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What is Iyengar Yoga?

What is Iyengar Yoga?

Iyengar Yoga is a style of yoga that was developed and named after someone called B.K.S Iyengar, in the 1960s. This style of yoga is very meticulous and places importance on precision and alignment. Iyengar yoga is about breath control and posture and is great to build strength and flexibility, as well as teaching the correct alignment of the body.

B.K.S Iyengar was born in 1918 in Bellur, India. He studied and practiced yoga for over 85 years. He studied under T. Krishnamacharya - who is often referred to as ‘The Father of Modern Yoga’. He brought his style of yoga to the west in the 1970’s and wrote his book: Light on Yoga, which has been a source for yoga students all over the world. B.K.S Iyengar taught for over 75 years in the 5 continents, bringing yoga to many people around the world. He even invented a lot of the yoga props we still use today and helped explore how yoga can treat medical conditions.

Iyengar yoga is different, and it’s accessible to anyone. It is the most widely practiced yoga style in the world. Iyengar yoga focuses on postural alignment, and it is good to treat postural problems. It requires a high level of concentration to achieve the precise details of each pose. The emphasis is on quality of movement rather than quantity and encourages safety throughout the practice. It might seem a bit slower, but you’ll soon realize how hard you have to work.

Iyengar practice utilizes props - such as blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, and bolsters. This is to help each student to find the proper alignment in each pose. Props are useful as they help students to hold poses in the proper alignment even when it’s the first time they’ve tried it, or if they are stiffer or injured. Props should always be available in an Iyengar yoga practice, but they’re not always necessary. They should be used to simplify the poses and to make each pose accessible to everyone. Make sure you take advice from your instructor if you’ve never used props before, or you’re not sure if you need them or not.

In an Iyengar yoga class, the technique in which the postures are taught is the exact same worldwide. Each teacher will choose a series of poses for each class for different reasons, but each pose will be exactly the same worldwide. That means you will not feel out of place whatever Iyengar class you attend.

Beginner classes tend to focus on standing postures, to help you learn and understand the fundamentals of how to align your body correctly. Standing poses form the foundation of the practice, before moving onto more advanced postures. However, standing poses need to be practiced and studied regularly - even if you’re a master at the practice. 

Teachers who teach Iyengar yoga must undergo lots of training to ensure they give out the right instructions needed on alignment and postures. A fully qualified Iyengar teacher will hold a current Iyengar Yoga Certification Mark.

You can expect a class to include lots of information on technique and sequencing, progressing safely through the postures.

The benefits of Iyengar yoga include physical benefits, such as increased flexibility. You don’t need to be super flexible to try it, and increased flexibility may be a great side effect. It is a slow and gentle practice that allows you to hold poses for one minute, and using props to help hold poses can increase your flexibility.

Another benefit is toned muscles, as the physical demand of holding the poses will build up strength in your muscles as well as stretching them. Iyengar engages your whole body, allowing you to build strength in all the muscles, including connective tissue that you might not usually work out. This results in a full body toning experience, and allows you to be aware of how your muscles work deep in your body. 

Iyengar yoga can also be used as a type of pain relief, to help relieve back and neck pain. This is because it focuses on alignment, to combat slouching, hunching, and muscle weakness. Iyengar can also help to stretch the muscles in your back and relieve any tension that might be causing pain in these areas. Additionally, this focus on proper alignment can help to strengthen the muscles of your body that are responsible for posture, like your legs, back, and core. With these adjustments to improve your posture, you will also find that smaller muscles become stronger and you find yourself standing taller, and you’ll have more energy, less pain, and feel more confident. 

Practicing Iyengar yoga can also help to protect from disease. Disease happens when the normal processes of the body don’t happen exactly the way they should. Iyengar helps to improve the functioning of your body, from circulatory and nervous systems, to lymph systems and digestion. When your body is working properly, your organs are nourished and can eliminate toxins, decreasing the risk of disease. 

Finally, Iyengar yoga can help to improve your breathing. While you hold your asana and focus on your alignment, you also move your focus to the breath. The more you practice Iyengar and practice breathing, the less you end up holding your breath unconsciously in your day-to-day life. This encourages a constant flow of oxygen to the brain.

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