Iyengar Yoga: A Union of Mind with Body, and Body with Mind
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Iyengar Yoga is a methodical and deeply researched yoga system developed 75 years ago by Yogacharya BKS Iyengar who at the age of 93 still practices daily – exploring, studying, writing, and teaching about yoga.
The Iyengar approach to yoga is firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga) expounded by Patanjali in ‘The Yoga Sutras,’ over 2,500 years ago.
“Yoga means union. The union of the individual soul with the Universal Spirit is yoga. But this is too abstract a notion to be easily understood, so for our level of understanding I say that yoga is the union of body with the mind and of mind with the soul”. – BKS Iyengar, Tree of Yoga.
What is Iyengar Yoga?
What is unique about Iyengar Yoga is that it is characterized in the practice of asanas and pranayama with an innovative approach emphasizing precision and alignment, planned sequencing, timing, and the use of props. This approach to yoga has allowed people of varying ages, levels of health, and fitness to enjoy the benefits which a sustained yoga practice can bring.
Iyengar yoga with Rembert Petrus in Portugal
Among the benefits of a constant Iyengar yoga practice is the ability to face the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of contemporary life with strength, vitality, mobility, thoughtfulness, and equanimity. The term “Iyengar Yoga” was coined by students of Mr. Iyengar to distinguish his approach from other styles of yoga. He, however, has described his yoga as “Patanjali Yoga” and says:
“I have no right to brand my practices or teachings as Iyengar Yoga. My pupils, who follow me, call it Iyengar Yoga. The only thing I am doing is to bring out the in-depth, the hidden qualities of Yoga to the awareness of you all. What I do is pure, authentic traditional Yoga. It is wrong to differentiate traditional yoga Iyengar Yoga, as it is also not fair to brand Yoga, as Raja-yoga, Hatha-yoga, Laya-yoga, Kundalini-yoga, Taraka-yoga and so forth. There is no distinction between one Yoga and another. Yoga, like God is one.”
What should I expect in an Iyengar yoga class?
A number of aspects of Iyengar yoga classes may distinguish them from other yoga practices:
- That the teacher conducting the class is a certificated teacher with the BKS Iyengar Yoga Association.
- That emphasis is given to precision and alignment in all yoga postures – standing, sitting, twisting, inverted, forward bending, backward bending or supine poses.
- The class should be sequenced in such a manner that it gives the student a sense of confidence, courage, and optimism.
- That introduction to inverted poses is limited to Salamba Sarvangasana (the supported shoulder stand), Halasana and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana. Salamba Sirasasana (the headstand) is integrated into the practice only after the student becomes adept at Salamba Sarvangasana, Halasana, and variations.
- That props such as wooden bricks, belts, ropes are used to enable the practitioner to achieve and grasp the posture. Having gained understanding through the use of props, the practitioner will eventually learn to perform the posture without props.
A rejuvenating yoga retreat in India. Image by BookYogaRetreats.com
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