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COVID-19 has struck. Yoga Alliance has given the thumb’s up for online yoga teacher trainings through the end of 2020. And now there is an onslaught of online yoga TT’s cropping up worldwide.

Online yoga teacher trainings seem great: convenient, often well priced, and timely. But are they good? Here’s what you need to know.

About Online Education

When planned properly, here’s what online education does really well:

  • Allows students to study material at their own pace (some students may like to move slowly, some will move quickly; having material online allows the rewatching of videos).
  • Allows students to study material when it fits into their lives (at different times of day and on different days).
  • Can be very useful for learning brain stuff. In yoga, this translates to taking courses on yoga theory, sequencing, philosophy, some anatomy, and history.

Here’s what an online yoga teacher training has challenges with:

  • Teaching material where you need to touch a physical body on hand (like learning hands on assists).
  • Teaching asana labs, or looking at variety of bodies in 3-d in real time.
  • Mimicking the environment of teaching an in-person class (if you’re going to teach an in-person class, you need to practice teaching real people in real-time).
  • More challenging to create community and sense of connection between the students.

100% Online Yoga Teacher Trainings

Some schools are moving all their training hours onto Zoom and livestreaming their programs. This is a great stop gap measure and I personally can vouch the quality of two schools – YYoga and YogaWorks – that are using the method to support their teacher trainees. After all, it’s very tough out there for yoga schools right now; livestreaming a TT can be welcome solution to keep your program going and to connect with your students. Meeting in real-time in a virtual space is the next best thing to meeting in person. This is called synchronous learning, where everyone shows up in a virtual space at the same time.

However, there are some limitations with livestreaming an entire yoga teacher training that you should be aware of (which is why Yoga Alliance is permitting online learning as a stop gap rather than fully embracing it for all course hours). If you want your trainees to teach a group class in-person, then it’s better that they practice teach in-person students. Teaching on a zoom call is not the same thing. Schools that need to deliver a 100% livestream course would do well to consider some innovative solutions to address this particular missing link, such as:

  • In-person teaching at a safe social distance, perhaps with limited numbers.
  • Having students recruit other members of their household to teach so that their online teachers can watch them teach a “class with students” via livestream (get your family to sign a waiver :).
  • When students practice teach, have them mimic being in a real space. Lay out mats to represent students so that your online trainer can watch how you navigate a real room.
  • Utilize the online format to practice skills such as verbal alignment corrections in real-time.

Although the 100% livestream option is a good stop gap, it can also miss out on some advantages of online training: namely, the ability for students to work at their own pace at their own time. This is called asynchronous learning, where students work by themselves, rather than having to meet a group online at a specific time.

However, for asynchronous learning to be effective, it must be well-planned and well-crafted. They cannot be easily thrown together, but must be structured with love, skill, and care. To give you an idea, it takes at least 8 hours of work for every asynchronous course hour. That means that creating a 200-hour teacher training would take 40 weeks of working 40 hours of week, or almost a year. Yikes! That’s a long time. So if the training that you are considering is not 100% livestreaming, but is using asynchronous learning, then it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about how they created their asynchronous content.

What You Should Ask

Taking an online yoga teacher training now may be an excellent opportunity for you to deepen your love of yoga, fuel your passion, and advance your practice. And as I mentioned, there are many reputable schools (like Yoga Works and YYoga) that have moved their courses online to accommodate the times. Hybrid schools such as DoYogaWithMe blend online learning with in-person components to take advantage of both modalities. However, there are probably also some schools out there that may be jumping on the online train that aren’t fully prepared. It’s important that you can ask some questions so that you can tell the difference.

To protect your investment and the quality of your experience, here are some good questions to ask your school before you jump in:

  • How is the training delivered (how many hours of the training are online versus in-person)?
  • Of the online hours, how many are synchronous (requiring me to show up at a specific time in a livestream) versus asynchronous (where I study, watch videos, read, or move through course material on my own)?
  • What kinds of activities happen in those online hours?
  • What kinds of activities happen in asynchronous hours?
  • How are you encouraging peer to peer interaction? (This is huge for having a good experience.)
  • How are you managing/ enabling faculty to student interaction? How much contact will I personally have with faculty members? (Also huge.)
  • How will you assess me – both at the end of the training, as well as during the training – to make sure I’m learning how to teach effectively and safely?
  • How will you assess the advancement of my own personal practice?
  • If we’re 100% online, what kinds of activities will you provide to ensure that I can teach a group public class?
  • If you have online content (not livestream), where did the content come from and how was it organized (ie: recordings of previous trainings, YouTube videos, etc.)?

Any yoga teacher training worth its salt will be happy to sit down with you and discuss these details. For a more generalized look at how to think about yoga teacher training, check out my article with Yoga International, “How To Choose A Teacher Training.”

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