“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence”
― BKS Iyengar
Iyengar Yoga, as a practice, is best viewed as the culmination of many years of practical research and experimentation (of traditional Hatha Yoga) by BKS Iyengar and his family. Using a scientific and systematic mindset, BKS Iyengar refined the practice of asanas through attention to detail and increased focus on timing. Furthermore, he sought out ways to make to make this authentic yoga practice available for everyone.
Like most other yoga traditions, a set of 196 aphorisms called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the philosophical foundation of Iyengar Yoga. The Yoga Sutras, written some 2200 years ago, it describes the path to enlightenment.
In his books and interviews, BKS Iyengar insisted that he had not invented a new kind of yoga, but had merely provided an ancient tradition with a new costume.
The 4 cornerstones of Iyengar Yoga
1. Alignment: the specific alignment of our body in each pose is seen as a central component in Iyengar Yoga. By being aware of the detailed position of our body in an asana, we enhance the body’s regenerative processes and our inner clarity. Naturally, better alignment also helps with fitness and flexibility.
2. Sequencing: BKS Iyengar refined the notion of sequencing in yoga. His genius was to understand the subtle, yet important, ways of connecting poses to each other. Preparing the body with the right sequence of poses allows us to move more quickly and deeply into more difficult and challenging poses.
3. Timing: poses are tailored to the individual not just through the choice of asanas and their sequencing, but also through consideration of time. How long should be spent in each pose so that the body is genuinely stretched (but not overstretched) is a core element in Iyengar Yoga. By spending the right amount of time in a specific pose we increase both the physiological and psychological benefits of our practice. By maintaining concentration and awareness throughout a pose, we also train our minds and thereby begin to explore meditative practices.
4. Yoga props: although they may sound mundane, props actually expand our possibilities to explore the complexities of the body and mind. Props are also used as tools for helping us move beyond our own limitations: reducing pain and fear. Props are often used when working with injuries and other ailments, e.g. neck, back or knee issues.
Iyengar Yoga a pragmatic approach
With a strong emphasis on the body, Iyengar Yoga is sometimes misinterpreted as only, or primarily, being about physical performance.
However, appearances can be misleading: the emphasis on the body comes from an understanding of its connection to the mind and spiritual growth. According to BKS Iyengar, the body is the door to the soul, this door will not open for one who waits passively or pushes forcefully; it will open for you only if you persist.
By learning to be constant in your effort, you cultivate your interest for the subject; the body is the interface through which you reconnect your being with your consciousness at the deepest level.
When practising asanas, an inner balance is created; between your left and your right side, between your muscular-skeleton system and your organic body, between each and every fibre, muscle and joint. When this balance is achieved the door to spontaneous meditation (Dyana) opens.
Helping you through everyday life
Iyengar Yoga practice is meant to support our daily lives, helping us to learn to respect, maintain and build up our individual constitutions and improve our living conditions.
Iyengar Yoga provides you with a unique set of possibilities, making it possible to practice regardless of your age, your physical capacity, your emotional state or injuries.
With regular practice, you develop the right amounts of both strength and flexibility, supporting your body in an efficient and systematic way. BKS Iyengar innovated many of the techniques that are found in many other schools today, however it is only in Iyengar Yoga that we find the principles discovered through his research applied systematically with full understanding.
To read about Becoming an Iyengar Yoga teacher