Iyengar Yoga has been one of the prominent forms of Hatha Yoga, that has a major emphasis on precision, detail, alignment along with the two crucial elements of Yoga; that are the posture (asanas) and the breath (pranayama). By practicing Iyengar Yoga, one can develop stability, strength, mobility and flexibility in the body, also on an enhanced level.
The usual routine of Iyengar Yoga is practiced with belts, blocks and blankets that aid in the performance of the Yoga. The props have the tendency to enhance the students to perform the postures by minimising the risk or the strain caused by the injuries and also modifies them to be available for both young and as well as old people.
Origin of Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar Yoga as the name speaks, is founded by B.K.S Iyengar; a quintessential Yogi. He has read various Yoga texts and then came up with 200 yoga poses that are entirely classical and started systemizing them. These 200 poses are then tagged with different types of breathing, Pranayama with variations in it ranging from the basic level to the advanced level. The pranayama will help the students in the smooth transition and also in the gradual progress from the easy poses to the difficult one's step by step while creating a development pattern in body, spirit and mind of the person. Iyengar Yoga is strictly traditional, and it has the eight typical limbs of Yoga according to the exploration done by the Patanjali Yogis.
What is Iyengar Yoga Good For?
As mentioned earlier, all the poses of Iyengar Yoga speaks about the structural alignment of the body with the mind through the asanas. Therefore, by practicing the asanas thoroughly, one can aim to unite the mind, body and the spirit of the person together. This particular yoga type is widely considered as the most powerful tool to relieve all kind of stresses that we experience in the modern day lives that help us promote the physical as well as the psychological well-being.
Elements of Iyengar Yoga
The elements of Iyengar Yoga are why the yoga form is considered to be slightly different from other yoga styles. The three core elements that play a major role include timing, technique and sequence of the asanas.
- Time: Time spent in performing each of the Iyengar Yoga pose or the pranayama is known as the timing. One has to be sure of how much time that they have to spend in a particular pose.
- Technique: The technique, as an element speaks about the performance of the asanas and the body alignment while you are holding a pose.
- Sequence: Sequences are the routines that combine one or more asanas with one or more breathing techniques. Following a sequence will help you get better results and positive outcomes.
Why should one practice Iyengar Yoga?
Characterised by details and precision in various terms, the Iyengar Yoga is not just yoga but is also pioneered and reinforced with many other elements like props (including benches, sandbags, cushions and straps) that function as an aid especially for the beginners to experience the asanas. One can achieve greater and healthier physical existence on performing the Iyengar Yoga, and the best part is that once you have started, you won't feel like leaving it in the middle.
Methodology of Iyengar Yoga
Unlike other Yoga styles, the Iyengar Yoga doesn't require much of the physical effort, strain of muscles and is more experiential than anything else. The students are independently encouraged to find their own sequence or routine while they are first taught to imitate the instructor. Once the class becomes habituated with verbal communication, the errors and misalignments are corrected by the teacher who usually get trained for two years to become a teacher. Making sure that the student has gained adequate experience, the teacher will allow the customization to take place based on their priorities and preferences.
5 Iyengar Yoga Life Lessons by B.K.S Iyengar
Iyengar Yoga is also recommended for people who face depression. There were many yogis in the past who took this option. While performing the Tadasana in the beginning class, B.K.S Iyengar has once told to a guy that "If one opens their armpits wide open, they will never feel depressed". As stupid and speculative it sounds, what he meant was to stand tall with your chest opened and your arms lifted; it will create a change in your mental state.
Often while you balance the yoga pose, you see that you are technically correct in doing the pose but the whole pose only comes from a particular part of the body, say when you are thinking about the pose; it is coming from the brain. Most of the poses come from the analytical area of the brain and thus they seem dead. One has to bring life to a particular pose by giving a dynamic movement to your limbs and by bringing the pose from the inner cells of the body.
Once while B.K.S Iyengar was taking Yoga class back in 1976 with a group of experienced yogis that can perform advanced Iyengar Yoga, he all of a sudden asked them to quit the yoga and join with him for bowling. He said that a human can't just do yoga all the time without living the life for hours and hours. The thing is he was so horrible at bowling that he was only throwing gutter balls all the time.
Have No Fear
According to Bhagavad Gita, a soul even after leaving the body of a person will never die. All your life you are trained to wear the clothes as embodiments and once you die, your body will be naked but your soul will still keep going. This is a resonation that he has given saying that Death is not a fright but indeed a relief or an escape at times. He presented it in a way that only soul matters and the materialistic life we are living now is just another phase of the pivotal moment.
One day in the middle of the class, Iyengar has asked his student to help an injured person to make a backbend. The student has first tried to help the partially paralyzed person by placing hands on the straps and the blocks to enable him. As Iyengar said that this pose will benefit the nervous system and the circulation system of the injured person, the student slithered under the injured person and lifted him. After a while, exhausted the student asked him why he made him do that to which he replied, "Now you know what it likes to be me". Through this, he sent a message that noone is invincible and that everyone is vulnerable.
Important Iyengar Yoga Poses
Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) - Three Stages
Start with lining the short edge of the mat against the mall and longer edge, perpendicular to it. Keep your feet apart with the back foot flushed with the back corner of the mat (preferably right). This foot is used to provide stability as this pose needs more sense of balance. Now, use a block under the bottom arm and start lengthening the top arm while you look up. This is more like a backbend in the Triangle pose. Once the back leg is shown as abducted, move away from the centre line of the pose and then extend the right hip joint to form the classical form. Hold the pose for 30 seconds before you change to the other pose.
By keeping the mat in the same position, now set the block under your arm on the flat side with the short end placed against the wall. Unlike the last pose, this time try placing the front foot near the wall as your heel touches the block and also the ball of the foot. This amalgamation of dorsiflexion and elevation will help in the lateral transfer of the load that is experienced by the hip joint. While there is no much weight on the back leg's heel; you can position yourself either by moving the front femur to the hip joint or by moving the thighbone up. Use one more block for the bottom arm and lengthen the arm and the spine by taking the top arm upward. Hold the pose for 30 seconds before you take the opposite side.
In this pose, you can use the chair instead of block as the prop. Place the chair against the wall and do the initial pose that is mentioned above. Now, the front foot that has been raised higher is placed on the support and you will eventually feel that your back heel is being grounded. The front part of the hip will be lighter as your chest revolves. Place the hand on the crossbar of your chair and then down the leg of the chair with the hand. Hold the pose for around 30 seconds while you take a full breath cycle.
Downward-facing Dog Pose
- Place the two feet and two palms on the ground surface while you stay in connection with the earth.
- The four points act as the stable contact points keeping you intact with the ground surface.
- Now from the base, draw the muscles towards your bones in all the limbs also by drawing the skin.
- Start elongating the trunk sides by broadening the shoulder blades.
- Press the blades into the ribs and use the dynamic lengthening of arms to lift the hips into the air.
- Take full breath cycles with variations while you hold this pose up in the air.
Half Moon Pose
- From the above pose, you need to start bending the knees as you inhale.
- With the exhalation, start jumping up onto the hands by lifting the feet off from the earth so that now you're only balanced entirely on your hands.
- Now, land the right foot by bending the right knee and keep the left leg straight as an arrow.
- Now, you're in a three point base. Take breaths as you exhale while you take the left hand off from the floor to create a base out of your leg and the hand.
- Revolve the entire pelvis of the body around the thighbone and spine yourselves away from the floor until you make a half moon.
- Make sure you breathe while you concentrate on balancing the body.
It is important to note that the Half Moon Pose can't just be released and in order to free yourself from the pose, you have to come to the Downward Dog-three point base pose by revolving the pelvis in the opposite direction. After making sure your pelvis is in alignment, start placing the left hand on the floor and then the left leg all over again to release the Downward Dog pose as well.
The Warrior pose starts with the Mountain pose where you place the arms and feet together at the sides.
- Step the legs apart so that there is a width of around 3-4 feet in between.
- Spread the arms from the sides and make them reach a shoulder height wile your wrists are in the same line as your ankles.
- While inhaling, raise the arms alongside to the top. Make sure that your fingertips are facing the sky and then join the palms while you keep the elbows straight.
- Press the outer and inner edges of the fleet and lift the arms to lengthen them. Without losing it, turn the right foot by 90 degrees and the left foot by say 30 or 60 degrees.
- Now, revolve the left calf as much as possible while you keep the heel pressed. Draw the opposite side of the hip back to the midline.
- While exhaling, bend the right knee at a right angle and keep your right thigh in parallel to the floor. Keep the left heel pressed and descend the hips while your arms are lifted.
- Take deep breaths and hold the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds while you shift to the opposite direction.
Highly based on the Ashtanga Yoga principles, the Iyengar Yoga focuses on concentration, balance, stamina, flexibility etc. The meditation is a bit interwined with the Iyengar Yoga poses. The first principle, Yama works on the abstinence from all kinds of violence; it also helps the body to resist cravings and desires.
The second one, Niyama cleanses the body and also the mind from unfulfilled desires. The third principle, asanas helps in building physical strength and flexibility. Pranayama focuses on slow breathing while Pratyahara and Dhyana are all about achieving unity and calming the mind. The best part about Iyengar Yoga is that each of the pose is charming and is followed by child poses that help in relaxing release of the poses.
Nonethless, the Iyengar Yoga provides excellent cardiovascular exercise to everyone and therefore is much recommended. That being said, start with any one of the beginner poses in Iyengar Yoga along with an assigned instructor or teacher. Once you be sure that you have acquired adequate strength, flexibility and knowledge, customize your sequence based on your body requirements.