If you’re seeking a more in-depth exploration of yoga, you’ve probably thought about a yoga retreat, or even a yoga teacher training. Whichever path you choose on your yoga journey, your life will change for the better with deeper study and daily practice. 

Is a yoga teacher training program the right choice for you? We explore what teacher training offers, and how it differs from educational retreats.

Studying vs studying to teach 

If you’re mulling over a long term retreat or a yoga teacher training, it’s highly likely that you’re already involved with yoga, and you’ve fallen in love. With any luck you’ll be a student of yoga for the rest of your life, whether or not you choose to follow the path of teaching.

Some yogis choose to lead by example, their contented life serves as a shining light that others are inspired to follow. Others choose to lead by formally teaching, taking on the role of an instructor at the front of a class. 

Complete an honest assessment of what it is that you love about yoga, and what is inspiring you to learn more.

Whether you seek greater knowledge out of curiosity or a vocational calling, you’ll need to find a teacher to receive continued instruction along the yogic path. Yoga teacher training is often suggested as a means of deepening yogic studies, even for those who might not want to teach, yet it’s possible to find this same depth of knowledge on the right retreat. 

About yoga teacher training

The hours

Most often, a foundational yoga teacher training program will be presented as a 200 hour teacher training. According to the newly adopted standards of Yoga Alliance, the world’s most widely recognized certification body in yoga, 200 hours of teacher training includes at minimum 160 classroom hours and 40 online hours. 

Hopeful teachers must demonstrate knowledge, skills, and experience in at least four core competencies. These may include any combination of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, yoga history, philosophy or ethics.  

Because 160 hours in person with your instructor simply cannot happen in one week, yoga teacher training programs often take place over the course of several weeks, or as modules that might take place on long weekends throughout the course of a year. 

Additional course options for teachers include 50 or 100 hour programs, many of which are continuing education classes for those who already have the foundation of a 200 hour certificate. With a 200 hour certificate in hand, the next step for experienced yoga teachers is to seek out 500 hour status with an additional 300 hours of training.

The certifications

Yoga Alliance, while widely recognized, is not the only non-profit organization to certify your training. Other governing bodies include the British Wheel of Yoga, the Independent Yoga Network, and Yoga Australia, just to name a few. 

But do you really need that certification? You don’t need it at all if you never plan to teach, and even then, you still may not need it. Some studios require a particular certification or completion of their own in-house training, while some have no requirements at all. 

Regardless of what certification is offered, a yoga teacher training school that has complied with the oversight of a governing body has most likely done their homework and put together a comprehensive and well-rounded yoga teacher training experience. Just what that experience is, can vary widely.

The curriculum

Practically speaking, if you aim to teach, you might consider a program that offers ample practice teaching time, in small groups or one on one. You might be interested in learning about how to cue alignment and offer hands-on assists. Some teacher training programs offer advice on leadership and public speaking, or job seeking, social media and self-promotion. If teaching is of no interest to you, this type of core curriculum may not be how you’d like to spend your time.

Yoga teacher training programs are as varied as those who lead them, and no two core curriculums are alike.

If you want to learn more about yoga, but receiving a teaching certificate isn’t necessary, you have options. Choosing a module-based 200-hour teacher training course can allow you to sign up for the modules you are interested in, and leave the rest behind. 

50 or 100 hour training programs will offer in-depth explorations of your favorite topics on a long weekend or one week retreat. If you don’t yet have teaching credentials, you simply won’t receive the continuing education credits. 

There are rarely pre-requisites to continuing education courses, meaning anyone can register. Just keep your expectations in line. You may be the only non-teacher in the room and conversation can quickly steer from the material itself to how to best teach it. 

Alternatives to yoga teacher training

While of course there’s no requirement to complete your homework, pass your test, and receive a certificate in the mail, the best yoga teacher trainings are geared towards those who want to teach, as they should be. If its in-depth yogic studies you’re looking for, there are alternatives for those who aren’t ready to think about teaching. 

Not all yoga retreats are vacations with casual yoga. Many offer advanced topics of study, time with world-renowned teachers, and silence or space to turn further inward toward your own practice. 

Yogic ethics, asana and alignment, yoga philosophy, meditation, personal exploration, and every step along the path is available to you on retreat. Read through the retreat descriptions, contact the instructors to ask about the schedule and curriculum, and keyword search your favorite parts of the practice, for example, “yoga philosophy retreat.”

Remember that the decision you make today, to teach or not to teach, is not a decision you’re beholden to for the rest of your life. 

Yoga unfolds for us exactly as it should, when it should. Your deepest desire today could be to learn more about yoga in a relaxed environment at a one week or one month educational retreat. If you change your mind down the road, you’ll only be better prepared to begin along the path of teacher training. 

Close your eyes, look inside, and follow your bliss. Whether you choose the path of a student or a teacher, book the retreat or yoga teacher training that you’ve fallen in love with and you can’t go wrong.