B. K. S. Iyengar
What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is based on the teachings of yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, author of the classic yoga treatise "Light on Yoga", who began teaching in Pune, India, in 1936 at the age of 18. Mr. Iyengar continued his daily practice at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India, until shortly before his death at the age of 95 on August 20, 2014.
Mr. Iyengar’s daughter, Geeta S. Iyengar, is the author of "Yoga: A Gem for Women", the pioneering work on yoga for every stage of a woman’s life. His son, Prashant S. Iyengar, has also written extensively about yoga. Mr. Iyengar’s other influential works include "Light on Pranayama", Light on the Yoga Sutras", "Light on Life", and "The Tree of Yoga".
The Iyengar family’s teachings are deeply grounded in the yoga sutras of Patanjali, an ancient summation of the path of yoga considered to be at least 2,500 years old. B.K.S. Iyengar’s intense practice and almost seventy years of teaching have produced significant innovations in the teaching of the art and science of yoga.
What to expect from this method of yoga?
• Qualified and rigorously trained instructors committed to excellence in teaching
• A safe and systematic progression of yoga postures to develop each student’s ability and skill, both within each class and from class to class
• Sequencing that develops strength, flexibility, stamina, concentration, and body alignment
• Individual correction and knowledge of how to adjust postures for common physical problems
• Precise use of language
• Demonstration and teaching of specific points to develop understanding and intelligent action
• Individual correction and adjustment of students, when necessary
• Integration of the yoga philosophy with the practice of asana
• Incorporation and relevance of practice into daily life
• Ways to use yoga to ease various ailments and stress
• Use of props, such as blankets, blocks, and straps, to facilitate learning and adjust yoga postures to individual needs
What are props and why do we use them?
B.K.S. Iyengar introduced props into the modern practice of yoga to allow all practitioners access to the benefits of the postures regardless of physical condition, age, or length of study. Props help all practitioners (including the most advanced) gain sensitivity to the use of effort and receive the deep benefits of postures held over significant time periods. Props my be introduced from the beginning for students with specific physical limitations and gradually in regular classes to enhance personal understanding of a posture and its effects and to develop skill and confidence.
Props include sticky mats, blankets, belts, blocks, benches, wall ropes, sandbags, chairs, and other objects that help students experience the various yoga poses more profoundly. Props may be used in class to encourage students, bolster confidence, and create optimal body alignment.
Allowing students to practice asanas (yoga postures) and pranayamas (breathing patterns) with greater effectiveness, ease, and stability, props provide support for the body and allow the mind to relax and more profoundly receive the benefits of the yoga.
How does Iyengar Yoga differ from other styles of yoga?
• The Iyengar method develops strength, endurance, and optimal body alignment, in addition to flexibility and relaxation.
• The Iyengar method develops self-awareness, intelligent evaluation, and profound inward reflection.
• Standing poses are emphasized at the beginning to build strength and ease of movement, increase general vitality, and improve circulation, coordination, and balance.
• Postures for deep relaxation are introduced from the beginning. Gradually, sitting and reclining postures, forward bends, inversions, backbends, twists, arm balance, and flowing sequences are introduced.
Iyengar Yoga emphasizes precision of alignment in the yoga poses. Why is this important?
People tend to stretch from their more flexible areas and rely on their better-developed muscles for strength, thus reinforcing postural habits. Iyengar Yoga encourages weak parts to strengthen and stiff areas to release, thus awakening and realigning the whole body. As the body moves into better alignment, less muscular work is required and relaxation increases naturally.
Text from "Frequently Asked Questions" from the Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York.
BKS Iyengar and Bonar Hutchison, Pune, India 2006
Statue of Patanjali, Pune, India © Bonar Hutchison
Invocation to Patañjali
yogena cittasya padena vācām
malam śarīrasya ca vaidyakena
yopākarottam pravaram munīnām
sahasra śirasam śvetam
Let us bow before the noblest of sages Patanjali, who gave yoga for serenity and sanctity of mind, grammar for clarity and purity of speech and medicine for perfection of health. Let us prostrate before Patanjali, an incarnation of Adisesa, whose upper body has a human form, whose arms hold a conch and a disc, and who is crowned by a thousand-headed cobra
Invocation to Guru
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu
Guru Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Para Brahma,
Tasmai Shri Guruve Namah
Guru is Brahma, Guru is Vishnu
Guru is Maheshwara (Shiva)
Guru is Supreme Brahman Itself
Prostration unto that Guru
I.2 Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah
“Yoga is the cessation of movements, or the fluctuations, in the consciousness”.