This summer as I work with five teachers preparing for fall assessments to become certified Iyengar Yoga teachers or to raise their certification level, I am struck by their earnestness and dedication. They have spent hours studying the poses on their assigned syllabi, practicing the poses for themselves, and practice teaching the poses in study groups. They are expected to learn not only asana (yoga poses) and pranayama, but to study anatomy and yoga philosophy. They are asked to hone their language to become clearer in their teaching and to sharpen their observation skills to help students in need.
The process of becoming a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher is arduous. Expectations are high from the many stakeholders. These stakeholders include senior teachers assessing the candidates (as the teachers being assessed are called), the candidates undergoing the process of assessment, the candidates’ mentor teachers and Mr. Iyengar himself who still personally signs a certificate for each teacher who becomes certified. The stakeholders also include, most importantly, the students!
Mr. Iyengar gives a quick glimpse of his expectations in this excerpt from The Tree of Yoga: “The teacher should be clear, clever, confident, challenging, caring, cautious, constructive, courageous, comprehending, creative, completely devoted and dedicated to the knowing the subject, considerate, conscientious, critical, committed, cheerful, chaste and calm. Teachers must be strong and positive in their approach.”
In the end, why do we (the teachers) put ourselves through this process? Iyengar Yoga teacher assessment is not for the faint of heart. It is not a quick weekend seminar that gives us a certificate. Years of practice and devotion are required and then we are asked to teach in a “performance” setting to strangers, in front of strangers. We do it to give you, the student, the best possible learning experience. Any other reason does not measure up to the expectations we are held to.