Iyengar yoga is one of the oldest forms of yoga that is practiced today. A form of Hatha yoga, it emphasizes alignment, detail and precision in areas of breath control (pranayama) and posture (asana).
Through these asanas, one can gain an increased development of mobility, stability and strength. Iyengar aims to unite the body, mind and spirit for overall health and a feeling of well-being. From beginner to avanced, these effects are realized through practicing a system of over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of pranayama.
B.K.S. Iyengar studied in Mysore, India, with guru Krisnamacharya. With this knowledge, he began teaching on his own in 1936. His own personal yoga adventure began because he was suffering from tuberculosis, and wanted to attempt to heal himself in a holistic way.
Iyengar's methods are taught at institutes all over the world. Not only did he develop and popularize his type of practice, but his books have become classic pieces of yoga text. His most popular work, "Light on Pranayama," illustrates and describes many breathing techniques and hundreds of different yoga poses.
Two of his other significant books include "Light on Pranayama" and "Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali." His pranayama book focuses on breath work. The sutras book he developed was his own interpretation of the ancient Yoga Sutras, which is where he developed the framework for his entire method of yoga.
One last book that must be mentioned is his most recent work "Light on Life." In this book, Iyengar addresses the mental and spiritual aspects of yoga. This is a very important book because these facets of yoga are often overlooked in today's society, where the main focus is usually on the physical areas.
The Iyengar method is usually first learned through a very focused study of asanas and pranayama. Iyengar has structured and categorized his over 200 asanas and 14 pranayamas into a system that allows someone to progress from beginner to most advanced.
This approach is very well thought out because it helps students grow in skill surely and safely from very basic postures to some extremely advanced poses. People of all shapes and sizes can gain strength, flexibility and sensitivity in body, mind and spirit at their own pace.
This is especially true because Iyengar developed the use of props to help assist the body into the desired positions.
He is known as the first one to start teaching others through the use of different yoga props such as chairs, wooden blocks, belts and blankets. With the assistance of these tools, Iyengar has made it possible to get into proper alignment no matter what your current level of practice.
There are three aspects, in particular, that distinguishes Iyengar yoga from other styles of yoga: technique, sequence and timing.
Iyengar is known for it's focus on proper alignment. As one practices, closer and closer attention is paid to fine adjustments in alignment on how one performs asanas and pranayama.
There are several sequences of poses and breathing that are meant to be done in a distinct order. The mental and emotional effects of the study can be strengthened most effectively only when following the proper order, so students must learn the correct sequence.
Iyengar yoga is not meant to be done briskly. When fully engaged in a pose, one should take the necessary time to become extremely stable. Only when this stability is achieved can the full benefits of the posture be realized, because it takes time to intensify the depth of the pose.
Here is brief video that helps show what this type of yoga is all about:
The benefits of practicing this type of yoga, and really, any type of yoga...are awesome. Here is a short list of what yoga can do for you:
- Increase flexibility and muscle tone
- Reduce stress
- Build strength
- Develop proper body alignment
- Increase lung capacity
Is Iyengar Right for You?
Iyengar yoga is great for all levels, from advanced yogis looking to fine-tune their alignment, to beginners who are getting used to all of the basic forms and postures. Iyengar is a really good style to ensure that you are getting the most out of all of your poses.
Make sure you have all of the proper gear, and don't forget to take a look at this article which contains some of the newest, hottest yoga gear.
Do yourself a favor and go take an Iyengar yoga class. If you enjoy it, make it a habit to practice regularly and your body will really thank you for it. Not only that, but your mind and spirit will also be feeling wonderful as your stresses begin to melt away.