Note: To become certified as an Iyengar Yoga teacher you must pass a test, often referred to as an ‘assessment’. This assessment is rigorous and takes years of working with a mentor to prepare.
I went up for Intro 1 & 2 assessment, for the first time, in 2017. I passed 3 of the 4 sections but failed the teaching portion—to my shock and great dismay. But why?! That “why” became the first step of my journey.
My failed assessment was followed by a phone conversation with one of the assessors in which each pose was reviewed with the assessor’s observations and corrective improvements. I heard what the assessor was saying but could not truly comprehend what she was saying. I still didn’t understand why I had not passed.
In preparing for my next assessment I continued in the same way as before. I retested in 2018 and again failed the teaching portion. This time I was doubly ashamed and felt defeated. I didn’t know what help to ask for.
I was angry, disappointed, and ashamed of my failure, so I shut down and fought the process. I feared the teaching style I was attempting to learn. It took more practice before the style and method made sense. Gradually it started making sense, a lot of sense.
A look back at my history revealed some barriers that I had to overcome. I had several major surgeries that left me with imbalances, obstacles, and trauma. I started to see that self-confidence was a big challenge for me. My teaching lacked maturity, observation skills and foundations. And this was mirrored in my personal practice. I was going through the motions rather than learning and studying the poses. The risks I took in my practice and my indiscriminate attitude toward my body were reflected in my teaching.
My relationship with my practice had to change. I decided to prioritize more downtime—so I could reflect and renew. I learned to allow time in my poses — how it felt to me, what I observed, what went well, what needed improvement.
This summer I received an email that IYNAUS was going to hold an assessment for those who did not pass previous recent tests. Because of the pandemic this make-up assessment was going to be held entirely online, on Zoom. I decided what the heck—I’ll do it! I filled out an online application, paid my fees and awaited instruction.
Prior to assessment we had a zoom orientation where we met our assessors, had a Q & A, checked our zoom setups and addressed technical challenges working from our own space. This assessment turned out to be easier because there was no travel and I could keep my usual sleep routine. My over all nervousness was less because I could not see the assessors which allowed me to focus more on my students.
To help prepare for assessment this time I did a lot of practice teaching. I held weekly practice teaching classes with some of the upper level student in my mentors’ class. The practice class gave feedback, I asked questions, and together we figured it out. Together, that sense of community, their support and my just knowing someone had my back was enough to give me confidence to go up for my third and final attempt at the Introductory 1&2 level. And guess what? I passed!! I was elated, over the moon with my achievement and the support from my community.
It took failing twice to understand that assessment at the Intro level is looking for the foundational work of being an Iyengar Yoga teacher. I can do more in my own practice, but I am not yet able to verbalize or teach it. I learned that the categories of poses, taught in their established order, bring foundational development into the forefront.
Failure had given me humility. Failure gave birth to grace and acceptance. More importantly I am continuing my path of being a yoga student, which will continue to help my teaching. I’ve adopted a new motto, “it takes as long as it takes”. In a time of instant gratification and entitlement I learned patience with myself. I learned that learning takes time and that time on and off the mat is also important.