Are Yoga Teacher Trainings Worth It: Buyer beware (and do the math)

CorePower Teacher Training Pyramid Scheme

UPDATE MAY 2019:  I wrote this post several years ago as I was noticing an influx of newly minted teachers from “big yoga” flooding the market.  I had heard stories of teachers at CorePower encouraging young, (mostly) women to become yoga teachers who had little to no experience and had only done yoga in one studio in one style. 

Then came the damning New York Times Article about CorePower–it even featured a Minnesota location! We now know the extent of greed and graft was even worse than expected. COREPOWER ARTICLE HERE.  

If you’re thinking about becoming a yoga teacher and wondering, “Is yoga teacher training really worth it?” I encourage you to read this updated post…

About once a week, I get an inquiry from someone looking for a yoga teacher training program or, a recent grad looking for a job or mentoring opportunities. It’s easy to see why people want to teach yoga and do what they love.  However, from where I stand, there seem to be some troubling  (maybe slightly sinister)  market forces at work out there concocting a glut of young, under-prepared, overly in-debt teachers.

For the record:  I don’t have a downward-facing dog in this fight.  I don’t do teacher trainings and don’t aspire to in the near future.  I have been teaching yoga for 20 years, barely long enough to teach teachers.  The people I trained with at Kripalu had decades (not combined, but individually) of intensive teaching experience, often in residence, in ashrams.  To be clear, the notion that you can somehow teach an all-encompassing practice like yoga shy of middle age is a Western one.  

Registry Marks Usage Guide | Yoga Alliance

Back when I trained in 2001, there were a limited number of established schools with lineage back to India in the Yoga Alliance.  They were supposed to “protect” the legitimacy of the certification by carefully vetting of training programs. Somewhere along the way, a growth and greed took over and qualifications like residential training went away.  With that, so did my annual dues, as I couldn’t figure out what they were providing for me as an established teacher. Those RYS and RYT badges, in my view, have lost their meaning. 

MARKET FORCES AT WORK

I see three reasons for the boom in Yoga Teacher Training Programs: 

1) They’re lucrative and provide the lion’s share of revenue for bricks-and-mortar yoga studios to pay The Rent.  Starting at $2500 min. for a 200-hour basic program, you multiply that by 15-20 students participating and you can make a good chunk of change.  Moreover, you can wedge in the teacher trainings at off-hours on weekends when the studio isn’t being optimized,

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“I wasn’t sure I wanted to teach, I just wanted to ‘deepen my own practice'” 

I can’t tell you how many “certified” teachers I meet who don’t teach! They were sold on “deepening their practice.” Sounds like a great way to sell a program to a person lacking in confidence who probably won’t teach. Studying teaching is NOT the way to deepen a practice. 

2) They create a perpetual pool of low-cost employees for the studio. Each session graduates newly-minted teachers eager to work for peanuts to gain experience.  Of course, the studio can’t possibly hire all of their graduates now, can they?   Those who don’t get jobs will have to hit the pavement and look for jobs at other studios, but of course, those other studios have their own graduates to hire. Smaller indie studios with a discriminating clientele want teachers with loads of experience who’ve mentored under big names and their own teachers. 

If you can wait it out, there’s a pretty good chance a spot will open up at a corporate yoga studio. Why? Because teaching yoga for $25 / class (and a free membership) is only gratifying for so long, especially when you’re trying to recoup an investment.  

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Think about it, at the typical studio pay rate, you have to teach 80- 100 classes just to break even!!!  If they hire you for 2 classes a week, that’s almost a year of your life teaching for FREE! Besides, you have student loans to pay….which leads to my Grand Finale Point:

3) Student Loans, including PELL Grants can be used for Yoga Teacher Training.  Ah ha!  Now we see the real reason for the boom in yoga teacher training programs targeted to young people “who just want to deepen their practice” and lack the confidence to teach.  

It used to be you could go live in residence at an ashram or a yoga center with a full campus , room and board included for what these strip mall studios are charging for their teacher trainings. Moreover, the demand is such that they can pluck their “lead trainers” from their own in-house schools after they’ve only been teaching themselves for a few years and no one questions it. 

So, instead of “going to the mountain,” and training in an immersion environment with a cast of experienced teachers from a reputable school of lineage  as well as teaching assistants, chefs, anatomy professors, etc., you go down the street and train w/ people w/ names like “Nina B.” or ‘Tommy Y.”  who themselves have only taught yoga for maybe a few years.  Oh, and you don’t actually immerse yourself and live like a yogi  because you can’t really afford to quit your day job given the exorbitant cost of the program!  Kids ~ this is NOT a good deal!

So what is a sincere, aspiring yoga teacher to do?  Stop. Breathe. Discern.  I don’t want to say that you must put your life on-hold and take an immersion program, but it is the gold standard.  That said, what I do feel strongly about is this: don’t pay Ivy League Prices for a Community College program because you couldn’t spot the difference.  

If you have to study piecemeal or even online, then just don’t pay what you’d pay to go live somewhere; and, keep your expectations in line.  If you need to teach yoga to pay your bills, then choose carefully and consider going with a national/international reputation if you ever plan on moving. 

I’ve included some links to some reputable programs which have withstood the test of time and are NON-profits and offer scholoarships. In the meantime, keep up your own practice, study w/ as many teachers of as many styles as you can to narrow it down, save your money, and please, don’t go into debt and end up paying even more (with interest) for a sub-standard “canned” program. 

So, is yoga teacher training worth it? Only you can answer it for you, but I hope you feel better informed.  If I can leave you with one thing, please consider this: figure out where you want to teach and how much you need to make BEFORE you sign up! 

 

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, MA  — Scholarships available!

White Lotus, Santa Barbara, CA  –Scholarships available! 

 

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