International Yoga Teacher Training: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

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As the director of a purpose-built yoga and Ayurvedic retreat center for over five years, I was blessed to meet yoga teachers from around the world who traveled from near and far to offer their yoga teacher training programs as month-long intensive retreat experiences at our resort. There were some truly amazing schools and programs and there were those who were, well, not so great. After years of watching the ups and downs of these programs I decided to create our own comprehensive training program. It seemed to me that the system was—in some ways—broken, and I wanted to do something about it. If you have ever considered taking part in a yoga teacher training overseas, here are a few key things you need to know first about the pros and (possible) cons.

The Good

So, let's start on a positive note. The good: Some select programs are simply amazing. The teachers are well-informed and absolutely love what they do. They practice what they preach. They dedicate their lives to creating the most amazing experiences for their students. They teach yoga because it’s transformed their lives. It’s what they were born to do. They understand that yoga is more than a physical practice and that belief overflows into the way that they conduct their lives and their business practices. These teachers are aware that these programs are not only an intense learning experience but also an opportunity for individual growth and healing—and they do everything that they can to facilitate that experience for their students.

The Bad

Alternatively, there will always be the bad. The experience level of the yoga teachers running these international “retreat” style programs may leave something to be desired. Perhaps they are masters in teaching the advanced asana studio class, but this means little in an intensive overseas training setting. Teachers need to be able to manage a large group dynamic, and that is not always pretty or easy. Personalities clash, drama happens, expectations run high, and disappointments abound. And, well, in some instances, things can get ugly...

The Ugly

Though it may appear to be so on their website, quite a few “schools” offering overseas yoga teacher training programs are not legally operating. Students are often sold their hopes and dreams as though it was a sales pitch. This is not the way to sell a yoga training program. Students need to (and deserve to) know exactly what they are getting into and what they can expect—that way they can have a truly amazing experience. 

So, what can you do to make sure you end up in one of the “good” programs? These are the four steps I recommend before starting your international yoga teacher training journey:

1. Talk to the teachers.
Not the director or sales rep of the school, but the actual teachers who will be teaching your program. If they are not available to talk to you, walk away. You have the right to speak to someone who you will be spending the good part of a month (or longer) with. Ask: Why they are offering this program, what is their story, why do they do what they do, and what lights them up? If the response doesn't resonate with you or sound sincere, walk away.

2. Talk to former students.
If you are not able to speak to at least a few former students who have done the program with these teachers, then you should also walk away. There is currently no place to share bad experiences or reviews for these types of schools because they have no physical location—so, no TripAdvisor or other client-based review board. Only beautiful reviews are published on both the school's websites and the booking sites. Negative reviews are of course overlooked and often tucked away or never published. So, talk to students—it’s a must.

3. Call or email the resort and ask questions.
Get photos of the exact accommodations where you’ll be sleeping for the duration of the training. What type of rooms will be provided? What about the menu for meals? Does this match what you are being told by the course leaders? If this is not provided or not available to you, walk away. 

3. Stay away from third-party booking sites.
Most reputable programs will shy away from even using these sites because of their practices—many of these websites are booking engines that make commission-based earnings on offerings. Some do little to assure the authenticity of the programs that they are listing and selling and sometimes even list incorrect information. So be cautious and make sure you are booking directly with the school you will be attending.

The Insight of a Yoga Teacher Trainer

As a yoga teacher trainer, I want to be 100 percent sure that the course we offer is what you are looking for. I want to know that you are one of our tribe, that you are the person who I am meant to serve. I want to be sure that our curriculum is going to be something that makes you light up with excitement to learn more. I want to talk to you, to hear your story, and to know why you want to join our program. I want to be brutally honest about how hard it will be and share what you can expect to learn and take away. I want to tell you all about the place you’ll be staying, the country we’re in, and what you can expect to experience when you arrive. I want to personally answer your questions. I want you to talk to you, to hear your story—the ups and downs that only you can share. 

A yoga teacher training in an exotic location can be an amazing and life-changing experience. Get to know the team who you’ll be spending time with. Get to know the backstory of the school and the philosophy of the teachings. Get to know the teachers, know what makes them tick—ask why they do what they do. If something feels off, or too good to be true, it probably is.

Have you ever attended an international yoga teacher training? Share your experience in the comments below.