Yoga and the Iyengar Method

Yoga is one of the oldest systems of personal development in the world. It originated in India more than 3000 years ago and, in recent decades, Yoga has become incredibly popular in the west. 

There are many different styles of yoga, each offering something slightly different to students. At the Knutsford Iyengar Yoga Centre, it’ll come as no surprise that we practise Iyengar Yoga. This is a form of yoga first developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in India in the 1950s, which focuses on achieving real benefits through precision. But before we get into that … 

What is yoga? 

Yoga is a holistic practice which aims to strengthen and integrate the mind, body and inner self.

Traditionally it has eight ‘limbs’, each of which deal with a different aspect of a person’s moral, physical and mental health. However, it is the ‘limbs’ known as asanas (posture work) and pranayama (breathing) most associated with yoga in the UK.

The great thing about yoga is that it can be practiced by anyone of any age or physical condition. It is particularly beneficial for people over thirty, when the body’s ability to regenerate and fight illness is declining.

What benefits will I get from yoga? 

Yoga has a number of benefits to your overall health and wellness.

Practising asanas helps your whole body in a number of ways, such as:

  • making your body strong and flexible
  • preventing or reducing stiffness in your joints
  • helping to tone your muscles, tissues, ligaments, joints and nerves
  • maintaining the smooth functioning and health of your body`s respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems
  • boosting your metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormonal secretions. This improves concentration, focus and the ability to quieten the mind
  • increasing bone mass (through postures involving weight-bearing resistance).

Regular yoga practice using a wide range of postures and breathing techniques will take the body through its full range of movement. This really helps to:

  • improve your posture
  • release stiff areas
  • strengthen weak areas
  • lubricates your muscles, joints and ligaments.

Gaining control over your breathing is also an important part of yoga. Postures are practised whilst keeping the breathing even and controlled. This awareness of the breath helps to:

  • ease muscular tension, and
  • quieten the mind.

What is Iyengar Yoga? 

Iyengar Yoga is a form of yoga developed by Mr BKS Iyengar, which has become hugely popular worldwide. It is now taught in 70 countries, and Mr Iyengar’s books have been translated into 18 languages. In fact, in 2004 BKS Iyengar was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine.

There are three key aspects which distinguish Iyengar Yoga: 

Attention to detail

Emphasis is placed on detail, precision and alignment when performing postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). In particular, the focus is on creating a healthy and balanced body (and mind) through precision in your practice.

Use of props to help students

The Iyengar method makes great use of props such as belts, blocks and blankets to help you get the most out of your practice. Using props allows you to compensate for lack of strength and flexibility, so your can feel the full benefit of the pose.

Sequence of asanas

During practice, asanas can be performed in different orders depending on the needs of the student(s). Different sequences are designed to have specific benefits.

All teachers of Iyengar Yoga are trained to rigorously high standards and every year are required to maintain their professional development.

This guarantee that teachers are well trained is part of the reason why Iyengar Yoga is trusted and has become one of the most widely performed methods of yoga throughout the world.

What happens in an Iyengar Yoga class?

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) based to their capabilities. Props, such as belts and blocks, may be 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, bending forward, twisting, back-bending, inverted and restorative.

Some poses are invigorating, while others are quietening. Restorative postures, in particular, help the body to relax and recuperate by releasing abdominal tension, quietening the nervous system and helping to bring about a feeling of calmness.

How will I progress? 

Overall shape

As a beginner, you will focus on getting the shape of the asana correct by concentrating on key alignments and movements in the pose. Developing stability in the beginner’s stage is hugely important, as it develops a strong foundation for more advanced practice.

Balance the body

As you progress, your focus will start to shift from the overall physical shape of the asana to thinking about the positioning of the different parts of your body. You will develop greater awareness of how to position and adjust parts of your body correctly. This is important to remove unnecessary stress on any one organ, muscle, bone or joint.

Enjoy the benefits

Once you have become completely comfortable in the pose, you will start to experience the full benefits of the asana. By correctly aligning the body, you remove stress from your circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive and excretory systems, allowing them to function at their best.

As you practice a wide range of asanas, each pose places your organs in different positions. This supplies your organs with fresh blood, gently massages them and helps them to become relaxed and toned. All this leads to healthier, better functioning organs.

Through regular practice, you will start to feel the enormous health benefits associated with yoga, helping you to enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle.