Iyengar Yoga, one of the many descendants of Hatha Yoga, is a discipline grounded in precision, detail and alignment. Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in the ‘70s, this system of yoga is particularly innovative due to its incorporation of props, such as wooden blocks, pillows, chairs, belts and ropes. These props are integrated into yoga sequences to assist students in achieving their ideal alignment while lessening the risk of injury. They also make the asana more accessible to audiences of all ages.
Iyengar Yoga is strictly based on the eight limbs of yoga, as dictated by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: (1) Yama—the code of conduct, (2) Niyama—spiritual observances and self-discipline, (3) Asana—integration of body and mind through postures, (4) Pranayama—breath control, (5) Pratyahara—sensory transcendence, (6) Dharana—concentration, (7) Dhyana—meditation and (8) Samadhi—state of ecstasy or enlightenment. History In his early years, Iyengar suffered from a variety of illnesses, eventually turning to yoga in hopes of improving his health. He studied under the legendary guru Krishnamacharya, also known as “the father of modern yoga,” and went on to begin his own teaching career at the age of 18. In 1966, he published his first book, Light on Yoga, which quickly became an international bestseller. Then, in 1975, Iyengar opened his own school in Pune, India, naming it the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in memory of his deceased wife. Although he recently retired, his daughter, Geeta, and his son, Prashant, continue to teach at RIMYI today.
Since the discipline’s establishment, Iyengar has structured and categorized more than 200 traditional asana, as well as 14 different styles of Pranayama. His method diverges from other yoga disciplines in sequence, technique and intervals of time. More specifically, Iyengar’s sequences are organized so that beginning yoga students may slowly progress from the most elementary poses to the most advanced as they gain more experience. The order of postures also varies, altering the effects of the sequence. He believes consistent practice will allow his students to attain perfect anatomical alignment in their poses, thereby creating balance in the body and mind. Health Benefits The therapeutic aspects of Iyengar Yoga may provide relief for certain chronic ailments, and the innovative use of props appears to leave room for even more. These ailments include skeleto-muscular disorders, such as arthritis and spondylosis, circulatory disorders, such as hypertension and angina, digestive disorders, such as constipation and colitis, and even respiratory disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis.
Due to Iyengar’s insistent emphasis on anatomical alignment, Iyengar Yoga often eliminates body aches and improves posture. People who are HIV+ may also find relief and improved quality of life through the practice of Iyengar Yoga. In fact, specific classes are taught for those very people in both the United States and France. Some Iyengar Yoga classes are also tailored to those afflicted by drug addictions. Teacher Training In order to attain certification, Iyengar Yoga instructors are held to a rigorous standard. They have to withstand years of training and evaluation, during which traditional yoga postures must be modified to meet the needs of individual students with the use of props. Additionally, they must be able to administer clear demonstrations of each pose and offer specific teaching points that awaken their students understanding. Teachers are expected to formulate their own variety of asanas, which build skill and comprehension over the duration of each sequence, as well as each semester. “FAQ.” B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga. www.bksiyengar.com/modules/FAQ/faqthera.htm. Accessed Sept. 20, 2013.