Yoga Teacher Training: the frequently asked questions

UPDATED 26/04/2021

Hello fellow yogis, fancy seeing you here!

Having been running one of the top vocational YTT schools in Europe for over a decade, we've got quite a lot of experience with the doubts and concerns that prospective students have before embarking on a Yoga Teacher Training journey.

To help you make an informed decision about your training, we've compiled the questions that come up the most frequently, below. And if you still have more, please get in touch!

How do you become a yoga instructor? Yoga instructors or yoga teachers (as they’re more commonly known in the UK) usually need to have three things in place before applying for jobs as a yoga teacher. These are: training, accreditation and insurance.

Entry-level yoga teacher training in both the UK and the US usually consists of a 200-hour training course, which can be done over whatever amount of time works for you. For some, becoming a yoga teacher is a process which can be condensed into an intense month-long training process.

For others, becoming a yoga instructor is a longer journey, over a training period of one to two years. YogaLondon courses work around your commitments by offering four different course options of one month, four months, six months and a year.

To be an accredited yoga teacher you need to attend an accredited yoga teacher training school (such as YogaLondon) who are certified by a governing body such as Yoga Alliance, Yoga Alliance UK or the British Wheel of Yoga.

Yoga teacher insurance is a requirement for almost all yoga teaching jobs and means that you and your students are covered should an accident occur. Full teaching insurance can be obtained once you have completed your training.

The annual income of a yoga instructor/teacher in a year varies due to a whole set of different variables. According to Glassdoor.com the average base salary for a London-based yoga teacher is £56,398 - to be precise.

The amount a yoga instructor can make in a year depends on how many classes they teach, whether they run workshops and retreats and whether they teach in gyms and studios or are self-employed. There is also an option to become a yoga teacher trainer once you have built up enough experience as a teacher.

Since the pandemic has hit (in the UK) in March 2020, yoga teachers have had to branch out into online revenue streams. But yoga teachers are nothing if not flexible, and many have found that teaching on Instagram, Zoom, or by recording YouTube videos have found a whole new audience.

This FAQ links back to Q1, with one clear difference, the inclusion of the personal pronoun. How do ‘I’ become a yoga instructor is a really important question, which often comes from a place of self-doubt.

Although there are many yoga teachers in the world, there is only one of you, and you will connect to your students in a way that is different to every other yoga teacher. Here at YogaLondon we don't have a 'one size fits all' approach, but encourage each trainee to play to their strengths and individuality, to become the best yoga instructor they can be.

If you’re a yoga student considering whether or not to commit to becoming a yoga instructor, there are a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you decide on whether or not it will be worth it.

Firstly, are you prepared to invest time, energy and money in becoming a yoga instructor? Is yoga teaching something that you have time for with your current job and/or commitments? Are you passionate about yoga and committed to sharing your love of yoga with others?

Even if you’re not sure you want to teach, it can still be worth becoming a yoga instructor. Many YogaLondon graduates started the 200-hour course wanting to deepen their practice and knowledge, but weren’t sure if they wanted to teach. By the end of the course many of them found they’d changed their minds!

The fact that there are currently over 10,000 yoga teachers in the UK (according to finder.com) suggests that you can definitely make a living as a yoga teacher.

In order to make a living as a yoga instructor you need to earn around 40k – 50k, especially if you’re based in the capital.

Many yoga instructors have other ways to supplement their incomes, especially when they’re just starting out. One option can be to go part time with your current job so that you can build your yoga business gradually.

Another option is to have yoga teaching as one of a range of skill sets. Many yoga instructors combine yoga teaching with working at a yoga studio, or other holistic careers such as Ayurvedic practitioner, massage therapist, or life coach. Your only limits are the ones you set yourself.

A 200-hour yoga teacher training can vary in cost hugely. But there is some truth in the saying that 'you get what you pay for'.

A thorough 200-hour yoga teacher training course should consist of a wide-ranging syllabus that makes sure you are well-prepared for teaching out in the real world.

Here at YogaLondon our 200-hour yoga teacher training includes practical techniques, training and practice, teaching methodology, anatomy and physiology, yoga philosophy, lifestyle and ethics for yoga teachers and lots of teaching practice.

We are also committed to in-person teacher training as we feel there is no substitute for spending real time with your highly experienced course leaders and fellow trainees.

Yoga is more than a good career, it is a vocation. The pros of being a yoga teacher are that you get to do something you believe in, and share your passion. You get to transform other people’s lives for the better. It’s a flexible career that works for you, and can fit into every stage of life. And best of all, you're not stuck behind a desk in a soulless 9-5 corporate job.

Like any career, there are some cons. You need to be happy to become self-employed with the element of risk that involves. You’ll be working solo, which can be lonely (although your fellow teacher trainees can become lifelong friends). And teaching yoga requires a high level of energy and can ask a lot of you, both physically and emotionally.

Yoga instructors are extremely good in bed! Well, there is actually some truth to this urban myth. In order to be good in bed, you need to be in tune with your own body, and the body of your partner.

Yoga is all about fine-tuning your sensitivity so this will certainly help to increase the pleasure between the sheets as well as on the mat.

Yoga teachers are often more flexible as well, which leads to a more exciting love life. Being good in bed is one of the many brilliant by-products of being a yoga teacher - but perhaps don’t choose it as a career solely on this basis.

According to the National Careers Service yoga teachers work up to 32 - 34 hours per week. This would mean teaching over twenty yoga classes every week.

Here at YogaLondon we teach that 12 - 16 classes per week (between 12 and 24 hours per week) is usual for a full time yoga instructor.

Because many yoga instructors are self-employed how many hours a week they work will be entirely up to them. The beauty of a career as a yoga instructor is that you can work as many (or as few) hours as you need to.

You can do yoga teacher training as a beginner, but here at YogaLondon we strongly recommend that you have at least one year of consistent yoga practice under your belt before you apply to come on the yoga teacher training course.

Yoga teacher training is an intense process and if you don’t have a solid yoga practice in place as a foundation, you may find that the course actually puts you off becoming a yoga teacher.

If you’re a keen beginner, as an alternative to the 200-hour yoga teacher training, you could attend yoga workshops in order to expand your knowledge and challenge yourself.

You could also try YogaLondon’s weekend-long Foundations course, which will help you to deepen your practice, give you a taste of Yoga teacher training, and help you decide if you’re ready to commit to the yoga teacher training.

This is the million dollar question… ’Is it easy?’ Ask any YogaLondon graduate and the answer will invariably be ‘No’. But just because it isn’t easy to become a yoga instructor, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthwhile venture that will change your life for the positive.

Becoming a yoga instructor is like aiming for a yoga pose that you can’t yet do. You do the preparation poses, practice with persistence, try and fail and fail again, and then – one day – BINGO! you are able to do the pose you aimed to do. And then you realise that it was the trying and failing that was the real yoga.

Depending on your background, a year is usually cited as the minimum amount of time you should have been doing yoga before starting teacher training. However, many students practice yoga for a lot longer than that before deciding to commit to teacher training.

Recently, YogaLondon celebrated its oldest ever yoga teacher who graduated at the age of 70. She encouraged students of any age to do yoga teacher training, “Yes! I would recommend it to anyone – even if you don’t teach, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

It depends on what yoga teacher training course you do, but the answer is often ‘yes’. Just like any other professional and academic course, you need to show that you have completed all the sections of the course, and have a satisfactory level of competence before you are handed that hallowed ‘yoga teacher’ certificate.

However, most courses (including here at YogaLondon) don’t just brand you a FAIL. Life can be messy and complicated and students that don’t complete the course for any reason the first time round can be granted extra time – although you may have to pay for this.

To pass the yoga teacher training here at YogaLondon you will need to attend 100% of the course, complete all the written coursework, pass two theoretical exams and one practical teaching exam before an examiner.

The average time it takes to get yoga certified in the UK is three to five months. To get ‘yoga certified’ you need to complete and pass every aspect of your yoga teacher training course. Only once you have done this will you be certified to teach yoga.

How long it will take to get certified will depend on which 200-hour course you choose to fit in with your current commitments and budget.

The shortest time it takes to get yoga certified in the UK is one month, which is the shortest 200-hour teacher training course offered by YogaLondon. The longest time it takes to get yoga certified depends on which type of yoga you want to get certified in, and is usually around 3 years. The longest course YogaLondon offers is spread out over a year, with a commitment of one weekend a month.

You do NOT have to be skinny to be a yoga teacher! However, you’d be forgiven for thinking being skinny was a prerequisite to being a yoga teacher by scrolling through social media, or looking at the front of glossy yoga magazines.

The truth is that yoga is for every body type: large, small, thin, tall, curvy, bony, flexible and stiff.

Role models like Jessamyn Stanley are leading by example to show that yoga is not about how you look, but about the individual practice.

The great thing about yoga is that it is not a workout, but a practice, and you can make this practice work for whatever body type you are.

Here in the UK there is no set time to how long it takes to become a yoga teacher. However, the shortest courses tend to be a month at the very shortest, and up to three years for some types of yoga that have a mentor system of yoga teacher training.

How long it takes to become a yoga teacher in the UK is all about how much time you have to commit to the teacher training. If you are already working full time you can choose to do a course over a year with just one training weekend per month - which is the longest course YogaLondon offer.

If you have time on your hands and you’re excited to get teaching, you can commit to a month-long intensive course, at the end of which you’ll be a certified yoga teacher.

In the UK the way you train to be a yoga instructor will depend on the kind of yoga you want to teach, the kind of yoga teacher training school you want to attend, and how much time and money you have.

Here at YogaLondon we have four options of one month, four months, six months and one year. Each course is still 200-hours, but spread over different amounts of time.

You will need to sign up for your chosen teacher training and be prepared for it to take over your life while you are doing it. Not only will you need to commit to the training hours, but you will also be asked to up your yoga practice, study around the topics and write assignments.

The best yoga instructor course is one that will best prepare you for being a yoga instructor. This means a course that will give you the tools to teach in a range of different styles, with the ability to modify yoga poses for different groups.

A well-respected faculty that has teachers with a wide range of backgrounds and skills to give you a well-rounded, non-dogmatic training.

A course that will teach you how to create classes that are both safe and fun.

A course that will support you to become the best yoga instructor that you can be, with your own unique style

And we might be a bit biased, but that’s exactly what the YogaLondon course sets out to do.

YTT is an acronym for Yoga Teacher Training. It usually refers to the initial 200-hour training that you do to get your yoga teacher certificate.

YTT, or yoga teacher training is a course ranging in time from one month to a year or two. The aim of the yoga teacher training is to transform you from a yoga student into a yoga teacher, with all the knowledge, skills and responsibility that the role entails.

A certified RYT is another yoga acronym which stands for Registered Yoga Teacher. It’s important to know the difference between being a certified yoga teacher, or CYT, and a registered yoga teacher, RYT.

A certified yoga teacher has completed a recognised yoga teacher training course and has received their certificate enabling them to get insurance to teach. A certified RYT has also registered with an organisation that regulates yoga teaching standards, such as the Yoga Alliance in the States, and the British Wheel of Yoga, Yoga Alliance UK and the Independent Yoga Network in the UK.

A yoga instructor is called various things depending on the context. In the US, ‘yoga instructor’ is the norm. Here in the UK, we tend to go for ‘yoga teacher’.

However, in India, where yoga originated over two thousand years ago, yoga teachers are often called ‘guru’, meaning teacher. In Sanskrit the literal meaning of ‘guru’ is dispeller of darkness. This beautifully illustrates how a yoga teacher shines the light of knowledge for the yoga student or ‘shishya’ in Sanskrit.

A yogi or yogini (for females) is a way to refer to someone with a committed yoga practice, whether they are a teacher or a student (or both).

Anyone can start a yoga studio, but before you do, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Ideally you will be an experienced yoga teacher before you open your own yoga studio. You don’t have to be a yoga instructor first, but it will certainly help.

Secondly, you will need to have a thorough business plan.

Thirdly you will need to identify and hire or purchase your yoga studio venue. If you have a large enough house you might be able to build a yoga studio in the garden or in one of the rooms of your house. This is a viable option, but you may well not be able to fit as many students into a smaller domestic yoga studio.

This is a really great question and one the all responsible yoga teachers should ask themselves.

The 200-hour yoga teacher training course is a relatively recent construct. Since yoga began to be taught in India, students would have a mentor or guru, and would study under them for years until they were deemed ready to teach by the guru.

Then yoga spread to the West in the 1950s and 60s and by 1999 the Yoga Alliance were worried about a proliferation of yoga teacher courses emerging in the States. They got together to come up with a minimum level of training required to teach yoga safely.

The important thing to realise is the 200 hours is the MINIMUM amount required, which is why it is so important to get plenty of experience after you graduate, and why at YogaLondon we encourage graduates to teach while training, in order to increase their experience levels.

It’s also why it’s essential to keep learning and developing as a yoga teacher. YogaLondon offers specialist CPD (Continuing Professional Development) courses covering a wide range of topics such as Yoga Nidra training and Restorative Yoga training.

The difference between RYT and RYS is that RYT is a registered yoga teacher and RYS is a registered yoga school.

An RYS is registered with Yoga Alliance and must meet its standards to be registered. Although Yoga Alliance is a US organisation, yoga teacher training schools around the world can register to become RYS.

To be a RYT you need to have attended a RYS, as well as keeping up your subscription to Yoga Alliance, as well as keep up with your continuing education.

In the UK, the British Wheel of Yoga also offers accreditation to yoga teacher training organisations. In 2017 the name given to organisations that successfully passed the application process were changed to Approved Training Organisations (ATO).

An RYT is a registered yoga teacher and YTT is yoga teacher training. A registered yoga teacher is a teacher who has attended a registered yoga school, have paid their Yoga Alliance membership fees and keep up with their continuing education (see Q 24).

You don’t have to be a RYT to teach yoga, but some yoga studios prefer to hire RYTs as they know that they will meet the high standards set by Yoga Alliance.

YTT is a generic expression standing for yoga teacher training. This could be any style of yoga teacher training, but is generally one month to two years long and requires commitment, financial investment and that you fulfil all the requirements in order to become a certified yoga teacher.

One main difference between a yoga instructor and a yoga teacher is that yoga instructor is used more often in the US and yoga teacher is more commonly used in the UK.

However, the two words also come with slightly different meanings. An instructor tends to involve more the practical side of a subject, while a teacher focuses on the theoretical side.

An instructor will give instructions, while a teacher will guide their students to expand their own knowledge.

An instructor will usually have a specific area of expertise, whereas a teacher will often have a broader remit.

It’s up to you which term you use, depending on how you want to come across.

Yoga teachers say namaste as a greeting. It is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘I bow to you’ and is often accompanied with a slight bow of the head.

However, this word can be misused in the West and it is important to understand its background. In India, namaste is not used as an everyday greeting, but is a form of great respect and would usually only be said by a student to a teacher.

However, if the teacher understands this context and is saying namaste as a form of respect to their students, that is also fine. It is about honouring the cultural and historical context of yoga.

Most yoga studios wouldn’t employ a yoga teacher with anything less than the standardised 200-hour yoga teaching certification.

However, there is a loophole if you are simply looking to get teaching experience. YogaLondon students can start teaching public classes mid-way through their training course. This presents an extraordinary opportunity to gain teaching experience while you are continuing your education, and offers an opportunity for the training to pay for itself. Teaching is made possible with "Student Teacher" insurance.

You can also teach yoga with 100 hours if you are just getting work experience and not being paid, for example with a mentor teacher. You would however be the responsibility of the qualified teacher present.

Finally, if you are getting teaching experience teaching a small group of fellow trainees or friends, you wouldn’t need insurance.

A Level 3 Yoga qualification is a Level 3 diploma. A diploma is a course of about one to two years. It is a specific academic award usually awarded for professional or vocational courses.

These are awarded by recognised public and private educational institutions such as adult education centres and colleges.

A Level 3 Yoga qualification is roughly equivalent to the amount of work needed for A Levels.

Entry requirements for those wishing to get a Level 3 Yoga qualification are that the learners must have a minimum of two years’ experience attending yoga classes. You will need a degree of physical fitness. You will also be required to have basic skills in communication pitched at Level 2 (GCSE level).

YogaLondon’s 200-hour yoga teacher training course will qualify you for a Focus Awards Certification at Level 4.

A yoga instructor, or yoga teacher, teaches yoga. This can be in a class setting, in small groups, or as a one-to-one.

The way they teach yoga will depend to a large extent on what type of yoga they teach. For example, Iyengar yoga teachers use lots of props and focus on alignment in poses. Vinyasa flow yoga teachers will come up with sequences that flow from one pose to the next, often on the breath.

Some types of yoga, such as Ashtanga yoga, have guided practice, known as ‘Mysore style’ practice, where the teacher is more of an onlooker as students work through a series of poses.

In a class setting a yoga instructor will stand at the front of the class so that students can mirror the instructor’s demonstrations. They will also come off the mat and physically adjust students (with their consent).

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, yoga instructors have moved to online classes, either over live-stream, on social media, or as a pre-recorded video.

A good yoga teacher is inclusive, teaching to everyone in their class, and not just the keenos at the front.

A good yoga teacher will teach from experience and from the heart, not just parroting out instructions by rote.

A good yoga teacher will guide their students to the edge of their comfort zone, but not into the danger zone.

A good yoga teacher will inspire their students to make their own commitment to yoga, perhaps ultimately to them becoming teachers themselves.

Every yoga teacher should know how to keep themselves and their students safe. As a yoga teacher you are responsible for your students safety, although you should also teach them to be present in their own bodies and not push themselves past discomfort and into pain.

Every yoga teacher should know why it is that they are teaching yoga. If you don’t know why you’re teaching you won’t be able to convey that to your students.

Every yoga teacher should know a bit about the background and history of yoga. If we teach yoga without appreciating its heritage we are at risk of cultural appropriation.

Every yoga teacher should know that yoga is not a competition, but an individual practice, with the final destination being true self-knowledge.

The religion most associated with yoga is Hinduism, but there are also Buddist, Taoist and Tantric elements woven into the practice of yoga.

The Hindu religion is a polytheistic religion, which means that Hindus worship many gods, as well as the One God. In fact, there are known to be 33 million Hindu gods!

Yoga is drawn from the ancient Hindu sacred texts, such as the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and later Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Although Hinduism is associated with yoga and its roots certainly stem from the Hindu religion, the basis of yoga is more philosophical than religious. If you want to find out more, why not sign up for our Philosophy of Yoga course?

The style of yoga most well-known for being practised in a warm room is the type of yoga formerly known as Bikram yoga. This practice was started by the controversial teacher Bikram Choudhury, who was subsequently charged with several sexual abuse offences. The practice has been rebranded as Hot yoga and Pod Yoga and Fierce Grace Yoga.

In a classic hot yoga class the temperature is set between a toasty 32 - 42°C (or 90 - 105 F). This style of yoga means that you sweat more and arguably burn more calories, release toxins and build bone density. Also your muscles are more flexible due to the warmth of the room.

This style of yoga was invented by Choudhury to replicate the hot and humid conditions of India, Hatha yoga’s country of origin.

There is a saying that ‘you get what you pay for’, and yoga teacher training is no exception. If you want to become a safe, creative and confident yoga teacher it’s worth paying for the best training that you can possibly get.

Yoga teacher training also varies greatly in price, so it’s worth spending plenty of time comparing yoga teacher training courses to make sure that they are covering all aspects of yoga teacher training so that you can be fully prepared for your yoga teaching career.

High quality yoga teacher training involves many hours with highly qualified and experienced tutors, which is where most of the money goes. There is also a huge amount of preparation involved in planning and writing the course content.

You can teach yoga without being certified, as there is no national regulation body of yoga, but it’s not to be recommended!

You are unlikely to be able to get insurance if you teach without being certified, which means that neither you nor your students would be covered should something go wrong.

Yoga is not without risks. People can injure themselves while doing yoga, and if you’re a certified yoga teacher, not only will you be insured, you will also be prepared for how to conduct yourself if that happens.

However, there are a few exceptions where it’s possible to teach without being certified. If you are a yoga teacher trainee, you can get insurance to teach from halfway through your teacher training. You can also teach a small group of friends or family as part of your training, but it’s best not to charge them until you’re certified to avoid any liability.

Proudly! Any yoga teacher training graduate will tell you that it takes blood, sweat and tears to get to be a certified yoga teacher.

When you introduce yourself as a yoga teacher, you might add in a descriptive adjective to describe your yoga teaching journey, such as, ‘I am a newly qualified yoga teacher’. Or, ‘I am an experienced yoga teacher’.

Or you might add in what type of yoga you teach, for example, ‘I am a Vinyasa flow Yoga teacher.’ Or ‘I’m a Yin yoga teacher’.

In marketing terms, how you introduce yourself in your Bio is a crucial piece of information. Keep it succinct and include small personal details which will help students connect to you.

You can improve your yoga teaching through three different ways. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and the more you teach yoga, the better you’ll get.

Experienced yoga teachers will have a depth of experience to call on, and will be able to guide students more adeptly, having ‘seen it all’.

Just because you’re a yoga teacher now, doesn’t mean that you won’t always be a yoga student at the same time. The more you practice and work on your own yoga, the better placed you’ll be to teach others.

Finally, yoga is a vast subject and there is always more to learn, academically and practically. YogaLondon’s 500-hour course will greatly expand your knowledge as a yoga teacher, and improve your yoga teaching.

The qualities of a good yoga teacher are similar to the qualities of a good teacher. The most important qualities of a good yoga teacher are to be yourself, and to be warm and welcoming.

A good yoga teacher will need excellent communication skills, patience, kindness and an ability to really listen.

A good yoga teacher will need to have a strong work ethic and model self-discipline, as well as great organisational skills. And you can’t prepare too much!

A good teacher will also practice humility and be open to learning as much from their students as their students learn from them.

What you do after you complete your YTT (yoga teacher training) is up to you! There is no one path that graduate yoga teachers take.

Some graduates decide not to teach yoga themselves, but continue being students, albeit with a much deeper knowledge of yoga.

Many newly qualified yoga teachers try to rack up as many teaching hours as possible to increase their experience by signing up to cover yoga classes. This is a great way to get teaching experience without the responsibility of taking on a permanent class.

Other yoga teachers might feel they want to specialise in a certain area, so may dive straight back into studying before starting to teach classes. What you do after YTT is as individual as you are yourself.