Iyengar yoga is suitable for people of all types – from the athletic to those that are not yet physically fit. This includes those who are overweight, elderly, pregnant, injured or ill.
Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise body alignment of all parts of the body within each yoga asana. This precision of approach builds strength and stamina, balance and flexibility, and a new sense of well-being. Achieving meditation in action, the preactitioner learns to exist fully and vibrantly in the present moment. Iyengar pioneered the use of “props” such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps, and sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas or postures more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow more advanced students to deepen and improve their poses, and tired or ill students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully “supported” methods requiring less muscular effort.
Standing poses are emphasized for beginners in Iyengar Yoga. They build strong legs, increase general vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance, ensuring a strong foundation for study of more advanced poses. Inversions, particularly shoulder stand, play important roles in the practice. Poses of every type are introduced in a beginning form to build skills, confidence and awareness to progress safely and efficiently.
An Iyengar Yoga class is highly verbal and didactic. Principals and specific points of an asana are demonstrated and explained by the teacher. The students perform the asana with misalignments and errors actively corrected through verbal instruction and physical touch. An experienced eye and a sensitive touch guide students to a greater awareness and openness in the asana.
Iyengar yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga worldwide. It is based on the teachings of yoga master B.K.S Iyengar and emphasizes physical alignment of the body in the poses. The Iyengar school teaches that there is a way to do each pose correctly and once students attain perfect poses through practice, a balance is created in the body and this, in turn, will be reflected in the mind. That balanced, perfected pose will be different for each individual at different times.
Iyengar Instructors become certified to teach Iyengar Yoga at the Introductory Level after 2-5 years of practice and study. They must also pass a certification exam. Higher level certification may take a decade or more.
B.K.S. Iyengar was born in 1918 under difficult circumstances that left him sickly as a child. When he was 15 years old he was invited to stay with his eldest sister who was married to T.K.V. Krishnamacharya who is considered by many to be the father of Modern Postural Yoga. Through a long, difficult struggle and some good fortune, Iyengar gained recognition as a yoga teacher. Yehudi Menuin was impressed by him and arranged for him to teach abroad. This lead to further recognition and eventually to the founding of the Iyengar Instute in Pune, India. Although his formal education is limited, his many books are eloquent, insightful and informative. His most famous book, Light on Yoga is considered by many to be the ‘bible’ of modern yoga asana. His eldest daughter Geeta and son Prashant also teach yoga and now run the institute under his guidance.
The Iyengar Institute refined and modernized their certification process and their internal organization in the 1960’s, and that process continues to the present. Today, Iyengar Yoga is the single most influential style of yoga in the world. Mr. Iyengar’s writing, lectures, demonstrations and teaching have touched many of the popular forms of yoga today. In 2006, at the age of 87, Mr. Iyengar led a two-day intensive in Estes Park Colorado followed by a book tour promoting his latest book, Light on Life. He is living proof of the benefits of a lifetime of yoga practice.
To learn more about Mr. Iyengar and his approach to hatha yoga, go to www.iynaus.org.