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Iyengar Certification

BKS Iyengar

To officially call yourself an Iyengar instructor, you have to have been granted permission.

BKS Iyengar is 93 years old. He lives in Pune, India. He wakes up every morning and practices pranayama for at least an hour, then after an appropriate time lapse, walks across the courtyard to enter the main practice hall where he practices asana for two hours or more. Students come from all over the world to study at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, to be in the presence of Guruji and his son and daughter, respectively, Prashant and Geeta.

The Iyengar family has devoted themselves to the study and teaching of the vast subject of yoga so that our lives may be improved by its practice.

It is out of respect for the Iyengars and my senior teachers that I continue to pursue Iyengar Certification.

I most recently passed the fifth level, Intermediate Junior 3. I began taking the tests almost 13 years ago, 2 years into my Iyengar study. Iyengar assessments are rigorous and require a great deal of study and preparation.

These tests are, at the very least, an expression of commitment and devotion to the students who chose to walk into and remain in my classes. Yes, I care enough about you to put myself through this process.

As teachers, we are given lists of poses we must be capable of performing ourselves and capable of teaching to all body types. In addition, there is a list of required knowledge and reading that we will be tested on in a written exam, so yes, we are expected to study. And, yes, it is completely possible to fail these tests.

The tests are held in various locations around the country, so travel is often necessary. Teachers kindly volunteer their studio space for 3 days, Friday through Sunday, for the testing to take place. My first test was in Kansas. Most recently, I traveled to New York City for a test.

Candidates begin the first portion of the test, pranayama demonstration, on Friday afternoon. We are tested on pranayama techniques particular to each level. We show that we know prop set-ups for supine and seated pranayama and can stay calm while 3 or 4 people walk around the room scratching notes on their clipboards.

Next is the asana demonstration. Poses are called out and we do them. If there is an injury or condition preventing us from performing a pose, we are expected to know a safe modification to practice. Then after about 2 hours of asana, the written exam is handed out and we are given an hour to complete it. The higher level exams contain a take-home written exam. I wrote 5000 words for the exam I handed in. Once the written exam is finished, the candidates are handed a list of 6 poses for the teaching test.

The teaching portion of the test is the most exciting. Throughout the remainder of the weekend the assessors work all day Saturday and most of Sunday, viewing the teaching. It is truly an exhausting experience for candidates and assessors. The candidates teach 6 poses in 40 minutes to a group of students who attend classes in that particular community.

It’s exciting because you get to meet students of Iyengar yoga from a different community and share with them your love and knowledge of the subject. On the other hand, it is a nerve wracking, panic attack inducing experience because you are being judged on your abilities and feel like everything you’ve worked for can be smashed to nothing in 40 minutes of agonizing torment. That’s not really true, even though it may feel that way sometimes. So, you use all of your yoga practice to keep your cool and stay detached from the results so that you can respond to the moment by teaching the people in front of you with confidence and happiness.

If you fail, you are counseled by the assessors on what you should work on to re-take the test successfully.

Taking these tests over the last 12 years has been amazingly valuable.