Learn how to strike a pose and stick to it. Iyengar Yoga is a relatively static form of yoga placing special focus on developing strength and correct body alignment by holding the traditional poses (asanas) for an extended period of time. With the use of props (a welcome addition), Iyengar yoga advocates the use of belts, cushions and blocks amongst others, to help you dig a little deeper into those punishing stretches and reap further benefit from the poses.
As with all types of yoga, an Iyengar class begins with a period of silence to quieten the brain and encourage a focused state of mind. The aim of yoga is to unite the body, mind and spirit so it’s essential that your mind is concentrating on the task in hand and not on office politics, the argument you had with your friend, or what you’ll be wearing at the weekend.
Focusing on standing poses, Iyengar yoga teaches you how to adjust and align the body correctly, which ensures a strong foundation for more advanced poses. Unlike Ashtanga yoga which is fast flowing and designed to increase your heart rate, Iyengar yoga is slower as students are required to maintain the postures for a longer period of time to gain the maximum benefit. The classes are also more verbal and precise as your teacher is trained to iron out all misalignments in your body and will therefore walk round the class correcting postures as a matter of course. Once the standing poses have been mastered, focus will turn to teaching more advanced poses such as back bends, forward bends, inverted postures or recuperative postures.
Iyengar yoga pioneered the use of props to aid both beginners and more advanced pupils in maintaining postures and to allow them a greater stretching ability, which in turn helps build strength, coordination and balance. It may feel a little odd introducing cushions, wooden bricks, blankets, belts or even sand bags to your class, but in this form of yoga it's all the rage and for those less flexible it's one form of cheating that’s allowed.
Classes generally last for one and a half hours and you can expect to come away feeling re-energised despite having worked your socks off and hopefully walking a little taller.
Iyengar yoga is aimed at everyone irrespective of age or gender and the use of props means every pupil works to their maximum ability. Even those who are weaker or less able can use the equipment to their advantage to gain more benefits.
Physically, practising Ivangar yoga will improve your strength, stamina, concentration and balance and emotionally, it’s known to release tension and aid emotional recovery. Psychologically it’s thought to bring greater understanding of your 'self' through the demanding nature of the postures.
Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha yoga and was developed in the 1930's by BKS Iyengar. Considered to be one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, he has been practising and teaching yoga for over 70 years.