Some Thoughts on Yoga Teacher Trainings and the Case of YogaLondon


Many of you will have done (or thought about doing) yoga teaching trainings. Some of you will be familiar with YogaLondon. All of us can learn lessons from this situation.

Full disclosure: I work for three yoga teacher training providers – Indaba, the Shala and Yogacampus; I also run my own courses at my home studio. I have participated in many yoga TTs; some good and some not so good. The points that I am making in this article are relevant to all yoga TTs.


Through the YogaLondon Lens

YogaLondon was set up in 2010 to run yoga teacher trainings. It went into creditors voluntary liquidation on 6 January 2022; this means that the company cannot pay its debts and takes a decision to enter liquidation. During the intervening 11 years, YogaLondon trained more than 3500 people. Their website stated: “We’re one of the largest Vinyasa Flow schools in Europe, offering Yoga Alliance accredited teacher training courses…we have spent years fine-tuning what we believe is the best yoga education available.”

The primary owner of YogaLondon, Rebecca Ffrench, said in a 2020 interview: “Being a yoga teacher trainer is the best job ever, it’s so enriching and nourishing.” [1] When YogaLondon went into liquidation, it owed £120,000 to “consumer creditors” (presumably students); about £250,000 to HSBC (who are the primary creditors); £140,000 to HMRC; £30,000 to staff [2]; £9,000 to local council (presumably rates); £2,000 to a self-employed photographer. Perhaps about 100 students have lost money because of YogaLondon’s liquidation. Yet in 2017 and 2018, the owners of YogaLondon received about £500,000 payment as dividends.

In 2019 Rebecca Ffrench set up The Wellness School; and in January 2022, she set up The Yoga Teacher Training Centre Limited. Rebecca told me that neither of these new companies was active.

Not the First…

YogaLondon is definitely not the first yoga business to go bust. Many others have in the past, including large studios and large training providers, and quite probably many will in the future. Legitimate questions include:

• How does a company go into liquidation?
• Who is being particularly impacted by the liquidation?
• What are the future plans of that company’s owners?

A financial expert wrote this about the YogaLondon accounts: “It’s not clear, but to me something looks not quite right…If the business was this bad, there shouldn’t be payments of £120,000 taken from students…The tax arrears appear to go back a while, and it’s worth asking why [they were] not paid off before.”

Rebecca wrote to YogaLondon students on 12 January 2022 with news of insolvency: “Following the loss of financial backing I am sad to say that I failed. We will be unable to close on the purchase of assets from Yoga London Ltd.” Nearly two weeks later (25 January 2022), the following post appeared on the YogaLondon Facebook page from one of those YogaLondon students. “I have tried to reach out to you multiple times via emails, phone calls, Instagram haven’t heard back or have had my emails acknowledged. No one is answering the calls and I have left multiple voicemails. I would appreciate a response as the matter is urgent.”[3]

In terms of what can practically be done for those who have lost money because of YogaLondon’s insolvency, students who paid by credit card can get a refund through their card provider and staff should be paid by the Government Insolvency Fund. Other yoga TT providers have offered YogaLondon students places at significantly reduced prices on their courses.[4]


Essential Elements

Many things can happen. Many organisations fall apart because of interpersonal conflict. Many yoga businesses fail because of some of these following factors. Just to be clear: these factors apply to many businesses; this is not about YogaLondon – it is about running a business.

• bad luck (such as opening a yoga studio just before a pandemic; like Essence in London)
• exploitative owners (such as strongly prioritising their own personal interests over those who work for the company or are the company’s customers; like Philip Green of Topshop fame)
• naivety (such as thinking that tax regulations do not apply to them or believing that all yoga teachers are angelic bodies of light)
• poor planning (such as not having sufficient funds available to pay HMRC bills)

Rebecca said in that 2020 interview: “The interesting yogic concept that comes up for me in terms of the business isn’t an obvious one like ahimsa, but it’s actually saucha…When you have things very clean and transparent, that works because there’s such a clean system, so that everyone on every level is on a level-playing field.” Good words – and then there is the mountain for all of us of putting them into practice.

Some yoga teacher trainings are badly run as businesses and some have poor quality teaching. Some people jump onto the potentially lucrative bandwagon of teacher trainings without due consideration of the skills required to teach teachers and without acknowledging the fact that many yoga teachers are poorly paid. Too often people assume that a 200-hour qualification is enough on its own to teach yoga when in fact it is actually much more the beginning of the beginning.

YogaLondon was not a place that I recommended for trainings because of comments from a number of other people who trained with them in the past. Someone who did a training with them in the early 2010s recently told me: “I did my first ever training with them and about three weeks in had already booked onto another [training elsewhere] as I could already see it was going to be lacking significantly in many areas…another student was immediately offered a job as a lead teacher on their next course. He was a great teacher but that was still way too big of a jump and one of many red flags.”

A way towards supporting all of us – students, teachers and yoga teaching training providers – can be the essential elements of connection, dialogue and community. Rather than the current approaches of individualism, rivalry and competitiveness – can we work together to make things better, can we be having honest and open conversations? And then there is the challenge of putting these words into action; sometimes I personally find this to be particularly difficult.

Individual Experiences

Obviously, there are individual experiences that can be very different. YogaLondon has many positive reviews on their website, such as these two: “I’m so glad that I chose to train with YogaLondon. The teacher trainers were all extremely professional, helpful and just wonderful…I’m sure I will be back again at some point to learn some more with YogaLondon”; and this: “I loved training with YogaLondon…The course materials were excellent”.[5]

In contrast, that person who did the YogaLondon course in early 2010s told me: “The main issue I saw was the level of teacher that was coming out of the school. Other schools were in my opinion leaving people more competent and better qualified. At one point I’m told they had four trainings running at the same time and were churning people out.”

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has been hugely challenging for many yoga teachers and for many yoga businesses. In the case of YogaLondon, one problem is that while the owners made considerable amounts of money from the business in the past, right now it is the students and the taxpayers who have significantly lost out.


Some Words of Advice

With this particular situation in mind, here are a few suggestions on choosing and running a yoga teacher training course.

Before committing to course/training, please thoroughly check it out because some are good and some are not so good. It is not about just training quickly; it is about training thoroughly. It is less about branding and trademarks but more about consistency and dedication. Look deeper than website praise or what could be called ‘puff pieces’. Talk to other students who have done this course – and to more than one student! Courses and trainings are substantial investments of money and time; go in with eyes wide open and a well-informed mind.

More specific suggestions…
• those who teach on trainings have been teaching yoga for at least seven years
• all participants on TTs have been practising yoga for at least three years
• applicants for yoga teacher trainings are fully informed about pay rates and employment conditions for yoga teachers before they commit to the course
• valid questions for trainers are: who is your teacher, how long have you been teaching and where do you receive mentoring
• trainings have mentoring/supervision as an integral part of course and participants are encouraged to have a mentor when teaching
• 200-hour/300-hour/500-hour courses have Jess Glenny’s The Yoga Teacher Mentor (2020 Singing Dragon) as part of course material that is given to participants
• a confidential channel is set up for feedback from training participants (something like an ombudsperson for Yoga Teacher Trainings)
• making private complaining into public conversations is a positive policy
• training providers are transparent with participants about income and expenditure [6]

This is about raising standards: of trainings, of teaching, of yoga teachers’ pay rates and employment conditions. Less about quantity (such as that “churning people out”); more about quality (such as those suggestions). Being properly supported and growing networks of community so that sustainability is an actual reality. Seeing more clearly.

[2] Most of the £30,000 owed to staff was actually to Rebecca Ffrench herself (as she was receiving a salary from YogaLondon);
[4] For more information on courses being made available to YogaLondon students, you could contact Dawn Wright at [email protected]
[6] In the interests of transparency, external teachers on the courses that I teach are paid £280 for a three-hour session. If there is an assistant on the course, they are paid £120 per day. The person who deals with all course administration is paid £22 per hour. I estimate that I receive approximately £500 per day for courses.

Norman Blair
8 March 2022