WHAT IS IYENGAR YOGA + HOW IT CAN BENEFIT YOU
Although I now mostly practice Ashtanga, my love affair with yoga began a few years back with Iyengar. A class and experience that profoundly affected me. You can read all about my very first class here
I tried yoga in my early 20s, I believe it was a flowing hatha vinyasa style. And although now I love this style of yoga it really didn’t resonate with me at all. The combination of a weak, tight body, lack of self-awareness and a disconnection from my body meant that my attempts at yoga never really cut through. But, Iyengar is a unique style and experience. And that coupled with a little more ‘openess’ had me hooked from day one.Iyengar is a very popular style of yoga created by B.K.S Iyengar, who, after sustaining an injury decided to find a way to make yoga accessible and therapeutic. I love Iyengar because of the detail and the focus it requires. It forces me to fully connect with my body, creating such a deep level of self-awareness.
Iyengar doesn’t focus on ‘flow’ or vinyasa, but it is what I would describe an intellectual practice. Some people find the detail in Iyengar yoga to be distracting, however for me it really helps to shut off everything else in my mind as I move into the present (body and breath). This allows me to focus on where i am in space, what I am doing in the posture and how to move deeper.
The practice of Iyengar focuses on a few main aspects:
1) Correct body alignment – in an anatomical way
2) Props – using blocks, chairs, blankets and belts to help you adjust or support the body in different postures – to work within a range of motion that is safe and effective, but also to show you what the body needs to do within the asana
3) Therapy – using asana, the postures and pranayama, the breath to eliminate physical and energetic ailments (including stress!)
4) Sequencing – correct sequences that encourage the practice of postures in an order that creates a strong effects on the body and nervous system. E.g. a headstand always comes before shoulder stand
5) Timing – postures are held for a longer period of time to let the effects of the pose penetrate deeper within the body and mind – sense of awareness, strength, flexibility, stamina, understanding.
Downward Facing Dog – Iyengar yoga wall
A typical class will see the teacher focus on a particular set of asanas – Standing Poses, Twists and Forward Bends, Backbends, Restorative etc. However, in each class there will always feature a long-held headstand (sirsasana) and long-held shoulderstand (sarvangasana) at the end. The kind and queen of the asanas and two poses revered in Iyengar (all yoga in fact!)
Unlike Ashtanga, where ladies not practice during their menstrual cycle, in Iyengar you can still attend but your teacher will set you up for a restorative sequence using blankets, bolsters and props to settle into soothing postures for 5-10 minutes each. This leaves you feeling so blissed out and calm.
One of my favourite books is B.K.S Iyengar. It is a brilliant book. And as expected, incredibly detailed. Whether you are a teacher, new practitioner, or intrigued yogi from a different style this book is a must!
If you are injured, recovering from pregnancy, find hot/flow styles of yoga make you feel anxious, need some grounding, like to experiment, or are totally new to yoga I strongly recommend trying Iyengar. I especially think starting out with Iyengar before transitioning is the most brilliant set-up for a fantastic yoga practice.
After sustaining a hamstring injury and back injury I have started to incorporate Iyengar back into my yoga regime. Nothing else teaches you structure, alignment, understanding like Iyengar does. All yoga creates awareness, but Iyengar does so on a deep level, very quickly!
Signing off with an exhale.
Pause. Listen. Live.
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