How can Iyengar yoga nourish your soul?
With a focus on performing each pose (asana) perfectly, and a meticulous attention to the details of timing and breathing, Iyengar yoga was developed by Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. More commonly known simply as BKS Iyengar, he was widely recognised as one of the most celebrated yoga teachers to date.
As the author of the seminal book Light on Yoga, first published in 1966 and often described as ‘the bible of modern yoga’, Iyengar was one of the first teachers to bring yoga to the forefront of global attention.
The Iyengar style of yoga popularised the use of props and aids such as straps, bolsters, blocks, blankets and chairs to help people attain ideal postural alignment. Yoga Kurunta Iyengar involves the use of ropes attached to the wall, and as the founder’s daughter, Dr Geeta Iyengar explains, the term comes from the name of a puppet used in Indian theatre!
Benefits of Iyengar yoga
Many styles of yoga may be beneficial in the alleviation of chronic lower-back pain, and Iyengar is no exception, with one systematic review reporting strong evidence for short-term effectiveness of Iyengar yoga for decreasing back and neck pain.
Iyengar yoga therapy has been reported to show clinically significant improvement of symptoms in adolescents and young adults with irritable bowel syndrome. There is evidence to suggest Iyengar yoga and coherent breathing may play a “safe and effective” role in treating major depressive disorder. Iyengar yoga has also been the subject of research associated with breast cancer; preliminary findings suggest it may be beneficial in reducing stress and improving a sense of wellbeing among breast cancer survivors, although the study authors do recommend further research.
Iyengar yoga may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Balance, stability and coordination
- Brain fog and clarity
- Breast cancer
- Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
- Concentration, focus and problem solving
- Energy and vitality
- Flexibility, endurance and strength
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Mobility and movement
- Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps
- Neck pain
- Nervous system and neurological conditions
- Pain relief
- Posture and spine issues
- Respiratory and breathing issues
- Stress and tension
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from an Iyengar yoga session
To obtain certification, instructors must undergo a rigorous training program, and are only permitted to display a current Iyengar Yoga Certification Mark if they pass the required evaluation process.
Iyengar yoga asanas are usually held for longer than in other styles of yoga, so classes for beginners often take about 60-90 minutes. Your certified instructor is trained to devise a unique series of asanas that will be most beneficial for making gradual and lasting progress. This means that if you are new to yoga, you will be introduced to safe and achievable Iyengar yoga sequences for beginners, and with your permission, your instructor will guide you in adjusting your posture to perfection.
One of the hallmarks of Iyengar yoga is that normally, no two sessions are the same, as each class is tailored to the needs of the students. The use of props is another characteristic aspect of Iyengar yoga, so you can expect the studio to have a collection of straps or belts, blocks, bolsters and other aids available to help you attain precise alignment.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing Iyengar yoga. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your Iyengar yoga instructor, who will be well-trained in adjusting the session to accommodate your individual requirements.