What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is a system of hatha yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar; it is firmly rooted in the traditional eight limbs of yoga as expounded by Patanjali in his classic treatise, The Yoga Sutras. The Iyengar method of practice emphasizes the cultivation of self-knowledge primarily through Asana (yoga postures) and Pranayama (yogic breathing). Attention is given to the development of alignment, balance, strength, stamina, flexibility, concentration, and keen awareness. Students of Iyengar Yoga are instructed how to practice and are encouraged to develop their own home practice. Iyengar Yoga offers a clear and grounded path to holistic health of body, mind and spirit.
What to expect in an Iyengar Class
- Most classes begin with a chant to honor Patanjali, the sage who compiled the classic yoga texts.
- Time is spent on the development and proper alignment of each asana. Precisely guided verbal instruction and visual demonstration helps reinforce the learning.
- Certified Iyengar teachers are trained to modify the classic asanas (yoga postures) for individual students.
- Modifications often include the use of props such as blocks, blankets and belts. Using props can allow for a deeper understanding of the posture and improve the student’s comfort level.
- Typically a class ends with Savasana, corpse pose or deep relaxation. Students learn to rest in a profound way, completely releasing the body while drawing the mind towards a state of peace within.
What are the benefits of Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is an excellent method for developing holistic health. Well-being is cultivated through the integration of body, mind and spirit. Improvements in strength, flexibility, athletic conditioning, general movement, and posture are very common as are noticeable improvements in vitality and mental clarity.
Timing is unique to the Iyengar method, depending on the posture, students may be asked to hold a pose for a minute or longer. This approach can help to activate and strengthen stabilizer muscles that may not be as stimulated by conventional exercises. With stability gained, extension is then possible, leading to significantly increased flexibility and range of motion. As the body begins to adapt to the conditioning, posture naturally improves. The result is a dynamically strong and agile body.
Within the body the internal organs are also brought to a greater state of health. In particular the body’s cardiovascular, digestive and respiratory systems become less constricted. This increased ease of blood flow and breathing throughout the body can help prevent disease and remove toxins. It also has a lasting practical impact on muscle endurance, hydration, and immune response.
The resulting improvement to posture, and overall relaxation of the body can help relieve pain, especially in the back or neck. Under the guidance of a Certified Iyengar Yoga Instructor, more targeted pain relief and recovery from injury is also possible.
Iyengar Yoga and Mental Clarity
The benefits previously discussed have all been primarily physical. In Iyengar Yoga the practice of asana, with a clear focus on the present moment, impacts the students’ mental state. Practitioners report feeling more calm, more centered, less burdened by anxieties, and a general sense of mental wellness and clarity.
Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers
What is Iyengar Yoga teacher certification and what are the benefits? Iyengar Yoga certification is globally recognized and is the most comprehensive form of certification available in the U.S.. There are various levels of certification from introductory to advanced, representing a minimum of 800 hours of training.
A Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher (CIYT) guides students of all ages and physical conditions through a safe, accessible and rewarding experience of yoga. Using their deep knowledge of the asanas and anatomy CIYTs devise sequences of poses that build skill and understanding from posture to posture and from class to class and provide individually appropriate adjustments for each student.
Who Developed Iyengar Yoga?
Sri B.K.S. Iyengar is one of the world’s most acclaimed yoga masters. His innovative and precise approach to classical hatha yoga has educated generations of people in honing the body’s inherent wisdom through yoga, as informed by Patanjali’s yoga sutras. He has inspired millions of devoted yoga practitioners in the process. He is the author of numerous books on yogic practice and philosophy, along with several definitive yoga texts, including the yoga classic Light on Yoga. His teachings, writings, and devoted corps of students and followers have spread the practice of yoga throughout the world. Today there are Certified Iyengar Teachers in 65 countries in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and Asia.
His most popular books include Light on Yoga, which has been published in 18 languages, Light on Pranayama, and Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
In 2004 Time Magazine named B.K.S. Iyengar as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
B.K.S Iyengar’s Early Life
Sri B.K.S. Iyengar was born into a large,poverty-stricken family on December 14th,1918 in the Belur district of Karnataka. As an infant he was affected by an influenza epidemic that left him frail and unhealthy. Throughout his childhood, B.K.S. Iyengar experienced significant illnesses, including malaria, tuberculosis and typhoid, as well as chronic malnutrition.
When he turned sixteen he was sent to Mysore to stay with his eldest sister and her husband, scholar and yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya taught yoga in the Palace of the Raja of Mysore. It was in this school that Mr. Iyengar learned the basic asanas of Yoga, which led to a noticeable improvement in his health.
In 1937, Krishnamacharya asked him to go to Pune and teach yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar faced great difficulty because of his limited knowledge of the English language and his lack of formal education. Although he was still developing his fundamental knowledge in the field of yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar applied a forceful dedication to learning through trial and error. Slowly he mastered the difficult postures and his health improved considerably.
He developed the use of what are now known as “props” in yoga and he created innovative new techniques to guide students towards the mastery of difficult postures as he had done. Over time, the number of students attending his yoga classes began to increase, although the monetary compensation remained small. In 1943, B.K.S. Iyengar married to his wife Ramamani. Together they had six children. She supported him in his studies along with her family of five daughters namely Geeta, Vinita, Suchita, Sunita and Savitha and one son Prashant.
International Recognition and the First Iyengar Institute
Slowly and gradually, B.K.S. Iyengar gained recognition as a yoga teacher in the Indian subcontinent. In 1952 he met the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin. They soon became friends and Menuhin arranged for B.K.S. Iyengar to teach abroad. The fame of B.K.S. Iyengar expanded, and soon he began writing books on yoga. His first book ‘Light on Yoga’ was published in the year 1966 and went on to become an international bestseller. In 1975 B.K.S. Iyengar opened his own institute in Pune, by the name of ‘Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute’, in the memory of his wife.
The Legacy Lives On
Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar passed away at 3:15am in Pune, India on August 20, 2014. He leaves in his wake an outstanding legacy of thousands of teachers including his own children Geeta Iyengar and Prashant Iyengar and his granddaughter, Abhijata. The world is most certainly a better place because of him. Today, classes at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute are being conducted by Prashant, Abhijata and other senior teachers.