Iyengar yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is considered one of the most prominent and influential yoga teachers in the world. Much like Patthabi Jois, who is known for developing Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar contributed to the popularization of yoga in the West. So what is Iyengar yoga?
Iyengar yoga pays close attention to the anatomical structure and alignment of each posture. It is, in fact, based on Hatha yoga–so it is slower in pace, and postures are held for longer periods of time. Iyengar classes often utilize props, to help the practitioner safely and systematically perform each posture.
If you’re curious about Iyengar yoga, here’s what you can expect from the practice:
1. It helps build body awareness.
Iyengar yoga is one of the best practices to efficiently cultivate body awareness. Iyengar teachers are known for their methodical teaching style. They are able to effectively cue the neuromuscular system with precision.
Many diligent Iyengar practitioners develop a keen understanding and appreciation of their body. They are able to access and engage even the most subtle muscle groups. This is what makes Iyengar very empowering, as it’s able to help you connect with the most elusive parts of your body.
2. It helps reduce the risk of injury.
The Iyengar method really makes difficult yoga postures more accessible to people of all ages, ethnicities, and body types. Props like yoga blocks, straps, bolsters, and chairs help provide the body with support–especially in challenging postures.
Not only do yoga props help provide the body with physical feedback, but they also give the body more height and length. In triangle pose, for example, supporting your bottom hand with a block can help you focus on lengthening the sides of your waist.
Iyengar yoga encourages the use of props, making it more accessible for all kinds of people–beginners, students with contraindications or recovering from injuries, and older adults. And because these props help support your optimal alignment, the practice reduces the risk of movement compensations and injury.
3. It promotes pain relief.
In a study by The Harvard Medical School, a group of participants with low back pain practiced 24 weeks of consistent Iyengar practice. Another group continued with conventional medical care.
According to the study, the Iyengar group “experienced a 29% reduction in functional disability and 42% reduction in pain.” And, six months after the study concluded, 68% of these participants reported to continue their yoga practice.
Iyengar yoga, then, has therapeutic benefits and can help improve the quality of daily living. Most Iyengar postures and prop-assisted modifications help promote spine health, which also explains why people report to feel less pain after months of consistent practice.
4. It improves posture.
The attention to muscular engagement and the small, miniscule adjustments in this type of yoga help strengthen, release, and create space across the tinier muscles that are often ignored in other forms of exercise.
With your muscles in the back awakened and revitalized, you can look forward to improved posture.
And with improved posture comes better blood flow, oxygenation, and overall circulation across the entire body. This way, you can also expect less inflammation and overall a better functioning immune system.
So when asked the question “What is Iyengar yoga?” you can consider all these benefits as part of what this practice is all about.
You may find it a bit slow at first, but do know that this kind of yoga is very therapeutic and helps support overall wellbeing.
Bear in mind that the practice of yoga should be aligned with the yamas, three of which are ahimsa, satya, and asteya. Iyengar yoga also helps remind us to be compassionate, truthful, and grateful for ourselves and our bodies.
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