Iyengar

A form of Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga focuses on a consistent and routine weekly practice that ensures postures are achieved with correct and accurate alignment, often through the use of props.
Iyengar
Year founded
1936

The History of Iyengar

B.K.S. Iyengar turned to yoga as a teenager after suffering from a series of illnesses including typhoid, tuberculosis and malaria. He learnt yoga in Mysore from his brother-in-law, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who is often credited as the father of modern yoga. A fast learner he began teaching the practice to European and American visitors to India in the 1950s. One of his students was esteemed violinist Yehudi Menuhin who invited Iyengar to lead classes in Europe, raising the international profile of Iyengar and yoga alike.

In 1966 he published the book ‘Light on Yoga’ which has been described as the bible of modern yoga and has sold over three million copies. In 1975 he established his principal school Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, India.

Developing his own method of yoga which is a form of Hatha Yoga, Iyengar placed primacy on the physical alignment of the body, ensuring each pose was achieved and held in the correct manner and perfected through consistent practice. Iyengar was also instrumental in establishing the use of props in practice such as bricks or straps to help students gradually achieve poses with accuracy.

Iyengar Yoga has spread across the Western world since the 80s, establishing an official association in the UK in 1983 which holds a convention every June. B.K.S. Iyengar passed away in 2014, however teachers and pupils still travel to Prune to practice and learn at RIMYI with his family or disciples.

Type of Yoga

Classes are focused on alignment and detail with very precise instructions that require concentration and tenacity to follow. Iyengar Yoga is not aerobic, but a deeper practice working with long-held postures and a peaceful mind. It established the use of props in yoga such as bricks, blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, stools, ropes. The prolificacy of props in your practice may depend on the teacher.

Iyengar Yoga classes follow a strict monthly cycle of group postures and you will be encouraged to attend the same class week on week to abide by this. Week one will focus on standing poses, week two on forward bends and twists, week three on backbends and week four on restorative poses and pranayama. Classes are taught in a tiered system and only once a student has perfected their level and its postures and inversions will they be allowed to move up.

There is a low level of spirituality to Iyengar Yoga and little meditation. However, the mantra ‘Yogena Cittasya Padena Vacam’, meaning opening prayer, is usually sung at the beginning of classes at more advanced levels.

Becoming an Iyengar teacher is one of the most difficult certifications in yoga, requiring knowledge of sanskrit and the human anatomy. Six years of intense practice is required and only a few teachers are allowed to teach in every country.

Who Can Practice?

Iyengar Yoga can be practiced by spiritual or non spiritual students and the use of props allows anyone to take a class irregardless of age or physicality. It has been known to help pupils with conditions as serious as MS or Parkinson’s Disease. It can help fight insomnia, anxiety and depression, strengthen your core and increase flexibility and endurance.

Iyengar Classes

An Iyengar Yoga class normally lasts around 90 minutes for beginners and two hours for advanced students. You should avoid eating for four hours before class and take your last drink of water twenty minutes before entering. Water is not allowed in class and you’ll be expected to practice sock less. Shorts are recommended attire as leggings can cause your feet to slip in certain postures. More advanced students will wear shorts with elasticated legs although it’s not mandatory or expected from beginners. Workshops and retreats are also commonly organised where you can explore a deeper, longer practice.