyes were on me and because I did something cool for the first time.
Even in my current practice I don’t even practice the full version of extended side angle, I still can’t do lotus pose safely, not even firelog pose (jibberish to you? Sorry! I’m just trying to say that I have tight hips so I stay within my limitations). I can’t stick a handstand in the middle of the room without toppling over, and I can’t do 100 chaturangas in a row. Now you’re probably starting to doubt my ability to be able to lead a teacher training…
Being able to do all of the poses perfectly is nearly impossible! Thank goodness, not for Cassandra, though, because she modeled all of the poses in our Asana Manual! One of the most important things about being a yoga teacher and yogi is Ahimsa – non-violence. The “goal” of a teacher training is to be able to understand safety and alignment. The goal (for most) is to understand how to teach yoga – physical and non-physical aspects. Many teachers who come out of a teacher training will teach Restorative, Hatha, Beginners, and not desire to teach Forearm Balance. And that’s okay. It’s all okay…. You don’t have to be perfect to start a teacher training.
2. You have to have practiced every single day 365 days a year for 2 years before a teacher training
NOT true! You do not have to know everything or be perfect to start a yoga teacher training. 6 months of a consistent practice is recommended. You don’t want to start a teacher training not knowing what Downward Facing Dog is or what a Sun Salutation is. You do need experience. You do not need to be an expert – that’s what teacher trainings and years of practice are for ;).
For example, take my dad, Chuck. After I finished my teacher training in the summer of 2011 I used him at my guinea pig for teaching yoga. I kind of forced my parents to help me pay for and install bamboo floors in an unused upstairs sunroom in our old house… but that’s a story for later. Anyway, my dad took some private lessons with me while he was freelancing and looking for a full time job. He was still going to the Tennis and Fitness Centre gym frequently, so I hadn’t converted him 100% quite yet. What did convert him was when I opened Ahimsa May 26 of the next year, 2012. He was still out of a full time job (sorry Dad!), so he was the most loyal student – taking classes every day. He was finally in LOVE with my favorite thing – yoga!
About a month in he had the itch that he just had to scratch – he wanted to become a yoga teacher! He was dead set on it – there was no talking him out of it. He enrolled in YogaWorks’ 200hr teacher training in Pacific Palisades, CA – the same town where his sister lives! It was perfect – he would ride one of the family’s bikes to teacher training every day. Thank God for Uncle Roger who would swoop by and rescue him on his way back from work – the trail back to the house was uphill for a few miles! Chuck came home skinny, lean, and tan, something he’s somehow managed to keep up 6 years later.
The point I’m trying to make is that Chuck didn’t have the 6 straight months of practice under his belt. He was the worst yogi in the room (his words, not mine!), and probably knew the least. But it didn’t matter because he KNEW he needed to become a yoga teacher to share the gifts that he discovered.
He came home eager to teach. To be completely honest, he needed a lot of practice, so he agreed to teach free classes during the week until he was more comfortable. It was great that he was able to teach at Ahimsa for practice because not a lot of yoga teachers will get that opportunity. And look at him today! He’s happily teaching in prime spots and also leading Sound Baths. My mom tells me he regularly talks about how much he loves going to the studio and teaching yoga. We may need a separate blog all about Chuck ;)
3. you have to be in great shape
When I was in my teaching training (there it goes again) I wasn’t the fittest yogi in the room. In fact, after day 2 or 3 I started setting up my mat in the back of the room because all of the girls in the front were freakin’ strong! They were lean, they were practicing in their sports bras, and they could do a bunch of cool stuff so I stayed in the back with my baggy tank tops and capris. I took child’s pose a lot. I thought I would maybe lose weight during the training. I didn’t. I was obsessed with starting a yoga studio at the time I spent nights after the training building a website. I got photos taken on the last day of the training after eating the meat filled pot stickers I brought to the potluck (that’s for later in the blog!). Here they are! They’re kind of fun to look at.
4. It’s expensive
JUST KIDDING. It is expensive. That’s not a misconception. I think it’s safe to say that most people doing a teacher training are in their early 20s… who has a great job and 3k to just SPEND in their early 20s? I certainly didn’t. I know that that’s one of the main barriers to a teacher training.
The only way that I could pay for mine was with college graduation money (I’d just graduated a month prior) and a killer 2010 US Census job I had my senior year in college that paid $18/hour (next census apply for a job if you have time – I loved it so much). I can’t offer any financial advice on paying for a teacher training other than do your research, find a training with an easy commute and early bird rate, considering babysitting, lyft, uber, or other means to supplement your income and start saving. Consider cutting back on drugs (just kidding) and your shoe habit.
5. you have to be a tree hugging, hairy armpit, vegan
No offense to tree hugging, hairy armpit, vegan yogis! You are still awesome! What I’m saying is that you don’t have to BE one to join a teacher training. In fact, can you guess what’s coming? When I was in my teaching training… I was not a tree hugging, hair armpit vegan. In fact, I was just a regular meat eater (I’m now not, but that doesn’t really matter). What I’m trying to say is that I was just a “regular person.”
In fact, I’ll never forget how I brought pork pot stickers to the teacher training potluck. One of the teachers asked me if they were vegetarian and I opened my eyes wide – I hadn’t even thought of it. No, they were not vegetarian. They had to be placed in a special area so vegetarians would not eat them. To my surprise, they were all gone by the end of the potluck. The meat eaters were pretty happy with my contribution.
Since my first teacher training, I’ve really surprised myself! I’ve finished my 300hr certification and a 50hr Kirtan training where I sang, played the harmonium, drums, and cartels (symbols) in front of a bunch of strangers. I don’t eat meat (except fish) because I don’t support the killing of animals, and I’ve stopped going to the doctor entirely because I’m able to heal myself with crystals (that’s a joke).
My point is that you do not have to be anyone or anything other than yourself to do a teacher training. Please comment below if you have any questions or comments.
About The Author: Kelly Merydith
Kelly Merydith began practicing yoga regularly in 2008 when she had an internship at a financial company in downtown Chicago. During lunch and after work, she took classes with Vinnie Hunihan at Akal Yoga Studio in the Chicago Board of Trade Building. She discovered that yoga was a way to reduce stress and find mental clarity. While earning her degree in Finance and Marketing at Northeastern University, she realized she wanted to open a yoga studio in her hometown of Oak Park. In the summer of 2010, Kelly completed the 200-hour Teacher Training with YogaWorks in Santa Monica, CA with Kia Miller and Sonya Cottle. In 2012 she completed Moksha's 500-hr training program. Through yoga Kelly discovered her true passion - sharing the joys of yoga with others and creating a conscious, kind yoga community. She is the owner of Ahimsa's Oak Park location and co-owner of Ahimsa Berwyn, Elmhurst, and La Grange.