Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga, which focuses on the physical alignment of the body by using asanas (poses or positions). Created by B. K. S. Iyengar, it is most well known for its use of external tools to help with alignment and position (straps, belts, bars etc.). Because of its attention to the physical side of Yoga, Iyengar Yoga has been compared to certain veins of chiropractics.Many people who suffer from physical ailments who turn to alternative medicine may use Iyengar Yoga to help reduce pain or body stress.
Iyengar Yoga History
B. K. S. Iyengar (full name: Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar) was born in 1918 in India. Iyengar started learning the teachings of Yoga at the age of 15, when he moved in with his brother in law and respected yogi Sri Turumalai Krishnamacharya. When he was 19, he moved away and started teaching Yoga while experimenting with different techniques.
As the years passed, Iyengar became a well respected Yogi, amassing students throughout India. His knowledge of yoga from a personal perspective as well as an academic perspective made him an authority on Yoga as a whole. Throughout this time, Iyengar continued to experiment with different types and forms of yoga, and eventually his ‘favorites’ started melding into a style that is now called Iyengar Yoga.
B. K. S. Iyengar visited England in the 1950’s and his teachings started to take hold in Britain and then the rest of the Western world. Cultural uprisings and changes in the 60’s helped perpetuate the alternative medicine and healing techniques of the East (like acupuncture, yoga and Buddhism). Iyengar wrote a text on yoga called “Light of Yoga” in 1966. The book is considered essential reading for yogis and has been called the Bible of Yoga (and is since a bestseller worldwide). Probably one of the biggest reasons for its popularity is the fact that it explores Yoga, and does not push any one form, but explains yoga from all facets and gives the reader better understanding of Yoga as a whole. It does not teach, propound or encourage “Iyengar Yoga” as it were.
Iyengar opened the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune in 1975, (in memory of his wife Ramamani) to teach Iyengar Yoga as a separate practice of Yoga. This is where Iyengar Yoga as a term was solidified. His schools and teachings have enjoyed worldwide popularity and it is estimated that over 1 million people now practice Iyengar Yoga. B. K. S. Iyengar officially retired as a yoga teacher in 1984, but his legacy lives on through his children and Yogis Prashant and Geeta.
Iyengar Yoga Poses and Positions
Much like Bikram Yoga, Iyengar Yoga incorporates many different poses and positions, both sitting and standing, and all poses can vary in degrees of difficulty from beginner to advanced. The poses of Iyengar Yoga are focused on the alignment of the physical body, and are considered some of the most (physically) therapeutic yoga positions. Some yogis will use belts or straps to help teach students certain Iyengar Yoga positions and poses. Eventually the belts are no longer needed. In addition to belts, some poses can be used in conjunction with pillows or tables and chairs to help the body become accustomed to the more difficult Iyengar Yoga poses. There are about 18 common Iyengar Yoga poses in all, which carry from standing, sitting and kneeling.
Advantages of Iyengar Yoga Poses
As mentioned, Iyengar Yoga poses can have myriad of healing properties. The obvious advantages are increased flexibility and coordination. Another obvious advantage is the toning and strengthening of muscles, many of which are hardly used in contemporary day to day life. Other less obvious advantages are increased circulation for overall health, regulation of weight control, relief from soreness relating to neck and back, increase in mental capacity and focus, general sense of well being and even a balancing of the functions of some organs. Many people use Iyengar yoga as a purely physical rehabilitation technique.