Tag Archives: assessment

Back to work

Hi all! It’s been a while since I posted and it’s been one whirlwind of a month. I returned recently from my trip to New Mexico via Los Angeles where I took my Junior Intermediate 1 assessment. Unfortunately, I did not pass the whole assessment. The good news is that I aced the written test with a 92.5 and passed the demonstrated practice which I was most concerned about. However, the next day I did not make the grade on the teaching portion.

The nice thing is that if you don’t pass you get to schedule a phone meeting with the lead assessor. I won’t share who just because I don’t want to have to ask permission and it is a personal thing to boot. However, I called this person who gave me wonderful feedback. It felt like a nice hour long chat with a friend who has a lot of knowledge and experience in Iyengar yoga.

The feedback I got is similar to what my mentoring teachers tell me I need to work on. In fact I really thought I had this stuff down, it just didn’t come out right on the day of the assessment. The Iyengar system is no cakewalk. You can’t just write a poem or essay about how great yoga is and expect to pass. You have to give it your all an then some. Even then, as was my case, is still not enough to advance.

The good news is that I am still a certified Iyengar teacher and if I choose, I can try again next year and only have to do the teaching portion (40 minutes to teach 6 poses from your syllabus with 10-12 students). I also have another year to get these poses down even better.

On an even brighter note, this past week my younger brother and his new wife gave birth to a healthy newborn boy. I look forward to being an uncle and maybe teaching my nephew yoga as he gets older.

The featured image is the New Mexico sky in Rio Rancho at sunset.

A few days until my assessment

I’ve been a bit of a stranger on WordPress the past few months. Mainly in part because I am juggling teaching and my full time job, caregiving, and of course preparing for my Junior Intermediate I assessment this Friday and Saturday. I will be flying to the venue in Los Angeles.

At one point in Iyengar assessments you have to resign yourself to knowing what you know, being able to do what you can do, an hope the assessors see that you are working intelligently even if you can’t attain all of the poses on the syllabus.

There are a few poses I struggle with on this syllabus, but the one that has been really getting my goat is Eka Hasta Bhujasana, or one arm shoulder pose (it not called elephant trunk pose!!!!).  It has taken a village of Iyengar teachers to teach me this pose, and I am still having trouble with execution. I am a bit girthy which contributes to my difficulty, but also my long arms don’t seem allow me to get the torque I need to lift my buttocks off the ground.

My mentoring teachers Ray and Shelley, and their more advanced student Laurie have been very encouraging and getting me to try different strategies. Even Stephanie Tencer in Toronto gave me some good tips.

I feel in the Iyengar system that the poses that give you the most problems are the ones you can teach the best. Because you literally explore 100 ways to do them, or at least some action pertaining to them. So on Friday afternoon when I get my “sealed envelope” of six poses, I shouldn’t dread it if Eka Hasta Bhujasana is on the list. I won’t have the greatest demo, but I sure will give my students a plentitude of options to get into the pose.

Many blessings to you all!

Some tips on how I survived assessment…and passed


Next month starts the assessment season in Iyengar yoga. There are still less than 1,000 certified Iyengar teachers in the US. This low number reflects how difficult it is to get though the whole assessment process. Since I am not as keen in my practice as others, it took me four years once I began my apprenticeship.

Getting certified in this style requires one to be a student in the Iyengar for at least 3  years. Then, the student has to find a mentoring teacher and a recommending teacher that are at least Junior Intermediate level. One then has to apprentice with those teachers for at least two years and not mix styles.

There is a syllabus of poses one has to adhere to. The Introductory I syllabus has 32 poses that initially look mockingly simple compared to other styles. But they are not. In the apprenticeship, one has to learn everything there is to know about those poses and how to teach them to somebody who just walked in the door without every attending a yoga class in their life. You cannot get away with instructions like “feel your breath as you fold forward…” You have to instruct how to get into the pose classically from the base up.

After a year of apprenticeship, there is the first assessment. This does not mean you are certified. Passing this means that you are now eligible for certification. It is a two day assessment.

The first day there is a demonstrated practice where you are observed by senior teachers. An official just says the name of the pose in Sanskrit, and the assessors watch what you do. You are rated on the quality of your practice. If you are injured or cannot do a pose, you have to show how your are working in the pose to your capacity. After the demonstrated practice is a demonstrated pranayama practice which is observed in a similar way. There is also a one hour written exam which covers the required readings from the syllabus.

The second day is the teaching skills portion. IYNAUS has recently revised this for the Introductory I from 40 minutes to 30 minutes. When I took the assessment, I had to teach 6 poses in 40 minutes from my syllabus that were given after day one. The only sure pose will be Salamba Sarvangasana (supported all body pose, or shoulder stand).

If that is passed, you have two years to complete the Introductory II portion. Passing this means you will be certified as an Iyengar Yoga Instructor. The Intro II syllabus has 42 poses with Salamba Sirsasana (supported head pose, or headstand) being the one sure thing on the teaching skills portion. The intro II is the same two day format with a 40 minute teaching skills portion.

For those who are approaching this daunting task, here are a few things that helped me survive…

1) Teach to what is in front of you, not what you are thinking in your head. In such a high stress situation, you have to remain focused. It is best to focus on watching your students and instructing them based on what you see, rather than trying to rely on your “script.” It is actually very grounding to tell someone to move a certain way, and having them do it.

2) Do a “props drill.” On days when you are too exhausted to practice, go through your syllabus and just arrange the props as quickly as possible for each of the poses. Some officials read quickly in the demonstrated practice and that does not give you much time to set up. By continuing these drills, it helps you set up without going through a mental brick wall.

3) Research your venue site, and notice the shape of the room and the types of props they use. Some studios have vast wall space, some use only wooden blocks, some use only Pune blankets, some have weird chairs, get to know the peculiarities and practice with those props.

4) Get to your venue site early, and take some classes at the studio if allowed. This will give you a good idea of how to use the space for certain poses and get to know the props better. The more familiar you are with the surroundings, the more comfortable you will feel during assessment.

penn studio

5) Most importantly, try to get enough rest each night before the assessment. This may be an impossible task, but sleep is very important for your level of performance. It is better to sleep than to cram.

Best wishes to all candidates!

Poses you dread…getting to the deeper problem


Parsva Halasana (Side Plow Pose)


We all have them. The dreaded poses that make us feel uncomfortable, self conscious, and downright miserable. Some people may have an entire clan of poses that they can’t stand. During my Intro II apprenticeship and teacher training, that pose for me was Parsva Halasana (side plow pose.) To preface, I had an unknown diagnosis of Benign Hyperplasia of the Prostate (BHP) for the first half of my training, and required surgery. Prior to the procedure, I was not able to evacuate without pain and discomfort and felt bloated most of the time. Hence, any forward bend, twist, or inversion was extremely uncomfortable. The combination of all three (Parsva Halasana) was pretty much unbearable before the operation. 

Because of all the pain before the procedure, I was hesitant to try the pose for a few months. When I got into again, there was no pain like before, but a dreaded sense of anxiety. Coupled with Karna Pidasana, I felt claustrophobic. In short I hated Parsva Halasana! My fellow trainee, Azi had a similar dislike to Parivritta Parsvakonasana. One day after a difficult teacher training session, I asked Azi about the poses she hated on our syllabus and why. I also asked myself the same question and wrote down the responses:

  • It hurts like hell!
  • It makes me feel fat!
  • I want to vomit while in the pose!
  • This assessment process sucks, why do we have to do poses we hate?!
  • It makes me feel self conscious!
  • I don’t want to shit or piss myself while in the pose!

The exercise was cathartic. I started crying. All the buildup of pain and frustration in the pose, coupled with the stress of a demanding teacher training had taken it’s toll. Once I let it all out, the pose magically stopped hurting both physically and psychologically. One year after the surgery, I took and passed my Intro II which involved holding Parsva Halasana for one minute each side. I did not have any discomfort at all!

Asanas are excellent diagnosis tools for health. If you have extreme discomfort in certain poses, you may want to investigate with your doctor. That is not to be confused with getting injured in class or just being stiff. I am talking about chronic discomfort that arises from poses that previously did not give you a hard time. When I realized I needed to see a doctor about my BHP is when I lost control of my bladder during Parivrtta Pasrvakonasana. I made an appointment the next day and was on the operating table within a week.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea after back bends
  • Eyesight problems after inversions 
  • Losing circulation, feeling numb well after the asana
  • Vertigo

The list can go on and on. When you become seasoned in your practice, you can assess pretty quickly that there is a problem in your body. Asanas are like a lab in which you can spot a problem well before the doctor can. Use your yogically honed instincts and get those problems checked out.