“win a free yoga teacher training”: what are the ethics & complexities of YTT contests?

Every now and then I get an email from a hopeful yoga enthusiast, asking me to help publicize their video submission for a yoga teacher training contest. I always politely decline. I don’t know this person, and other than a 2-minute video essay and some snapshots of them in various yoga poses, I have no idea of their potential as a yoga teacher.

This morning, another contest popped up in my newsfeed (see image above!). The call-out included a link to The Clarity Centre, an Ontario-based wellness and yoga centre which has recently launched a 250-hour yoga teacher training program.

The Clarity contest follows the same structure as other similar contests:

Step 1: aspiring yoga teachers film a short video/write an essay about how yoga has changed their life and why they want to teach
Step 2: aspiring yoga teachers share the video through their social networks and encourage their friends to vote/like/retweet, using a hashtag created just for the occasion
Step 3: the aspiring yoga teacher with the most touching video/essay and, more importantly, the most shares/likes, wins!

Yoga teacher training programs can cost between $2,500 and $5,000 and this can be a barrier for many inspired yogis who want to offer the practice in their communities. But there’s no guarantee that a social media popularity contest (and free marketing for the YTT programs) will actually produce a skilled teacher.

The promise of “winning” a new career is also kind of ridiculous. When was the last time you saw a contest for training to become a bookkeeper? Or a dental hygienist? Carpenter?

What do you think – are YTT contests a way to make teacher training programs more accessible to a wider range of people? Or do they run the risk of devaluing the profession?

  1. I can see why someone would do it. I’ve had to save up money for 2 years to finish mine, and now have family & friends donating to help put me over the top so that I can complete my hours. It’s very expensive and, unlike other kinds of school, it usually is not split up over very much time, requiring massive payments up front. It also may or may not lead to a teaching career. To me, it’s less the video + essay aspect, as much as “who can get the most likes!” that makes me cringe.

    I also think saving up for two years has benefitted me. I take my training super seriously now, because I have had to pass up other things in order to do it. The extra time has also deepened my practice even more than it was when I first started.

    Finally, I think more programs should consider splitting into immersion + teacher training, or marketing the teacher training AS teacher training. So many people sign up for teacher training only to deepen their own practice. Trainings sometimes focus more on that than teaching, now, rather than a balance of feeling the alignment in your body and instructing that to others. But, I guess it wouldn’t be so easy to fill the coffers if only teachers were to come.

  2. The typical course structure or syllabi for yoga credentialing arrangements put forward by various independent providers are deficient – especially in terms of equipping the teacher to deal sensitively on matters of faith. How these various course and registry designers have been able to make a successful case for their own frameworks has been the cause of some mirth and derision from many practitioners of senior standing. When it comes to teaching the philosophy of meditation for example, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita” (just three of the most significant Hindu foundational texts) are usually required to be referenced at a minimum,but the time given for such study is usually measured in a few hours when they are likely to take anyone about twenty years of consistent practical experience to even become confident in themselves in their proficiency, let alone being released into the public domain to teach the subjects!

  3. Given all the knashing of teeth we hear about how hard it is to make ends meet as a yoga teacher on YogaDork and other yoga blogs I’m not sure that anyone who couldn’t scrimp and save a few grand is sufficiently miserly to survive as a yoga instructor.

    If anything it would be better to have more barriers to entry to become a yoga instructor, because it’s pretty clear to me that we have a glut of instructors and studios and there needs to be a contraction. That and at least half of the instructors I’ve been to have been awful. It would be nice if those barriers weren’t monetary, but that’s how our society works and yoga being a largely unregulated profession there’s no way to impose reasonable standards.

    And most decent yoga academies DO have scholarships for those without the financial means. It’s the crummy YTT factories that are designed to earn money for the studio rather than produce good teachers that don’t.

  4. I think it is a great idea. Anything to save a buck. It is a good way for the programs to get the contact information for interested people so they can continue to market to them as well.

  5. Hi Yogis…
    Its an excellent idea to make yoga teacher training accessible to needy. Anyway, Yoga is not a knowledge that can be sold… unlike any other business. We hate people who use the word ‘Yoga Business’, its more about service.

    We at Samyak Yoga too are organizing a FREE YOGA TEACHER TRAINING in APRIL 2013. Yoga aspirants can sign up and pay the deposit. Before the starting of the course, one of the lucky participants will be paid the deposit back and will be taught with no fees.

    Its a first step at SAMYAK to make Yoga Teacher Training accessible to every Yoga aspirant.

    great one…

    thanks for sharing….

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  7. Hi!
    If used judiciously, and in the right spirit, such contests can help propagate the good in yoga! We at SAVY International have announced a similar FREE YOGA TEACHER TRAINING CONTEST, and we’ll be looking for actually deserving students. We’ll be sponsoring three students : one gets 100% off and two get 50% off. More than that we also have very easy payment plans for students who want to take good training but can’t afford one right now.

  8. First off why is Yoga Training so expensive? I’m not understanding or supportive of the expensive price tag that makes it very difficult for some folks to even consider a TT program. Scholarships are not only necessary but they demonstrate giving back. Its important to include at least one scholarship for TT programs and I encourage studios to consider. However, writing an essay, creating a video, and judging via social networking is so far from the practice and philosophy of yoga. Scholarships should be based on need NOT having fancy tools to record a video and post to social networking. I can understand including an essay and/or a one-on-one meeting so that you can get a better understanding of the person’s need. Its about giving back and making room for yogis who cannot offered the high cost of yoga training.