Dear Anusara Yoga® Certification Candidate,

Via Bernadette Birney
on Oct 2, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

Congratulations! You have decided to pursue certification to teach one of the most elegant yoga systems in existence!  This alone tells me that you are already an incredibly dedicated student and teacher!

You’re likely both excited and nervous about your decision.  At least, I know I was when I took the leap, and officially announced I was tossing my hat into the certification ring.

Actually–that’s not quite the way it happened. Left to my own devices, I might not be certified today.  I would have dragged my feet, and probably never gotten around to taping my class in order to meet that pesky video requirement.  But I was lucky enough to have a friend at a similar stage in her teaching career who announced, “I’m getting certified and you are, too. Don’t worry, I’ll handle everything.  I’ll hire the videographer; I’ll invite the students. All you have to do is show up and teach.”

That was in 2004. Thank you, Susan Rubin.

Then, I went on to make every mistake in the book.  I share my story in hopes that it inspires you to go about it in a different way–a better way.

“Certification is designed to be a process,” I read on the application.

“Most people make several videos before demonstrating that they are teaching at a certified level,” I was told.

“Of course,” I nodded and smiled my agreement.

Inwardly, I decided, “Eff that. I’m going to nail it on my first video.”

Did I want to be in a process of refinement?  Did I have the I perspicacity to understand that I would never again have the luxury of having such fine teachers helping me to hone my abilities?


What I wanted was immediate confirmation that I was a good teacher.  Okay, I wasn’t arrogant enough to expect a tiara and bouquet of long-stemmed roses–but I was open to it if the Certification Committee was.

It will probably come as a shock to learn that I wasn’t as happy in this process as I might have been.

I missed certification with my first video for several good reasons.

“Some of your students didn’t have their knees bent to 90° in Warrior II,”  my newly assigned certification mentor said.

I seethed.

You want to know what, though?  I never forgot it.  To this day, when I’m instructing Warrior II, my students are in Warrior II.  Uninjured knees are bent to 90°.  All of them.  Period.

The nit-picky bastard My mentor also gave me some advice that forever changed my teaching.  I will happily share it with you right now: “The physical alignment is no different from the emotion you’re asking your students to feel.”

I had to think about that for a while.

It’s not?

Actions open portals into feelings?  Feelings can produce more conscious actions?



How come nobody ever taught me that in Teacher Training?  Hmph.  (They did, of course.  I was just too uncooked to be able to take it in.)

I made a second video.  This time a frail, elderly woman whom I’d never met before showed up, and unrolled her mat right in front of the camera. Not only could this new student not touch her toes, or step to the front of the mat–she refused to accept my instructions for modifications.

I needed her to follow my instructions so that I could demonstrate I had command of the class.    

“Put your back knee down,” I said.

She ignored me.

“Put your back knee down.”  I fisted my hands on my hips, and fixed her with a stink-eye to show her I meant business.


I walked off camera and hyperventilated.  What hospital bed had this lady crawled out of for the express purpose of RUINING MY LIFE?!

The depth and breadth of my compassion are staggering, no?

I decided against submitting that video.  Perhaps a sabbatical from the certification process was in order?

People started to ask, “You must be certified by now?”

I slid into a full-on depression.

No sh!t.  I really let it get to me.

Months passed.

Eventually, I dug down deep, and made another video.  It was approved.  I was certified.  I half-expected lotus flowers to fall out of the sky.

What I want to say to you is this:  I know you want that piece of paper.  I understand.  I get it.

However…you are also free to choose to set your sight on what is of real value.  You wanted to be a yoga teacher for a reason, right?  You wanted what you love to become a blessing that serves something other than yourself, right?  You wanted to heal people, open hearts, and change the world?

The feedback you receive during this time will help you do it.  You will never again have an opportunity quite like this.  Become a sponge.  Soak up as much wisdom as you can.  Take your time.

The wonder of the certification process is that you will not be the same teacher by the end of it.  You will not even be the same person.  Then, certification will be a whole new role that will require growing into.  Certification even transformed a pain in the ass like me.

Yes, I was forced to work harder than I would have otherwise.  Yes, I was forced to open myself in ways that felt uncomfortable.  I’m so grateful that I was.  I am a much, much better teacher because of it.  I’m a better person for it, too.

You are stepping into a process.  For realsies.  Be patient with the process, and with yourself, okay?

It’s going to take some time.

That’s not a problem; it’s the point.


Read more of Bernadette’s posts here


About Bernadette Birney

Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut. / Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential. / Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a Lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog .


8 Responses to “Dear Anusara Yoga® Certification Candidate,”

  1. Rhonda Leigh says:

    Wonderful!… I can not count the times I hear…you certified yet? I have taught a few private sessions under my nursing license, really want to put my all into my practice before I try to pass it along to a group… :}

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    For realsies – I loved this!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  3. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  4. Bernieb says:

    Thanks, Tanya!

  5. Bravo Bernadette – your courage and honesty in sharing your journey is truly moving. You can't fake authenticity…and your writing proves you've got it!

  6. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  7. Deborah Whipple says:

    Wow. This article is floating around on the home feed today and …. I just read it. All it does is reconfirm to me that Anusara is ALL about the asana and is producing trained monkees who teach by rote and not via presence. Therapueutics? Please and … What process? Woof.
    Forcing a geriatric old lady into a pose that didn't feel correct in her body so some aspiring young teacher can feed her ego? Good on the frail elderly lady who was wise enough to honour herself, listen to her body and not be bullied into some contortion that was totally wrong for her in the moment. Oy!
    Please – if having students show up in a taped class who don't do every pose 100% to some static notion of perfection is enough to have you rejected as a teacher, my dear, then you are being sold a load of shit regarding what a yoga teacher is all about.. Where is the "heart" and "opening to grace" in that dynamic? Did I say oy? OY.