1. What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar yoga is based on the work of B.K.S. Iyengar (1915-2014) who popularized and brought yoga to the west.
It is based on bringing yoga to everyone’s level by using props like blocks, bolsters, blankets, belts and ropes among other things. Poses (called asana) are done in unique sequencing, modified so everyone can do them at their level by a specially trained yoga teacher taught in the Iyengar method. They are certified by the Iyengar Association of Australia which focuses on the individual by using specific instruction to guide you in doing it correctly and to deepen into the asana.
Each class is unique based upon who shows up and their level of ability as well as any injuries. Iyengar yoga also takes into account the woman’s menstruation cycle, giving specific poses just before, during and after the cycle. Other poses can also be modified to suit the energy of the participant.
You will know you have had a good class by the increase of energy afterwards. Yoga works both on the mind and body using the breath as the bridge between the two. As you become more aware of your body and breath, Iyengar yoga will teach you how to stand, sit and lie down correctly, aligning the body, increasing your flexibility, strength as well giving you a greater sense of well-being.
In my experience Iyengar yoga has been very addictive because I experienced real results straight away and it was easy to do more and keep the practice going. This has also been the experience of my students, who have found it easy to commit to classes as their friends saw and commented on noticeable difference in posture, flexibility and state of mind.
2. What to bring?
Wear comfortable clothing with pants above the ankle so the Iyengar yoga teafher can see the working of the ankles. It is encouraged not to eat 1-2 hours prior to the lesson and water is not drunk during the class. You can bring your own mat and towel but usually all props are provided.
3. What to say?
When you walk in make sure you introduce yourself to the instructor and check that you are doing a beginners class. It’s important for them to be aware that you are just starting. Let them also know if you have any health conditions or injuries, are menstruating or are pregnant.
4. What to expect?
Iyengar yoga classes start with a 5-10 minute resting pose to help you leave the day behind and come into the body. You lie on the ground with a blanket and cross you legs at the shins (as you advance you can do others). The teachers do use the ‘Sanskrit’ words for the poses but also use the common English names.
The class runs for around 1 ½ hours using components from the following asana groups:
The sequencing of the poses plays an important part of Iyengar yoga to bring the best experience to the participant. As a beginner you would only be doing certain poses working up to the more challenging ones. No student is pushed to go beyond their limits bur rather encouraged to do their beast and go deeper into the asana each time. Iyengar yoga teachers adjust their students by firstly verbally explaining what muscles to use and they should be feeling. They can also be adjusted physically if they are comfortable with that.
The three corner stone poses are:
Tadasana – meaning mountain pose which is base of all the standing poses.
Dandasana –meaning rod pose or staff pose which is the base of all the sitting poses.
Savasana – meaning corpse pose, the base of all lying down poses.
The class ends with a 5-10 minute Savasana (corpse pose) which is a rest lying down on the spine. It can incorporate specific controlled breathing called pranayama which has incredible benefits for your mind and health.
You know you have found the right teacher because you will feel empowered and inspired from the first class and will feel better than you walked in, looking forward to the next one. You may feel slightly sore the next couple of days but the sense of well-being and feelings of being more stretched and comfortable in the body.
5. What are the long term benefits?
The long term benefits of doing Iyengar yoga are a more healthier and beautiful/handsome you! You will notice definite differences in your posture and alignment as well as your peace of mind. You will feel more lighter in the body, more aware and begin to heal misalignment from long term body incorrectly used. One of the best feelings is seeing yourself more flexible and strong as you easily reach for something you used to find hard to do. You can get more flexible and healthier as you age and that is something worth working towards.
Good luck! I wish you health and peace on your journey.