Six things to do before you start your yoga teacher training
You’ve booked your first yoga teacher training course and you’re raring to go. You want to be your best yogi self when you step through the doors of the school for the first time, but you’re not quite sure what to expect. Take our ten-step advice and prepare your mind, body and soul for the experience that will change your life…
1. Give yourself a break from practice.
This may sound counterintuitive, but the training is intensive, both physically and emotionally, and you need to be fully rested before you begin. Yoga is a long-term game – you’re not suddenly going to be able to do a complex pose in the weeks before training if your body hasn’t made it available to you yet. Pushing yourself too hard might result in injury, and in any case, one of the first lessons you’re going to learn is that yoga isn’t just about asanas. When I booked on my 200-hr YTT at Sampoorna Yoga, Goa, I was doing a strong drop-in yoga class there every day, because my decision to do the course was a last-minute one. As a result of pushing myself too hard, I was nursing a shoulder injury throughout the course. I wish I’d had the foreknowledge to have rested in that few weeks before so let my mistake be a lesson to you all!
2. Read as much as you can around the subject.
Again, because of my last-minute YTT decision, I only had the time to look at one or two books before I began, but I wish I’d had time to ground myself in the basics. We have put together a recommended reading list here, but if I had to choose two books to read before starting the course they would be B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, and Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. The first is often referred to as the “yoga bible” and will bring Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras to life in an accessible way and it is packed with inspirational quotes. The second is the story of one of the great yoga masters’ lives, starting in the Himalayas and ending in the US. One of the Sampoorna teachers told me, “this book leaves you burning with fire for yoga.”
3. Spend some time at your chosen destination.
It can be difficult getting off a plane in a strange country and going straight into school to start such an incredible journey. I know that time is often limited for those of us with restricted holiday allowances from work and families back home, but I would urge those who are coming to somewhere like India for their TTC to spend a few days here first, at least a weekend. Not only do you need to acclimatise to the climate and the food, but you need to find your feet on the ground in a wholly new culture. I have seen students in India turn up and start straight away, and even though they haven’t eaten anything bad, their digestive systems have just needed more time to adjust to the new intake. They especially need time to take on enough water to cope in the heat and humidity and find a routine. Give yourself the gift of time to adjust, if you can.
4. Think about what your intention is for the course.
Yoga teachers often ask the class to set an intention at the start of every class and ask us to revisit it as time goes on. Why not decide what you would like to get out of your course before you begin and see if that changes/is fulfilled as you work through it? Remember, it is absolutely fine to change your mind. You can rock up to a YTTC with the intention of deepening your own practice, but halfway through, decide that helping others achieve inner peace is your goal. You may be thinking that a flexible body is the key in yoga, but it is this flexibility of mind that will be your friend on the course. Let your heart guide you and revisit your first intentions regularly with the clarity and enlightenment the course will give you.
5. Don’t worry about other people.
We’ve all been there. We want to make a good impression in our YTTC group, not only in terms of our practice but as a person. Start your journey towards the compassionate yogi lifestyle by remembering that everyone is coming to the course with a package of concerns that may or may not be the same as yours. A YTTC opens a person up in unexpected ways so be prepared to stand alongside a set of fellow humans and discover that we have more in common than we think. In the west, we spend so long avoiding contact with other people, especially if we come from big cities, that we can be suspicious of other people’s intentions. You will discover that underneath any bluster lies a person with a set of insecurities and worries that may mirror your own. Try not to form any instant impressions and try to see people as they really are.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Following on from point five, it can be so easy to look around your new yogi friends and think, “why can’t I do that?” The goal of yoga is to draw your focus inwards to prepare you for meditation so start by not looking around the room and comparing your practice to other people’s. For one thing, as my mother used to say, “there’s always something you can do that someone else can’t.” It’s so true. Try to focus on your own practice and find your own way of inhabiting each asana. As one teacher has said to me recently, “you control the asana, it doesn’t control you.” And in the words of the late, great T.K.V. Desikachar, author of The Heart of Yoga, “The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.”
Lisa Edwards is a freelance writer, editor and certified yoga teacher, who completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training at Sampoorna Yoga school, Goa, India, in 2019. Sampoorna Yoga courses – RYT-200, RYT-300 and RYT-500 – are registered with Yoga Alliance, USA, and Yoga Alliance Professional, UK.