Iyengar yoga is created by B.K.S. Iyengar and characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. He has developed an innovative and inspired approach to classical Hatha yoga. Iyengar yoga teachers have completed at least two years of rigorous training through a world-wide standardized system of instruction. The Iyengar yoga style is known for its use of props such as; straps, blocks, blankets, cushions or chairs to help one adjust or support oneself in the different postures. The props, invented by Iyengar during his lifetime of study, make the postures accessible to both the less flexible and the fit and advanced students. Props maximise the opening and awareness of the body and enable students to perform the asanas correctly and minimising the risk of injury or strain. They can also be helpful for sick or disabled people who highly benefit from the asanas.
In terms of asana and pranayama practice, the Iyengar method focuses particularly on three aspects: body alignment or technique, sequencing and timing. Correct body alignment allows the body to develop harmoniously in an anatomically correct way to prevent injury or pain. The precise and careful attention promotes the development of strength, endurance and suppleness – physically, mentally and emotionally. Hence an Iyengar yoga teacher will correct misalignment actively.
Correct sequencing refers to a powerful cumulative effect achieved by practicing asanas and pranayama in particular sequences. There are few more or less strict rules within the topic of sequencing asanas. For example, standing poses are a good preparation for forward bends and after a deep forward bend a few twists are recommended to balance and release your spinal muscles.
Timing refers to the length of time spent in asanas or pranayama. If the postures are held for considerable length of time the effects of the poses pierce deeper within you while the alignment is perfected. Therefore you will find very little flow in Iyengar style yoga and you will rest in child’s pose in between poses. It is not so much a cardiovascular experience as for example a Vinyasa yoga class. Though, holding poses requires strength and is excellent for increasing flexibility. Iyengar yoga is a great style for ill people or elderly, because of the absence of flow or cardiovascular exercise. In addition, Iyengar yoga can also be very appealing to more advanced yoga practitioners who would like to work on their alignment. From my own experience, I can say an Iyengar yoga class is definitely not easy. It requires perseverance to hold a pose for a reasonable amount of time. In addition, Iyengar yoga is very precise, technical and focused on anatomy and subtle movements. The use of props creates a whole range of creative and innovative poses and allows me to practice intense poses safely and without pain.
Nowadays, Iyengar yoga is one of the most practised styles of yoga worldwide. The influence of Iyengar yoga is prevalent in almost every yoga style by the way poses are taught and props are used. Iyengar’s book: ‘Light on Yoga’ has become a yoga classic and the gold standard for its illustration and explanation of hundreds of yoga poses. So Iyengar yoga is definitely worth a try.
“When I practice, I am a philosopher,
When I teach, I am a scientist,
When I demonstrate, I am an artist.”
– B.K.S. Iyengar –