Question the Questions – Choosing a Yoga Program

IMG_6123(View from the studio windows, January 2018)

“There was neither non-existence nor existence then…There was neither death nor immortality then. There was no distinguishing sign of night nor of day. Who really knows?…The gods came afterwards with the creation of the universe. Who then knows whence it has arisen? Whence this creation has arisen–perhaps it formed itself–or perhaps it did not–the one who looks down on it, in the highest heaven, only he knows–or perhaps he does not know.”

-Rig-Veda

When I decided to pursue a 200 hour certification, I did a google search and called the first local program that popped up in the results. I like to think that the Universe led me to my teacher, but you could also say I just flat out got lucky. Now, I spend a lot of time asking questions about yoga teacher training programs–what conditions create supportive learning environments?; how does our content align with our mission and philosophy?; how can we learn from what other programs are doing? These questions help to guide us through some of the practicalities of teaching and administration, but for the rest, we lean into practice, into self-inquiry. We rely on the questioning, and the mystery of practice itself.

Today, there are many more options for yoga teacher training here in Central Kentucky. So rather than relying just on the Universe (or google), here are some questions you might ask as a beginning.

– Time Commitment – Does the program fit my scheduling needs? How much out of class time is required/expected? Is there homework? Are there tests? How much of the stated hours (200, 300, etc) does the program offer in the classroom with a lead trainer, and how much is spent outside or in personal/unstructured study? Is the schedule structured in such a way that I will leave the sessions feeling depleted? Or rejuvenated?

– Cost and Value – Does the program cost fit my budget? Are there additional costs for props, books, etc? Do they offer an installment option, and if so, is it interest free? Value is going to be hard to determine, but one thing to check is whether the program is an “RYS” (Registered Yoga School) with Yoga Alliance. Take a look at RYS-200 guidelines and requirements, here. However, keep in mind that the RYS standard is not monitored or regulated in any way. So once a program is registered, they can teach whatever and however they want.

– Goals – What are my goals in taking a yoga program? To become a teacher? To deepen my personal practice and my relationship with myself? Is there a particular style of yoga I want to teach, or a target population I’d like to reach? How do the stated goals or mission of the program align with my goals? How will the program support me in attaining my goals?                                                                                                                               

– Special Considerations – Do I have special considerations as a student, such as injury or illness? Does the faculty have the skills and experience to support me in my learning journey?

– Location and Campus – Is the location convenient to me? (And if not convenient, then is the value of the program worth the journey?) What is the campus like as a learning environment? Is the campus a supportive environment for self-inquiry and self-care? A lot of healing and transformation can take place in the course of these programs. I believe beauty and nature are an important part of those processes.

– Overall Program Style and Philosophy – Is this program teaching a particular style or doctrine? Or do they draw from the breadth and depth of yogic traditions (or other movement/philosophy traditions, for that matter)? There is absolutely nothing wrong with offering just one approach, but be clear about what you want, and about what you’re getting from a program.

– Lead Trainer – What is the background of the lead trainer(s) for the program? What is their experience? What is their teaching style? Do they continue to study? Who are their teachers? This is probably the most important question, in my opinion. Take classes from, or at the very least meet with the lead trainer for any programs under consideration.

These questions are important, but they’re not everything. As an administrator, I also spend a lot of time talking to people who are experts in fields about which I am far from expert (accountants, IT professionals, and physicians, just to name a few), and I always ask them this: What question or questions have I left out? What should I be asking you that I haven’t already? These questions help to connect me to beginners-mind, but they also represent that stepping back into the mystery of faith. They allow me to loosen my grip on the moment enough to question the questions, to lean back into the supportive open arms of the Universe and allow the moment to unfold.

In The Inner Tradition of Yoga (2008), Michael Stone writes: “How flexible…to allow the central axiom of your metaphysical system and worldview to be nothing other than the questioning of your basic questions. This is not pluralism but rather a very deep insight into the psychology of belief, the basis of our faith. Since what we believe determines the kind of world we perceive and the kinds of actions we take, if we multiply our belief systems by zero…we arrive in an open field of perception.” So ask questions. And then question the questions themselves. Lean back. Let go.

– Cara Sparkman

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