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How Best to Study to Become a Teacher:

Short Intensive Courses, versus, Longer study Options

As a yoga teacher who has studied a lot abroad, I am often asked about yoga intensives and whether you should study yoga teacher training in one chunk on a beach in Goa, or at home over a longer period of time. They both have their benefits, of which I am sure you are aware of many.

Benefits of Short intensives:

  • shorter training time,
  • intensity of practice,
  • immersion, the time away can offer a very welcome space from the demands of daily life and in that space, a depth of understanding and practice can prevail,
  • sometimes cheaper,
  • heat (!!),

However, there are limitations to shorter trainings too, I hope you will find the benefits of my experience helpful to add to the mix.

The yoga school I attended ran its programs in intensive month-long courses. I did the training in chunks, my first month in Rishikesh was the first Yoga I ever practiced and when I got hooked by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda there. That month changed my life forever.

A few years later, when I worked as an accountant for Ernst and Young, I had the luck to be offered 3 months of leave before entering into the next phase of my journey with them. I jumped at the chance and headed back to Swami. He had moved the school to Thailand, so I studied months 2-4 on the gorgeous beaches there. That was it for my career as an accountant, I changed path almost as soon as I returned home. I then went back and forward to the school in Thailand each year until I had completed the Hatha and Kundalini programs (26 months).

 

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What was interesting about going in and out of the school like that was being able to take the teachings and then try to apply them for a few months before heading back for more intensive training. That was great. Some of the other students there just stayed in the ‘yoga bubble’ surrounded by beaches and other young practitioners also eating brown rice and discussing the latest colonic advice. It was very easy to assume you were making progress there, having amazing meditations with hours of practice each day and never losing your temper, even when your ‘fan spot’ was taken by a new comer to the school.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if you removed my friends and popped them back into their family home for a week with their parents and siblings to see just how evolved they really were! I know that I was a total Yoga wally for many years before my regular trips back home to Glasgow brought me well and truly back to earth.

You see, when you remove yourself to practice yoga intensively, a lot of change can happen very quickly, and so it can bring a sort of re-integration period when you come home:

  • Internal conflict at the vast differences in ethos of the two places,
  • lack of community and support upon your return,
  • lack of time to integrate the teachings slowly so that they go deep into your being,
  • gradual melting away of the impact of the training, and if you do not go away again all the learnings may disappear completely,
  • lack of compatibility of the teachings with real life, (as a yoga teacher who has not integrated the teachings with the Western lifestyle you are not able to really understand the demands of the life of a working parent, and so inappropriate advice on practices and depth may be given.)
  • and the most important one – you separate yoga from life.

So, although I highly recommend going away and doing intensive periods of practice, these should be integrated into the life you lead. They should support your growth in all the areas of your life, your work, your family life, your studies, your place in society, as well as your personal evolution.

I would consider that the benefits of longer periods of training at home are:

  • They can fit around your day to day life (e.g. 1 weekend per month means no time off work and not leaving your family and loved ones for extensive periods),
  • You will usually be learning from Yoga teachers who are living and breathing their Yoga in the environment in which you live and so the advice is more relevant,
  • As you start to live the Yoga teachings, you are supported through the changes, which can be challenging, by your colleagues and teachers,
  • You will become a member of a Sanga (spiritual community) which is close to your home and can become your yoga network for the rest of your life,
  • The pauses in study give time for integration and digestion of the information, so far more is retained and embodied,
  • You will have a school you can continue studying with beyond your training close by,
  • You can spread the cost over a longer period of time.

Ultimately the right choice will depend on your needs and preferences and what your intension is for your training. Whatever you choose, good luck on your Yoga path.

Marit Akintewe of Seasonal Yoga