by Nancy Preston
The Iyengar Yoga method is a systematic, step by step method of yoga with emphasis on alignment and sequencing developed by BKS Iyengar (1918- 2014). He was credited to bringing yoga to the west and named an icon of the 20th Century by TIME Magazine. The method uses adaptive postures and props to enable all to experience the effects of yoga. Certification in this method is rigorous and years in the making. A candidate is under the supervision of mentor and recommending teachers and finally evaluated by a panel of assessors who observe asana practice, teaching skills and administer a written exam.
Years ago I happened into a yoga class that was taught by an Iyengar Yoga Teacher.
It was so different than anything I had experienced. It made sense. I could understand the progression and the possibilities. I knew then that this was the method of yoga I would continue with- period. It was that profound to me. I studied for years and did teach a little- sharing with friends and family and filling in for teachers so classes were not cancelled.
One day my teacher said to me “It is time you start to teach. You have been very fortunate to study under masters. Opportunities not afforded to many. You have a love and enthusiasm for the subject. You will be a good teacher.” Then he said “Don’t change your life. Don’t quit your job! Continue as you are but open up your mind and welcome the possibilities of teaching. They will appear. Continue your practice, your study and develop your teaching skills.”
Less than a month after this conversation possibilities did appear. I began actively teaching yoga. I was not a certified teacher so often encouraged students to find a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. I respected what it meant to be certified in this method and yes- I admit- felt unworthy. The process of certification was so daunting. I would not pass. How could I do it? Yet I continued to teach and study.
One day another teacher noticed me in class. It was the first time I attended class with this teacher. After class the teacher said to me “You are a teacher, let’s do something together, team up and teach together.” I was stunned. I said I was not certified and was perplexed why she would consider collaborating with me? The teacher responded “Get certified! Make a plan and do it! I will help you.” This altered my perspective. She was the first person that said the Iyengar certification process was do- able. I had heard the process was a horror show with applicants failing multiple times before passing.
I decided to face this challenge and become certified. It was like being in high school all over again. The insecurities and self- consciousness I thought I had long gotten over emerged from the depths. Was I good enough? Did I look OK? I knew my asanas were far from perfect. I was overweight. How did I have the nerve to stand in front of a class and teach yoga? My teachers were masters. They inspired, humbled and scared me. I could not hold a candle to them.
Here was the lesson in the making; yoga is not about perfections. It is not the perfect asana, not the perfect body. Iyengar Yoga is the method, the approach. The certification assessment date approached and another teacher offered advice to a nervous candidate up for certification (me!). This teacher said “Trust in the method, it is all there, you know it. You will be fine.” I faced and embraced my fears, took that advice and passed certification in 2009.
I love teaching and sharing what yoga can give. It is a constant that evolves with me as I evolve with it. I am thankful for all the events and people that lead me to exactly where I am today. However, if it were not for B.K.S. Iyengar I would not be here.
Though my interactions with him were limited, it has been a divine gift to have been in his presence. His life and his work lives in so many and in me. For all he has given us freely I am in endless gratitude to Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar.