Iyengar Yoga is one of the most popular forms of Yoga practiced today. Its versatile classes attract both beginners and experienced yogis alike who are looking to achieve a sense of wellness in the body and focus in the mind.
How Iyengar Yoga Began
Iyengar Yoga was brought to the West in the 1960s by BKS Iyengar, one of the most acclaimed Yoga masters. Iyengar began practicing Yoga after suffering from multiple health issues at a young age, including tuberculosis and malaria. He studied with his Guru T. Krishnamacharya, who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Modern Yoga,’ to maintain a healthy body and prevent further disease.
BKS Iyengar was the author of the book Light on Yoga, which is commonly referred to as the ‘Bible of Yoga’, and created many of the popular Yoga props that are used today. Iyengar has taught all over the world for over 70 years, seeking to spread his knowledge and share the power of Iyengar Yoga., He passed away at the age of 95 in 2014, clearly proving that Iyengar Yoga had a significant impact on his health and body. Even after his passing, BKS Iyengar’s teachings still live on.
The Historical Roots of Iyengar Yoga
As a form of Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga’s core principles are based on the eight limbs of yoga developed by the great sage Patanjali. The eight limbs are guidelines and moral codes aimed at helping an individual achieve enlightenment. A huge focus is placed on breathing exercises and holding asanas for longer than usual. This emphasizes proper alignment, strong core, disciplined mind and body, and increased endurance.
What Makes it Unique?
Iyengar Yoga instructors create their classes with both beginners and novices in mind. Although many asanas can be challenging, Iyengar Yoga is designed to make it more feasible by progressing from easy to intense poses. This gives the opportunity for beginners to grow and improve on the more difficult asanas, and creates a safe environment to develop flexibility and self-awareness.
Range of instruction methods
All Iyengar Yoga instructors are required to have the proper certification in order to teach a class. Every instructor will have different classes that may focus on different areas of the body. Their instruction methods ensure the safety and wellness of every student. In many other forms of Yoga, instructors are not allowed to adjust or help students. However, Iyengar Yoga teachers are trained to give corrective feedback and help adjust a student’s posture if necessary.
If the poses aren’t practiced properly, they can cause injury and muscle strain. Therefore, instructors often walk around the class to ensure that students maintain proper alignment.
Instructors are also trained to address any preexisting physical conditions, pain, or injuries, and to teach students how to practice the asanas in a way that works for their bodies.
Use of props
BKS Iyengar used props because he believed that they are extremely beneficial to one’s practice. To him, props weren’t just for beginners, and he used them himself regularly.
The use of props is included in almost every Iyengar Yoga class, and helps improve posture, provides extra support when holding an asana for long periods of time, and emphasizes the stretch of a particular muscle or part of the body. Popular props include blocks, bands or ropes, belts, and blankets.
Timing of asanas
The postures used in Iyengar Yoga have a powerful impact on the mind and body. Since Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga, asanas are typically held for longer periods of time. This is done to develop endurance and discipline in the body and mind. Pranayama, or deep breathing exercises, helps students hold the postures longer and intensify the stretch.
What Can I Expect?
Iyengar Yoga classes are designed with both beginners and experts in mind. Although each class may be different, all Iyengar Yoga classes are structured the same way. Asanas (poses) are done in a progression so that the difficulty of the poses intensifies as the class advances. The class will typically begin with sitting and reclining postures coupled with deep breathing techniques.
The instructor will offer assistance if needed throughout the class. He/she may modify your position, give feedback, and may recommend the use of different props to make an asana easier or to intensify your stretch.
The class will progress to more difficult poses and postures, so it’s important to remember that it is ok to do only what you’re comfortable with. Iyengar Yoga is designed to teach students to challenge their bodies and minds and grow their strength. With regular practice, you’ll see immense benefits from this unique and authentic school of yoga.