A brief response to Iyengar Yoga Assessment Guidelines proposals

I believe that yoga can only be learned through practice and experience, and it is difficult to assess progress and set goals in terms of ability to perform asanas and pranayamas. My honest opinion is that once qualified, teachers should become part of a community of teachers (where possible) who regularly support each other as they progress with the help of senior teachers. I am fortunate to have a community like this in London but it often feels that it is quite closed and not inclusive.

I am a school teacher by profession, and work in state education in London, where teachers are regularly observed by peers and targets are set to develop skills based on what is needed. I feel that there needs to be a more collaborative approach to developing already certified teachers, rather than an assessment model. I have felt tremendous pressure and stress through my last two assessments and don’t really feel like they contributed to a greater depth of understanding or had a positive impact on my life. I agree that the first stage of certification needs to be assessed. However, I think that after this initial stage, we should all be working together to develop or knowledge, skills and understanding of yoga rather than maintaining a pass/fail culture.

I was greatly inspired by Geeta Iyengar’s work and books as a trainee teacher and loved her approach and insight, in being able to break down learning the asanas into stages. I believe that as teachers, this is a vital part of our job. If we are to continue to just plough through a massive syllabus of asanas and build our egos with what we can perform, we will lose touch with new students and those who want to be introduced to the subject will go elsewhere. In my experience as a teacher of Iyengar Yoga, students are in need of a more simple, step by step breakdown of instruction. This needs to be taught by trainers and mentors and can be done through a small range of asanas. The beauty of the previous syllabi were that many of the asanas would come up again and again to encourage a new approach and a greater depth of understanding within the same asana.

I also believe that Pranayama should have a greater focus in the future and that this should be reflected in teacher development. So many teachers neglect to teach pranayama and have little understanding of Light on Pranayama, when it is such a vital aspect of what BKS Iyengar taught. Why is it not encouraged more? Again I am fortunate to have had teachers who have an excellent knowledge of pranayama and were able to share some of this with me. I think that Pranayama seems to be tagged on to the end of a syllabus without much care or thought about how it should be done. Yet, for me this is the key to a huge treasure that is being ignored.