An instructor’s education shouldn’t end after they receive their training certification. Whether it’s learning a new branch of yoga, becoming a yoga therapist or just freshening up basic skills, it is important for yoga instructors to be lifelong learners.
“We were not born into this world knowing everything there is to know about life, society, work and beyond,” said Kimberly Ghorai, the owner of Meta Yoga Studios in Breckenridge, Colorado. “Why would yoga be any different?”
She is always looking for opportunities to increase her skills, which for her means identifying where she needs growth. “When an area of both interest and need is clear for me, I’ll look at what is available in my time and budget,” said Ghorai. “That sometimes means flying to a different country when I want to absorb everything, and sometimes it means doing an online training.”
Not all of her instructors have the time or finances to travel, so Ghorai makes trainings accessible within her studio, whether it’s allowing teachers to join online trainings she takes or launching a 300-hour yoga teacher training (YTT) program with electives. “It would be wonderful for all our teachers to partake in the full training, but if that isn’t an option or interest for them, they are welcome to take the electives a la carte,” explained Ghorai.
Katherine White, the director of YogaBalance in Manchester, New Hampshire, also recommends yoga instructors partake in 300-hour training for a more advanced, well-rounded education.
She also has different approaches for keeping her instructors learning. Her staff receives a 25% discount on all YogaBalance workshops. Regular teachers also receive a free membership to the studio, and are encouraged to learn and get creative ideas from one another.
Additionally, White believes it would be beneficial for yoga instructors to take anatomy, kinesiology or physiology trainings to be better educated about the human body.
“It is always easier to learn when you are interested in the subject matter, so I would let that guide you toward a starting point and then take it from there,” explained White.
If yin yoga is what you’re interested in, Ghorai suggested learning from Bernie Clark, a yoga teacher and educator based out of Vancouver, Canada. If you’re looking for a flexible and unique teacher training, she recommends attending a training at her studio. “The training has a variety pack of electives offered on a regular basis,” said Gholari. “Whether you choose to collect a handful to complete your 300-hour YTT, or just take one, is totally up to you.”
Regardless of what type of yoga you teach, there is always more to learn. “The more I learn about yoga, the more I realize it is truly a lifelong study. That is exciting to me because I love to learn,” said White.
She personally keeps learning by attending workshops, reading books on yoga philosophy, and every year she takes a group of students on a retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
If a yoga instructor is unsure about where to start or who to learn from, Ghorai recommends attending a yoga festival. “You will have the opportunity to experience many different styles of yoga and teachers,” she said. “When you gravitate to an individual, find out where they are hosting trainings and make a plan.” If that individual doesn’t host trainings, find out who their teachers were and attend those trainings.
Ghorai explained you rarely find a person who is “a walking encyclopedia of yoga.” So when you do, you need to absorb as much of the information as you can. “But even then, you will forget bits and pieces and sometimes chunks. Find new teachers,” she said. “Absorb new perspectives. It can only make you a better teacher to perfect your craft.”
Both Ghorai and White had tips for other instructors on how to deepen their yoga practice:
“It really depends on how you are hoping to deepen your practice,” said Ghorai. “Does deeper mean to you a rock-solid handstand and a repertoire of body manipulations? Does it mean finally feeling steady in your daily meditation practice? Or does it mean incorporating the Yoga Sutras into everything you do in life? So many options; only one person can decide what is working for their ‘deepening.’ For myself, it’s finding a daily meditation practice and bringing the yamas and niyamas into everyday interactions to the best of my ability.”
“Be open to anything and make it fun,” said White. “For example, attend a summer yoga festival to meet new teachers and try out different styles of classes. Go to the local YMCA and take a chair yoga class to get exposure in working with different demographics. Try out a yoga and paddle boarding class or a black light yoga class to see how the industry is shifting and experience the latest trends. Swap your annual vacation for a yoga retreat somewhere tropical. Go to your local community college and take a night class on marketing. Honor your lineage but try other things, too. Remember, there are lots of different formats now. You can do online trainings and trainings in modules, which makes things easier if you have a full schedule.”
Continuing your yoga education allows you to gain new skills, master the ones you already have and gain more confidence in your practice along the way. Learning from other yogis allows you to get creative and motivated to bring what you learned back to your studio. Not only does continuing to learn yoga after you’ve been certified help you and your skills, it helps your students trust and respect your expertise.
“Being exposed to new ideas and techniques helps us remain humble, be inspired, be creative and opens us up to new possibilities,” explained White. “The fact is the more we deepen our own practice, then the better we become as teachers.”