What is it?
B.K.S Iyengar is one of the most famed teachers for bringing Yoga to Westerners. Iyengar Yoga is accessible to everyone because of the use of props to help every practitioner find a balance between effort and ease. Using these props is really what made Yoga accessible to Westernised bodies – without these props, a lot of the asanas would not be possible to practice safely. This form of yoga pays close attention to our anatomical structure and will help to build strength, stability and flexibility over time whilst also gaining a greater sense of body awareness. Iyengar’s book ‘Light On Yoga’ is one of the most popular books to study and breaks down over 200 different postures and 14 forms of controlled breathing techniques (pranayama).
Each Iyengar class is different, depending on where the teacher has set the focus of the class. You will be using props such as straps, blocks and blankets and in some classes, you may even practice against a wall. When using props, the class pace is slower than some other forms of Yoga, but this slow pace allows you to really pay attention to what is happening in your body as you focus on the correct alignment. You begin to notice different muscles that maybe you never realised you had! It is common for the Iyengar teacher to come around and make physical adjustments and corrections when you are in a pose so that you can truly experience the pose at your maximum ability. The focus in these classes is to always find a balance in the body whilst still maintaining a slow and steady breath. This is a class to really listen to your body.
Classes are common in general Yoga studios and Gyms. They are ideal for beginners and even more advanced practitioners who maybe have gotten a little lazy with their alignment… it happens to the best of us. Iyengar will give you that discipline again and can even be very humbling. Advanced yogis may realise that they cannot actually go as ‘deep’ into a pose as they thought. No matter what your ability, you will understand more about your body structure, and also how different it may be to your neighbour. Always remember, although Iyengar is slower paced, think about holding downward dog for 5 minutes, or Warrior Two for 5 minutes…suddenly these foundational poses are not that easy, no matter what level you are.
Iyengar Yoga is something that can be practiced at home, as long as you have something you can use as props. It is not necessary to buy props straight away, as there are usually substitutes lying around the house… For example, you can easily substitute yoga blocks for a chunky book, or a yoga strap for a dressing gown rope – get creative! However, if you do start a regular home practice, it is probably a good idea to invest in the relevant props.
Why we love it!
Iyengar is such an amazing style of Yoga where you truly feel the movements and you learn so much about your own body. You can even start to become aware of how you carry tension, as well as where in your body (psssst, it may not actually be your neck and shoulders!). Over time, as you continue to practice, you can see these changes in your body which is a beautiful experience.
Geeta Iyenagr is B.K.S Iyengar’s daughter who now continues to ‘stand in her father’s light and to illuminate the way for the rest of us’. She and her brother run most of the classes together at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune India. In 1995, Geeta wrote a ground-breaking book, Yoga: A Gem for Women, and she is loved and respected by many Iyengar Yogis. She is a compelling and profound teacher who continues to teach not just in India, but worldwide through teaching tours.
Check out our favourite picks for Iyengar Yoga here:
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