What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is named after B.KS. Iyengar who established this form of Hatha yoga in the 1970s. He had ailments growing up and began experimenting with props and modifications in Yoga. He developed an effective and knowledgeable yoga style.
Soon people began to refer students to “Iyengar’s Yoga” and it took off from there. Several things define Iyengar Yoga from other yoga styles. These are:
Iyengar Yoga has a lot of focus on alignment and details compared to other forms of hatha yoga. By focusing on each pose in this way you can create awareness and bring intelligence to every part of the body. Weak muscles become stronger by slowly repeating a new action for the body. This method is fairly strict in following alignment principles. Iyengar yoga is great for those who are serious about learning yoga and are not just casually doing it for exercise. For example in the triangle pose, trikonasana, it is okay to rest the bottom arm whereas in ashtanga yoga its typically performed by holding the big toe, regardless of your state of alignment.
(Triangle Pose: Don’t hesitate to feel comfortable and look cute while practicing. You can find cute yoga leggings here.)
Repetition and Sequencing
There is a lot of repetition in Iyengar Yoga lifting the arms and straightening the legs. Through this repetition you can wake up and bring a new understanding to the body. The practitioner holds postures longer to build strength, stability, and flexibility. Because poses are held longer, the classes are often longer durations. By holding the pose longer Iyengar believes that the body, including the organs, have time to adapt to the pose and promote self-reflection. Teachers sequence a class based on guidelines of which pose goes before the other instead of making up sequences.
Another very specific way Iyengar Yoga differs is that this is a yoga of action versus movement. Thus, you move with intelligence knowing which type of action is happening. This is helpful when the poses get harder because the body will know how to support itself better. The movement happens more internally and subtlety than a fast-paced yoga flow sequence with a lot of big movement changes within a short period of time. This includes precise directions regarding the breath and when to exhale and inhale.
Iyengar Yoga uses a lot of props. The props used are meant to make the pose serve you. This approach to yoga really focuses on every specific and unique body. So if one pose is still not accessible to you, by using props, the wall, chair, or a belt you can make a yoga pose more accessible to you. The use of blocks, straps, and blankets are also very common in this yoga style. An Iyengar Studio usually features ropes on the wall. This frequent use of props is very helpful if you have an injury or physical limitation including lack of flexibility.
Create a strong foundation to understand the mind and spirit!