Iyengar Yoga

No other form of exercise or physiotherapy can promise you relief from your disabilities[1], the way Iyengar Yoga can do. The gates of Iyengar Yoga are open for all.

Oxford Dictionary includes “Iyengar” as a noun: A type of Ashtanga yoga focusing on the correct alignment of the body, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids to achieving the correct postures. Origin: Named after B. K. S. Iyengar (born 1918), the Indian yoga teacher who devised this method”

What is Iyengar Yoga?

Years ago, a boy was left stricken with musculo-skeletal disability and was introduced to Ashtanga Yoga by his brother-in-law at the age of 15 to gain some relief. And from that moment on, his life took a turn and with his limited knowledge but unlimited determination he founded the famous, Iyengar Yoga. That boy was B. K. S. Iyengar.

Experimenting through various techniques and educating himself the science behind every asana, he simplified them to such extent that now everyone could perform them easily. His only motive was to heal everyone through yoga, the way he was. Later, based on his experience he penned his first book on yoga “Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika“, translated in 17 languages, it is now considered as ‘The Bible of Yoga.’

How is it different from others?

  • Usage of aiding props like wooden gadgets, belts, ropes, bolsters, blankets etc. to minimize the risk of injury and maximize efficiency of performance
  • Deep focus on subtleties of each posture to achieve perfection in alignment
  • Aspect of sequencing which is different for every group of asana
  • Less muscular effort required
  • Student allowed to find their way through the asana, leading to on the go customization and active correction of mis-alignments
  • Individual attention on each student
  • Only certified teacher will teach

To me, it seems more like a ‘by hook or by crook’ kind of Yoga, like you have to do it anyway.

A Typical Class

When you begin the class, you’ll commence with the simplest poses with more emphasis on the standing asana. If you have difficulty in standing, then the poses might be modified to their seated versions. As the teacher finds your body opening up and more flexible, you’ll be introduced to other variants like, forward and back bends, twists, inversions and restorative poses.

Gradually, you’ll advance to Pranayama so you learn to control your breath and your internal cleansing begins.

A noteworthy point here is that what you are being taught or the pace with which you proceed in class might be entirely different from that of your fellow beginners. If you are lagging behind, there is simply no need to feel ashamed or if you are advancing earlier than others, then just keep in mind, its not a race dude.

The sequence given to you would be unique and specifically designed for your level of skill. Only and only when the teacher is satisfied with your level of understanding about a particular posture, will you be allowed to advance further. For deeper penetration into a posture and for ensuring a longer stay, the teacher may introduce props in your practice. Not to forget, home practice is highly crucial so you get a better understanding of your body.

The class ends with Savasana, corpse pose for deep relaxation. In this pose, you let go of your body and learn to find peace within.

The Basics

Who should do it: Everyone! And by that, I literally mean everyone.

From kids, to grown-ups to the ageing or anyone with limited physical ability. Children should be introduced playfully and significance of Yama and Niyama through stories and anecdotes. For the elderly, its like a boon that can help them get through with the difficulties of ageing with grace and fortitude. Women are often restricted to practice during their lunar cycle but here there are no such restriction. However, one must always inform the teacher about it, so the asana can be modified accordingly.

Who should not do it: A casual practitioner. I was about to say ‘none’ but then I realized one needs to be involved physically, mentally and emotionally and though, its not tough, its definitely demanding. Hence, casual people just stay away and let others do it peacefully.

What to wear: Anything comfortable. But that doesn’t mean you come there wearing maxi dresses.

Diet plan: As advised by the teacher.

Typical Poses

The poses are all same as the Ashtanga practice but helped immensely by the different props to help achieve fullness in postures and also in real life movements. For example, while performing a beginner pose like the Triangle pose or Trikonasana might be difficult for a person with muscle stiffness,the problem is solved with Iyengar props like wooden blocks. The block might be placed on the side to balance weight and not bend excessively to strain muscles of the waist. Gradually, the height of the block is decreased and one day, the person, with continuous practice, is able to finish the pose without help of any kind of props.

However, a lot of advanced poses like those balancing weight on arms are eliminated.

Some poses include:

Benefits of Iyengar Yoga

  • Helps age gracefully and with lesser difficulty[2]
  • Lowers down levels of anxiety and depression by teaching a peaceful and content way of living[3]
  • Has therapeutic effect in conditions like Arthritis, Cervical Spondylosis, Slipped disc, Scoliosis[4] and chronic back pain[5]
  • Reduces frequency of headaches and Migraines in people with high stress jobs
  • Promotes strength & endurance, improves flexibility and balance[6]
  • Effective in digestive disorders like Constipation, Acidity, Colitis, Hernia and Diabetes
  • Improved lymphocyte function in Breast Cancer survivors[7]
  • Relief from Angina pain, Hypertension, constricted blood vessels in legs, Asthma, Sinusitis, Bronchitis
  • Primes mother for easy delivery (Prenatal Yoga, advisable only under expert guidance)
  • A potential substitute for Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Helps women get through menstrual disorders and menopause, both physically and emotionally
  • An overall improvement in quality of life of HIV positive patients and drug addicts

No one is too old or too stiff, too fat or thin or tired. This yoga sees all equal. No matter what your situation is, without any second thoughts you can choose this safe, accessible and highly rewarding form of yoga.

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References:

[1] Scientific Evidence on the Therapeutic Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga: A Compilation of Research Papers presented in Mumbai, India October 12, 2008. ^Back to Top^

[2] Barry S. Oken, Daniel Zajdel, Shirley Kishiyama, Kristin Flegal, Cathleen Dehen, Mitchell Haas, Dale F. Kraemer, Julie Lawrence, Joanne Leyva. Randomized controlled six-month trial of Yoga in healthy seniors: Effects on cognition and Quality of life. Altern Ther Health Med. 2006; 12(1): 40–47. PMCID: PMC1457100. NIHMSID: NIHMS9803. ^Back to Top^

[3] David Shapiro, Karen Cline. Mood changes associated with Iyenger Yoga Practices: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Yoga Therapy. 2004 (pdf). ^Back to Top^

[4] Subhadra E, Mona M, Rebecca T, Saskia KS, Jennie CIT, Beth S, Lonnie KZ. Iyengar Yoga for young adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Results form a mixed-method pilot study. doi:10.1016. Journal of Pain and symptom management. May 2010 (pdf). ^Back to Top^

[5] Kimberley AW, John P, David S, David G, Juan Wu, Neelima R, Edward JD Jr, Gregory J, Maria MK, Richard G, Lois S. Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2005.02.016. International Association for study of pain (pdf). ^Back to Top^

[6] Evans S, Moieni M, Subramanian S, Tsao JC, Sternlieb B, Zeltzer LK. Now I see a brighter day”: expectations and perceived benefits of an Iyengar yoga intervention for young patients with rheumatoid arthritis. J Yoga Phys Ther 2011 Jun 11.1(101). pii: 101. PMID: 23145356. ^Back to Top^

[7] Pamela E. Schultz, Mel Haberman, Kenn Daratha, Sally E. Blank, Joni Nichols. Iyengar Yoga Can Promote Well-Being In Women Breast Cancer Survivors. American Physiological Society. ^Back to Top^

 

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