Yoga is one of the oldest systems of personal development in the world.  This ancient discipline and philosophy originated in India more than 3000 years ago.

In the West, yoga has become very popular and classes can be found in almost every town and city. There are, however, many styles of yoga with different names and this can be confusing.

The `Iyengar` method of yoga is named after Mr BKS Iyengar.  Mr Iyengar was born in India in 1918 and his study and mastery of yoga was unrivalled in modern times. He won universal recognition for his achievements.

Yoga is a practice aimed at integrating mind, body and inner self.  It has eight` limbs` - all of them closely related. The first two deal with our moral behaviour, the second two with postures and breathing and the last four are more concerned with

concentration, meditation and self-realization.

It is the posture work (asanas) and the breathing (pranayama) that are most familiar to the westerner.

The practice of yoga asanas (often referred to as postures or poses) has a beneficial impact on the whole body.  Most people know that the practice of yoga makes the body strong and flexible.  Asanas not only tone the muscles, tissues, ligaments, joints and nerves but also maintain the smooth functioning and health of the body`s respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems.  Asanas also boost metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormonal secretions and bring about a chemical balance in the body.

In an Iyengar class, yoga is taught in a methodical and progressive way with emphasis on detailed correctness and absolute safety.  Beginners work on simple movements (postures) according to their capabilities. Props, such as belts and blocks, are used in class to allow those with less strength or flexibility to work correctly and achieve their full potential.

Postures take many forms - standing, sitting forward bending, twisting, backbending, inverted and restorative. Some are invigorating – some are quietening. Restorative postures help the body to relax and recuperate – releasing abdominal tension, quietening the nervous system and helping to bring about a feeling of calmness.

As a beginner, a student should be mainly concerned with getting the shape of the asana correct - concentrating on the important alignments and movements in the pose. The beginner`s stage is important and should not be hurried. It is important to start by getting stability in the pose.  This provides a strong foundation.

There is, however, more to practising asanas than merely the physical aligning of the body.

A yoga asana is not a shape that you assume mechanically.  It involves a thoughtful process - positioning all parts of the body correctly with full awareness and intelligence.  To achieve this you must think through the structure of the asana – adjusting and aligning each part of the anatomical body – making sure that the balance between both sides of the body is correct so that there is no undue stress on any one organ, muscle, bone or joint. Once both sides of the body become aligned correctly, undue stress is removed from the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive and excretory systems.  In asanas, organs are placed in different anatomical positions - the organs are then supplied with fresh blood and are gently massaged, relaxed and toned into a state of optimum health.

It is important to keep practising until you are absolutely comfortable in the pose.  It is only then that you experience the full benefits of the asana. A regular yoga practice will use a wide range of postures and breathing techniques to take the body through its full range of movement and this will help improve your posture, release stiff areas and strengthen weak ones. Movement lubricates our muscles, joints and ligaments. Many postures also involve weight-bearing resistance, which will help increase bone mass.

Any loss of movement in a joint can create a feeling of stiffness and this stiffness will increase unless we use the muscles around the joint.  If our muscles lose tone, the muscle groups that hold us upright become unevenly balanced.  The joints then feel strain, lose space in which to articulate and we start to suffer from wear and tear.

Controlling the breathing is an important part of yoga - postures are practised whilst keeping the breathing even and controlled. This awareness of the breath, not only helps release muscular tension but also helps to quieten the mind.

The great advantage of yoga is that it can be practiced by anyone, irrespective of age, sex and physical condition.  It is particularly beneficial for people over thirty, when the regeneration power of the body is declining and resistance to illness is weakened.

All teachers of Iyengar Yoga are trained to rigorously high standards and every year are required to maintain their professional development. This is part of the reason why Iyengar Yoga is the most widely performed method of yoga throughout the world.

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