Why Iyengar Yoga?
What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar yoga is so called thanks to BKS Iyengar whose lifelong devotion to yoga practice resulted in a deep knowledge of the asanas and the benefits they bring. Over the course of his life from his own practice and from teaching a wide range of students he found ways to make the asanas accessible to all, using props and modifications for beginners or those whose bodies were not ready for the full asana. (These props are temporary measures - teaching tools rather than comfort-bringers! - with the idea that as you progress you are able to do the asana without the props.) His rigorous, observant and therapeutic work resulted in his name being given to this “school” of yoga - but for him, it was always just “Yoga” - Iyengar Yoga was a name others gave to it.
What is an Iyengar Yoga class like?
Iyengar yoga classes bring a wide variety of asanas. They are all-encompassing. Some asanas require stamina and strength, others bring flexibility, some are dynamic and will create heat, others are restorative and bring calm to the nervous system. In Iyengar yoga you do not pick and choose what type of yoga class you feel like going to. Your teacher plans a balanced class each time, with attention to the sequencing of the asanas so that you make progress and the underlying therapeutic effects of yoga on both body and mind can be felt. It has been described as "meditation in action".
You will be given instructions - often quite precise and detailed, becoming more so over time as you progress - and misalignments or incorrect actions will be corrected. Usually you will work on each asana at a time rather than flow quickly from one to another. Sometimes you will work slowly and with great detail and at other times more quickly. Different ways of working bring different effects - Guruji (our affectionate name for BKS Iyengar) explored everything! Because of the “eyes on” approach you will also learn how to work safely and take care of your body while you practise.
You may find to begin with that you look forward to some asanas and not others - but if you keep going gently at the ones you would rather not do you will find in time that they are bringing you something you need and this is where you feel the true rewards of yoga. Many people join and say “I’m just so stiff, I’ll never manage it.” And often they are stiff compared with others - but there will come a moment in the class when they find that they can achieve a particular asana that others are finding difficult, and then realise that we all struggle with something and it is these different struggles that bring a healthy balance to life!
How are Iyengar Yoga teachers trained?
Teachers who qualify under the Iyengar Yoga Certification are trained not just
to perform and instruct the asanas but to develop their observation skills and deepen their awareness of their own practice and that of their students. Student safety is of great importance. Only Iyengar Yoga teachers can use the Iyengar certification mark - see right. Teacher training can only begin after attending regular classes for at least 6 years and then 2 or 3 years of training and mentoring take place before a day of assessment where practice and teaching skills are scrutinised. This results (not all pass) in the Introductory Level 2 certificate. Iyengar Yoga teachers are then required to fulfil professional development training each year to maintain their certification. In time they can take further assessment levels, each of which takes at least a year and each of which requires a rigorous assessment. It is long-term approach! As a teacher, it feels like climbing a mountain and never finding the top - there is always more to do and always scope for improvement. The deep understanding this thoroughness brings is hugely rewarding and it is truly heartening to experience the practice and teaching of senior teachers. Come and experience a class for yourself!
Mondays 8.45am, Tuesdays 7.30pm, Fridays 8.45am (Fridays for more experienced Iyengar students) at the Koorana Centre, Ardingly
Tuesdays 8.30am at Warrior Arts and Fitness in Forest Row