“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.” — B.K.S. Iyengar
No matter what form of yoga is your favorite, Iyengar yoga, with its focus on alignment and innovative use of props, is likely to have influenced your practice. Created by B.K.S. Iyengar and described in his bookLight on Yogain 1966, this Hatha-rooted style is accessible to most beginners due to the focus on specific, proper alignment, which can lessen the risk of injury.
Born in India, Iyengar was one of the first to teach yoga to westerners. He also made wide use of props such as blocks, bolsters, chairs, blankets, and straps to help students align themselves safely and correctly as their bodies opened up before going deeper into poses. He strictly believed that there was one correct way to do each pose and that given time and guidance most people could perform them safely.
Why was Iyengar so strict about alignment? In his bookLight on Life,he said, “It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.” He truly viewed the body as a spiritual vessel and saw its physical alignment as synonymous with the mind being “in line” and at peace.
In an Iyengar class, poses are held for long periods of time, as students are coached through adjustments to perfect them. A common misconception is to equate the lack of a blood-pumping, vinyasa-style flow with ease; however, an Iyengar practice is strenuous in its own way. Intense focus on maintaining the pose properly strengthens and stretches the body and improves balance and coordination. Small muscles close to the bone are especially prone to benefit from this method, as they are working hard to keep you from wobbling.
An Iyengar practice holds an appeal for many—from meticulous types fascinated with anatomy to advanced yogis looking to grow their knowledge of alignment to newbies who are unable to do a more active flow. Maybe even you!
By Heidi Drake; All Rights Reserved @2020