"It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. The practice of yoga works to unite all parts of an individual - first to understand the physical connections within the body but beyond that, to integrate the body, mind and breath.
What is Iyengar yoga?
Iyengar yoga is perhaps better termed Iyengar's yoga. BKS Iyengar systematised over 200 classical yoga asanas and 14 different types of Pranayama from the simple to the incredibly difficult (see his book, "Light on Yoga"). The more simple asanas help a student to gain the strength, flexibility, steadiness but above all the understanding that is needed to attempt the more difficult ones. Pranayama is taught once a steady practice of asana has been established. The practice of yoga is based on the eightfold path of yoga outlined in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Asana and Pranayama are the third and fourth steps on this path and it is perhaps the focus on these that assists the other aspects of the path. BKS Iyengar's legacy is his untiring study of yoga and his rigorous and generous sharing of his learning.
What precepts underlie Iyengar yoga teaching?
Technique: Precision and alignment are key features in the practice of Iyengar yoga. Because the asanas have been categorised according to difficulty beginners can learn safely.
Sequence (the order in which asana and pranayama are taught and practiced) and timing (asanas are not done without awareness or in a "touch and go" way) are also hallmarks of an Iyengar yoga class. Beginners do not hold poses for long but with progress students are able to stay for longer.
Iyengar yoga uses yoga props where necessary. Blankets, belts or blocks may be used to help you to understand a pose better or to enable you to get into the pose if you are having difficulties or if an injury needs supporting. More advanced practitioners will use props to help to work more deeply on aspects of a pose.
Iyengar yoga teachers will take 2-3 years of training before they qualify as teachers - and before they begin their training will have had at least 3 years experience of Iyengar yoga classes. They are regulated by the Iyengar yoga Institute in Pune (RIMYI) and are expected to undertake continuing professional development through workshops and contact with senior teachers. Students appreciate the background knowledge and training that informs the teaching and the safety in practice that this brings.
Since the passing of Guruji BKS Iyengar in 2014 and his daughter Geetaji in 2018 the directors of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune are Prashant Iyengar (Guruji's son) and Abhijata Iyengar (Guruji's granddaughter).
BKS Iyengar (right) with the violinist Yehudi Menuhin. The violinist was a devoted practitioner of Iyengar yoga; such was the impact of yoga on his life that he described Mr Iyengar as his "greatest violin teacher".