Short intensive teacher trainings are very appealing. If you are able to free up three or four weeks you can qualify as a yoga teacher and start teaching immediately. Why wait for up to a year or so when it can all get done in a few weeks? But it is not quite as straightforward as this…
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.
A good question to start with is ‘do I want a serious, challenging training course or an easy, fun one maybe somewhere nice and sunny?’
If the latter is your answer then it’s easy: there are plenty of courses, many in India, which will give you a qualification regardless of your performance. They will not fail you unless you leave early, and their main aim is to provide you with an enjoyable positive experience. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, and if that is all you expect then why not?
However, if you really want to teach you may find you lack the confidence and experience to stand in front of a class. Many students taking such courses end up doing a second training to fill in the areas lacking in the first. And the reality is that many graduates of these training courses never teach at all.
If you are looking for a more serious intensive course, how do you decide if it’s the right one? Intensives are called intensives for a good reason: they are intense. The best are like immersion courses. There is no partying at the end of the day, no fun trips to nice places, and a minimum of distractions like smart phones or laptops. It is yoga yoga yoga all the way. And typically 10 hours a day divided between practice, teaching practice and theory. There is no doubt that Intensives, with the right trainer, can be transformative, but with one very important proviso-you must be prepared to take the challenge and have the self discipline to stick with it. You should have a strong daily self-practice and have reached a high level of competency in asana. Intensives should not and cannot focus on improving your own practice, but should focus on refining and transforming your practice into your teaching.
Questions to ask before taking an Intensive
- What level of experience is expected for students joining the course? If the level is low, or beginners are accepted, this is not the right course!
- Can you get to know the trainer, and do they want to see your practice or at least interview you? It is in both of your interests to establish if this is the right course.
- How many hours a day will you be training? Some courses claim 180 contact hours while in reality they fall short of this. Ask to see a detailed daily schedule.
- Are you expected to observe and where possible assist in classes after your course? A good training will only qualify you after you have observed as many classes as possible.
- Are students held back from qualifying until they have reached proficiency in weak areas? Training courses should be prepared to defer your qualification until you can demonstrate you have reached their requirements, and should have the means in place for you to achieve this. One of the drawbacks of Intensive Trainings is that once you finish-especially if you have travelled abroad-you have no further connection to the trainer.
- Is there homework during the course and more to complete after graduation? The amount of homework will almost certainly not be equal to a non-intensive training, but a good training will supply you with a reading list before the course starts, and online tutorials after it finishes.
Non-Intensives often last up to a year, requiring attendance on weekends and sometimes one-week mini-intensives at the beginning or end of the course. You obviously have to be able to commit to the full length of the course, and if you are not local you have to factor in both travel and accommodation expenses. This can add a significant amount to the cost of the course.
One of the perceived advantages is that you have time between sessions to practice what you learnt in the previous class. You may be encouraged to start teaching very early on, perhaps to friends or relatives, and this soon builds your confidence. Issues that arise can then be dealt with in the next session.
The same applies to asana. Training courses may not demand a high proficiency in asana as you will be expected to bring your asana up to speed between sessions. However, bear in mind that as for intensives, you need to make sure how challenging you want the course to be, and not be held back because the trainer has to spend so much time improving student’s practice instead of training you how to teach.
Generally Non-Intensives will have a larger amount of homework compared to Intensives, and some courses may defer your qualification if your homework is not up to their standard.
Questions to ask before taking a Non-Intensive
Many of the questions as outlined above for Intensives also apply to Non-Intensives. In addition:
- Does the trainer provide opportunities for observing and eventually assisting in taught classes?
- How much homework will there be?
- What happens if you have to miss a session? Can you make it up and will it cost extra?
- Does the trainer provide mentoring during the course and possibly after the course?
If you feel that you have reached a good level of asana practice and have the self discipline to maintain a strong daily practice, Intensives may be for you. If on the other hand you prefer a slower and steady pace where there is time to practice and improve, you may want to consider taking a Non-Intensive. Ultimately it is up to you and what you want to get out of your training, but always make sure to ask questions and be well informed before making any decisions.