Iyengar yoga was created by B.K.S. Iyengar and focuses on the use of props when performing Asanas (or poses). It is designed to create an integration of the mind, body and spirit and is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga. These limbs were outlined in an ancient text by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras.
Props include blocks, straps, cushions, benches, belts and chairs. Using the props helps the student to achieve a pose more easily and experience its effects more fully. Props are also useful for students that are tired or ill as they provide a means of support, allowing them to obtain greater gain from a position than they would be able to get otherwise.
The Three Key Aspects of Iyengar Yoga
There are three key aspects to Iyengar yoga – technique, sequencing and timing. Technique refers to the student learning how to constantly refine and perfect the execution of the Asanas (poses) and Pranayama (breath). Sequencing refers to the order in which the Asanas and Pranayama are carried out. Changes can be made to achieve a particular effect, whether that is physical or mental. Timing is the length of time that a person spends in a particular Asana or Pranayama and the timing can be changed to enable a more in-depth exploration of the pose or breath. Iyengar yoga teaches that poses cannot be moved into or out of quickly as it takes time to achieve stability and awareness.
Meditation in Action
Iyengar yoga also teaches the concept of “meditation in action”. This concept simply refers to the student being aware of the different parts of the body as they are performing yoga poses. For example, focusing on a toe will create awareness of how it affects the rest of the body. Initially the mind will focus on individual parts of the body, but with experience and training, it will learn to focus on the body as a whole.
Iyengar yoga focuses on standing poses, as they help to build strong legs, improve circulation, improve coordination and balance, and build a foundation for students to be able to achieve more advanced poses or Asanas. In a class, Iyengar yoga teachers will actively correct poses to eliminate errors and misalignments. The focus is on technical perfection.
Benefits of Iyengar Yoga
Because Iyengar yoga focuses heavily on the correct alignment of the body, it can help to eliminate aches and pains and correct the body’s posture. If taught by an experienced teacher, it can also help in the treatment of many medical conditions – from mild to serious.