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The Proliferation of Yoga Teacher Trainings

The Proliferation of Yoga Teacher Trainings

The popularity of yoga has exploded over the past decade. With that growth in the popularity of the practice, has come growth in the number of people wanting to become yoga teachers, and growth in the number of yoga teacher training (YTT) programs that exist. In a recent article on NYMag.com, we learn that “According to Yoga Alliance spokesperson Andrew Tanner, there were 818 registered yoga schools in the U.S. in 2008. By 2012, the number grew to 2,500, and today there are 3,900.”(Goldberg, 2015) YTT programs promise to help “you to teach intelligently sequenced, safe, and well-rounded classes to a variety of students,”(200 Hour Teacher Training, n.d.) and “become the truest, strongest version of yourself. Achieve your goals and inspire others to reach theirs.”(CorePower Yoga, n.d.)

With the proliferation of YTT programs and the number of certified yoga instructors, the question that begs to be asked is why are there so many yoga teacher training programs? Could it be a simple question of supply and demand? Or is it a necessity for yoga studios to have teacher training programs in order to make a profit?

As I’ve noticed the number of programs where I live in Columbus, Ohio increase just in the few years since I graduated from my 200 hour teacher training, as well as the amount of people in some of the programs, a number of questions come to mind concerning the effects of the proliferation of such programs, as well as the intentions of those running the programs.

What it Means to Do Yoga

To most people yoga is a physical exercise that balances strength training and stretching. To those who have studied yoga more deeply, it is much more. The physical practice is one aspect of a range of practices meant to clarify the awareness of the practitioner. Clarified awareness empowers the individual to see things as they are; to realize cause and effect completely, and on a deep level. This enhanced perception enables us to live more effectively, allowing us to maximize positive effects of our actions and minimize negative effects of our actions.

The State of Yoga Teacher Training

Most YTT programs work on a nine to ten month schedule. Typically, one weekend each month the teachers and students meet for an intensive program covering the topics for that month. The remainder of the month each student has multiple readings and assignments to complete under the guidance of a mentor. There are variations where students meet once a week and work on assignments in between meetings, but the formula is the same; meet a little while, study a little longer.

When I searched for YTT programs there were a handful around town. The two main programs were at the two major studios, with three or four other programs around town. That was in 2012, and since then there have been many new programs introduced to the area, as well as a larger catalogue of trainings available through the largest studio in town, Yoga On High (YoHi).

To my knowledge, the average class size in most YTT programs in town is anywhere from 12-20 people, with the exception of YoHi’s YTT program; the current class has over 50 people in it. They offer two programs a year. That’s over one hundred new yoga teachers at the RYT 200 level each year. That’s just from one studio, and that’s just in central Ohio. There are at least six other YTT programs in the area, and if we go with an average of 15 teachers graduating each year from those programs, we have another 90 new teachers each year. Again, just in one major metropolitan area. (RYT stands for Registered Yoga Teacher for those not in the know.)

CorePower Yoga, a national studio chain, opened two yoga studios in the area within the last year, and has already begun a 200 hour teacher training, and another locally owned studio just launched their own 200 hour program as well, for $3500.

The Intention of Yoga Teacher Training

The intentions behind YTT programs are many. I’m sure the demand of the community is one factor; if there were no participants there would be no trainings. Another, and probably the main intention, is to share the improved physical and mental health found through practicing yoga. Another intention in offering YTT programs is one you’ll most likely never hear uttered by a teacher who runs them, and that is the money they generate.

There is so much competition in offering yoga classes that the price of a yoga class hasn’t really increased over time. Deals are regularly offered as studios battle for enough students to cover their costs. When a studio can get 3 times as much money, or more, from someone through teacher training as they can through the sale of class passes, why would they pass that up?

The Intention of Becoming a Teacher

Almost every person I’ve met who is a yoga teacher, or wants to be, has the desire to teach because of what they’ve received through practicing yoga. Once a person has found the yoga practice that’s right for them, they can’t help but be positively impacted. The exuberant feeling people get from the practice causes them to want to share the practice with others, thus leading them to pursue becoming a teacher themselves. Most don’t consider the cost, at least the cost in conjunction with future earning potential.

The Cost of Yoga Teacher Training

With cost in mind, let’s return to numbers, shall we. The lowest price yoga teacher training in central Ohio is $2999. Not all programs list their cost, so it may be that there are some programs which cost less, but most that do list their price are higher than that $3k so it’s not likely that there are many programs that are less. The average monthly unlimited class pass is between $90-100, which comes out to $1080-1200 per year. Comparing these two numbers, we can easily see the draw of offering a yoga teacher training.

Add to that the fact that many studios hire new teachers from their own pool of graduates, as well as have these teachers in training lead classes at times, and the benefits to the studio continue to stack up.

The Effects of the Proliferation of Teacher Training Programs

What are the effects of so many new yoga teachers each year? One effect that is obvious is that the competition for teaching classes in the area skyrockets. When those who are trying to make a living primarily from teaching yoga classes are already scrambling from one side of town to the other in order to make enough to cover their bills, increasing the number of certified teachers just makes things much more difficult.

Those who adamantly support more and more YTTs may be excited about this practice becoming a big part of so many people’s lives. While that is truly something to be excited about, I wonder if we should keep calling these immersive learning experiences teacher trainings at a certain point. If everyone’s a teacher, who will be the students?

Questions That (I Think) Should Be Asked

Some questions that, I think, should be carefully considered by those offering yoga teacher trainings, and the yoga community at large, are:

Why are we offering these programs? Is it really to create more yoga teachers, and is there truly a need for more teachers in our area?

Are we promising these students that they will be teachers? Is that realistic?

What is our intention in offering this? Are we elevating people who truly have the potential to be good teachers? Or are we doing it simply because that’s our business model?

Are we educating people to teach just the postures, or are we taking people on a journey inward to a level of self-realization which will allow them to facilitate that journey for others?

Conclusion

With all that, I want to put a little disclaimer in here. Typically, when a person speaks, or writes, about a certain topic in a way that points out some possible negative aspects of that topic, the conclusion is that they stand in opposition. In this instance, many will take me as being against yoga teacher training, or even against studios like YoHi, who have large programs. YoHi has done incredible things for yoga in the community of Columbus Ohio, just as yoga in general has done great things for the people it has touched all over the world. Like most topics, this isn’t about an either/or proposition, and this writing is an offering with the intention to bring awareness to something that should be discussed in depth.

There are a lot of programs out there with a label promising something that may or may not be deliverable at this point. There is a lot of money changing hands, and I wonder if there is much thought about whether these programs are really training teachers, or simply immersive yoga education programs, much less how the introduction of more and more teachers effects the opportunities for existing teachers.

Sources

Goldberg, M. (2015). The Brutal Economics of Being a Yoga Teacher. New York Magazine. Retrieved from
http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/10/brutal-economics-of-being-a-yoga-teacher.html

200 Hour Teacher Training. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://yogaandayurvedainstitute.com/school-yoga-teacher-training/200-hour-teacher-training

CorePower Yoga. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.corepoweryoga.com/teacher-training

Further suggested reading:
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/yoga-teachers-overstretched-and-underpaid

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