Yoga student is adjusting asana during the practical YTT exam

Is It Possible to Fail Yoga Teacher Training?

Yoga teacher training courses are often glamorized as long retreats and marketed as a way to go deeper in your practice. While completing a Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) does come with a certification to instruct classes, learning to teach is just one reason to attend, alongside spiritual growth and deepening your personal practice.

Still, there should be no pretending that a yoga teacher training program is easy. On the contrary, the courses are intensive and demanding. What’s more, like most educational programs, YTTs have exams requiring you to pass to get your certification, which makes people wonder if it is possible to fail.

In yoga teacher training, you are marked more on your willingness to try than how well you do. So, while it is possible to fail a YTT, if you show enthusiasm and passion, you will likely pass. 

No yoga teacher trainer wants to see their students fail. So, if they feel you are struggling, they will offer you additional support rather than fail you. However, if you frequently skip class, don’t do your homework, and show no interest, don’t expect to come away with your certification. 

The best way to ensure success is to choose the proper teacher training for you and prepare well. Read on to discover how.

What does a YTT exam entail?

The school and teachers set Yoga Teacher Training examination processes. All Yoga Alliance accredited schools have to follow a specific course structure, but there is no set assessment procedure. Still, most yoga schools include both practical and written tests. 

Practical exams

The practical test will consist of you leading a full-length yoga class to a small group (usually a handful of classmates). This particular exam requires you to teach a one-hour session with a warm-up, standing postures/sequences, cool-down postures, and savasana. While you do this, your teacher will observe and take notes.

Although this may sound scary (and feel nerve-wracking as you are doing it), your teacher is not watching to try to critique you. I personally found the feedback from these exams highly beneficial to my development as a yoga teacher.

Whether you have one or five exams like this will depend on your school. The Yoga Alliance accredited school I studied at required us to be graded on leading three separate classes. I found teaching three classes was better than one, as I had more opportunities to improve. So, even if you’re not the best yoga teacher, if your trainer can see you took on board the feedback from the last exam, that is enough reassurance for them. 

Written exams

Aside from the teaching exams, you’ll likely have written ones too. On my TTC, we did 4 written exams in total. The tests took place at the end of each week and featured questions about the topics we covered that week. 

The questions consisted of multiple choice and written answers and took no longer than an hour to complete. Like with the practical exams, the written tests are not to see how good your anatomy or philosophy knowledge is, but rather how well you understand and remember what you are being taught.

Choosing where to do a YTT

If you asked ten yoga teachers how difficult passing their yoga teacher training was, they would probably all give a different answer. This is because the likelihood of passing a YYT will depend on your teachers and the school you study at. 

The hall of Yoga school in India. Ashram.

There are definitely some stricter schools/teachers, such as some of the traditional Ashrams in India. Indian yoga schools typically teach at a deeper level, diving more into yoga philosophy. In addition, they may have higher expectations of the teachers they produce and thus, not be so lenient with grading.

On the other hand, yoga training courses on a tropical island marketed as ‘part retreat, part TTC’ have a reputation for being more laid back. The participants here usually combine an educational program with a wellness holiday, so the teachers may not demand so much from you. The course will still be intensive as it has to include 200 hours of tuition, but the delivery and the grading may be more relaxed.

Therefore, choosing a school and teacher is the next step after deciding you are ready to teachIf you really want to dive deep and be pushed to your limits, you might prefer an ashram in India. However, if you’re not sure if you’re going to teach yoga yet and just want to deepen your personal practice, a TTC in Bali would better suit you. I also recommend reading reviews before deciding, as these can be a great way to find out how strict a school is. 

The different types of YTTs

Most foundational yoga teacher training programs are 200 hours and can be delivered in different ways, such as an intensive residential program, a part-time course where you study on the weekend, or an online version. Knowing your options will help you choose the right one for you and thus, increase your chances of passing.

Intensive YTT

An intensive program is where you study 6 days a week for 3 or 4 weeks straight. The advantage of doing an intensive residential YTT course is that you can fully immerse yourself in learning. You are not working simultaneously, and you stay at the school away from all your usual responsibilities and commitments. This allows you to completely eliminate distractions and focus solely on learning.

Intensive courses are best suited for those who learn best through immersion. I am definitely that type of learner, so I choose this course format. Intensives are also suitable for impatient people who like to complete things quickly. 

However, I wouldn’t recommend an intensive course if you like to learn at your own pace as the days are incredibly long (around 12 hours) and there are tight deadlines. So, if you find yourself easily flustered under pressure, this is not the best learning environment for you.

Part-time YTT

Part-time YTT courses take a lot longer to complete as you typically only study at the school one or two days a week. However, they are designed to be completed alongside working a full-time job; thus, they are ideal for busy people who cannot get four weeks off work in one go.

However, if you’re keen to start teaching yoga soon and are ready to commit to your new career, a part-time course may not be a good fit. These courses last for up to one year, so you’ll need to be patient and consistent if you choose this format. 

Online YTT

The global COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-2022 provided the foundation for the third format to be born – online YTT. These courses are the most flexible option as you can study full time and complete it in as little as three weeks, or you can study one day a week like in a part-time course. An online YTT format is a good option for people who do not have any yoga schools nearby or cannot spend one month away from home. They are also much more cost-effective.

However, the downside of an online course is that you do not get the hands-on experience as you do in an in-person program. You cannot get practice teaching a studio class or giving hands-on adjustments, so you may not feel fully prepared to teach in person. 

How to prepare for Yoga Teacher Training

If you still feel anxious about doing a YTT, here are a few ideas on how to best prepare yourself beforehand.

Study yoga philosophy 

While many schools do not require you to have knowledge of yoga philosophy, it is something that you will study a lot during your YTT, so getting a head start will help a lot! Trust me, you don’t want to be the only one in class who doesn’t know what a Yama or a chakra is. 

The best way to prepare for a YTT is to read a few easy-to-digest yoga books, such as:

The Heart of Yoga: Developing a personal practice, by T.K.V. Desikachar,

Light on Yoga, by BKS and Iyengar,

Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System, by Anodea Judith. 

Having the base knowledge about chakras and yoga philosophy will make it easier for your brain to process it when you study it deeper in class.

Practice teaching to your friends 

This is usually suggested after you finish, but I highly recommend playing around with teaching a friend or two before going to a YTT. Yes, you won’t know what you are doing, but it will give you much-needed confidence in practice teaching during the course. 

I did this to prepare for my YTT, and my classmates commented that I didn’t seem nervous during the practice teaching sessions. However, be sure to stick with the most basic postures and do not attend hands-on adjustments.

Try different teachers and yoga styles

There are so many different styles of yoga, ranging from relaxing and calming to dynamic and energizing. If you have only ever practiced one kind, such as Vinyasa, I recommend you try some others before choosing a YTT. 

Learn the Ashtanga set sequence, take classes at an Iyengar school, find a studio that teaches yin, etc. As you enjoy this “yoga buffet,” you’ll also experience different teachers and realize how every instructor has their unique style.

If you’re wondering whether yoga teachers should be able to do every single pose, relax as this is not a requirement at all. During YTT you will learn how to modify certain asanas and learn about the proper alignment.  However, by trying the many styles of yoga beforehand, you’ll discover the one you feel most comfortable teaching.

Final Thoughts

A Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) is a serious, highly demanding course. However, provided you give it your best shot and show enthusiasm and a willingness to learn, there’s no reason why you can’t pass. Furthermore, as every yoga teacher will tell you, getting your certificate is only the beginning. So instead of rushing into getting a job as a yoga instructor, you can keep practicing and learning until you feel ready to share your newly gained wisdom.