Types of Yoga Teacher Training Courses

By YogaLondon Staff on 19 April 2010 | Video: How do you know you're ready to teach yoga?

When you first delve in to the yoga training courses available you may have an overwhelming surprise. Foundation courses, 200 hour courses, 500 hour courses, pregnancy yoga teacher training, further training, CPD courses, IST courses, yoga degrees... This list goes on and on. So how do you navigate this endless sea of training courses?

It's good to be clear about what they all are and which course to take if you want to teach. The main confusion comes from the two main associations - British Wheel of Yoga and Yoga Alliance. These two associations have different names for their courses and set their standards in different ways and so the route for training differs in each one.

Training as a Yoga Alliance Teacher

Courses on the Yoga Alliance route include:

-200 hour training courses

-500 hour training courses

-CPD courses

With the Yoga Alliance route you can get stuck into your main teacher training straight away. These 200 hour courses are the basic teacher trainings that allow you to get out there and teach. It's this course that will make you eligible for teachers insurance and will allow you to teach in gyms/studios etc. If you don't want to teach but simply want to develop your own practice they can be used to gain in depth knowledge in the subject.

The 500 hour teacher training is the next level training program. It may either be a stand alone 500 hour course, or an additional 300 hours of training. These courses offer a more in depth knowledge and more experience in actually teaching.

Training as a BWY teacher

The courses on the BWY route include:

-Foundation Course 1

-Foundation Course 2

-Teacher Training Diploma Course


-In Service Training (IST)

To begin your training as a BWY teacher most people choose to take their Foundation Course 1. This shorter course (60 hours) is a great way to dip your toe in the water and see if yoga teacher training is a good idea for you. As the name suggests this course will lay the foundation of knowledge you need in order to embark upon the full teacher training diploma.

If you decide you don't want to follow the whole teacher training route, but would still like to learn a little more, there is a Foundation Course 2, which builds on the first course with an additional 60 hours of study. This does not make you a yoga teacher, but develops you personal practice and knowledge.

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If after you've completed your Foundation Course 1 you wish to continue the full training you can choose to begin the Teacher Training Diploma Course. This course covers 500 hours of training over a period of two to four years. To be accepted onto the diploma course you need to show at least 2 years experience practicing yoga. At the end of this course you will be ready to start teaching yoga.

Once you have completed your teacher training diploma you will need to actively continue to study through In Service Training (IST) days. These help you develop your basic teaching skills gained in the initial diploma, and keep your skills up to date.

The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) also offers Modules, which are either for personal development (open only to BWY members) or to specialise in particular fields (open to qualified teachers from any background). These could be specialist courses such as Pregnancy Yoga Training, Childrens' Yoga Training, Post-natal Yoga Training, Ayurveda, Meditation, Pranayama and Yoga for Cancer Sufferers. These build on your basic teaching skills and allow you to offer specialist classes to your students.

Continuing Professional Development

If you decide to become registered with the Yoga Alliance UK you must complete a minimum of one Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course each year. This is not necessary if you are doing a 500 hour course, or if you are a senior yoga teacher. These can be simple workshops to develop your use of adjustments, or longer courses that allow you to teach specialist classes (e.g. Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training).

Other Yoga Training

There are other trainings out there which - while not intended to actually make you a teacher - can add great depth to your training.

Some yoga teachers who have many years experience teaching offer short format teacher trainings. While these are not designed to train you as a teacher in their own right, they act as in-depth further training for existing teachers. Participating in courses such as David Swenson's ‘40 hour Teacher Training’ and Seane Corn's ‘Teacher and Advanced Students Intensives’ not only develop your skills but may also shed new light on subjects you thought you already knew. Indeed it's not unusual for yoga teachers to take multiple teacher trainings in order to hone their skills.

A new Yoga Degree is also on the way, being offered by the University of Bedfordshire. For those who get excited by a more academic route this is an exciting development in the yoga scene.

Train for life

So the list of trainings never ends... And that's really the whole point. The more you learn in the subject of yoga the more you realise there is to learn. Teacher training courses can be viewed as your very first steps into the world of yoga. In the end it will be both your trainings and your experience actually teaching that will make you a good yoga teacher.