What Is Iyengar Yoga?

Nowadays, if you walk into a yoga studio there definitely won’t just be one or two options to choose from. With its ever-increasing popularity, it seems that there are now hundreds of different ways to practice yoga. 

But knowing the difference between the different varieties on offer can be a little confusing and definitely pretty overwhelming. Iyengar yoga is one of the options that you’ll often see being advertised at these studios. 

What Is Iyengar Yoga

And though it isn’t quite as commonly well-known as the likes of vinyasa or yin yoga, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s actually one of the most practiced forms of yoga across the world!

Not only that, but it’s also arguably one of the most accessible too. So it makes sense that it is so well revered between yoga newbies and advanced yogis alike. 

But what exactly is Iyengar yoga? And what are its benefits? Keep reading to find out. 

So, What Exactly Is Iyengar Yoga?

This type of yoga is actually derived from hatha yoga. A practice that focuses on precise techniques and proper alignment.

It’s typically a bit slower-paced than some of the other options about, and you’ll definitely transition through fewer poses than you can expect from other yoga varieties.

This is because this form of yoga puts quality above quantity. 

You’ll often complete a combination of asanas and pranayama (which are basically just poses and breathing exercises) that can help you build your stamina, strength, and flexibility. 

The practice also focuses heavily on strengthening the connection between the practitioner’s body and mind.

The founder of the practice, B.K.S Iyengar, believed that a balanced body would result in a balanced mind which is why it is so equally balanced between its focus on movement and meditation. 

What Health Benefits Can You Expect From Practicing Iyengar Yoga?

As with most forms of yoga, Iyengar has several benefits that relate to both the mind and body. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common benefits of the practice according to scientific research. 

Improves Strength

Throughout the many different poses that are held for upwards of a minute each, you’ll find that they start to tone your muscles as well as strengthen them.

Some of the most effective Iyengar poses that build strength include the tree pose and the warrior two. Both of these are really proficient at strengthening your core as well as your lower body. 

Increases Flexability

Any form of yoga is likely to increase and improve your flexibility, but especially Iyengar.

According to a study, after 6 weeks of Iyengar yoga practitioners found that they had increased flexibility in both their spine and their hamstrings. 

Improves Posture 

Because Iyengar yoga has such a focus on correct alignment, it really works wonders for your posture. You’ll find additional strength and power in many areas of your body that help to combat weakness and stiffness.

This form of yoga is known to really help in this area in terms of both your neck and back. 

Increased Energy

Iyengar yoga will boost both your blood flow to the brain as well as the amount of endorphins in your body. These are known for increasing your energy and making you feel more awake and alert.

A study also found that patients who suffered from chronic respiratory disease found a significant decrease in their fatigue levels after practicing yoga. 

Less Stress & Anxiety

While practicing Iyengar yoga your body increases its production of a chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid. This chemical is known for boosting your mood and making you feel happier and less stressed.

A study showed evidence of this as participants reported a happier state of well-being as well as lower levels of anxiety as little as three months after practicing. 

Pain Reduction

Many individuals suffer from chronic pain due to improper alignment. This can be from bad posture, frequent slouching, and the like.

Since there is so much emphasis in Iyengar yoga to ensure that you align your body correctly, it can really help to reduce this kind of chronic pain.

And don’t just take our word for it, there’s plenty of scientific research that supports these claims.  

How To Practice Iyengar Yoga

So, obviously, you can opt to follow a class where a trained instructor will teach you through everything you need to know. But you can also easily practice it at home. 

First, you’ll need to create your own sequence of poses to follow. There are over 200 poses and 14 different breathing techniques to choose from.

You’ll want to pick a ‘peak pose’ and then opt for similar poses to help you make your way up to this one.  Make your list and then set it aside for now. 

Because the first thing you’ll need to do is start the session with a meditative warm-up. This should usually last around 15 minutes or so. Once you’ve done this you can follow your pre chosen sequence until you arrive at your peak pose.

This should last around 25-30 minutes. Then you’ll want to pick a few less intense poses to make up your cool down. 

However, it is important to remember that when it comes to Iyengar yoga, you don’t flow through poses from breath to movement.

Instead, you’ll be trying to hold your poses for a little longer to ensure the correct alignment. You’ll then go deeper into the pose. 

And if you’re struggling to come up with your poses for sessions but don’t have a yoga studio nearby, you can always opt to follow video tutorials online – there are plenty of them about. 

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, now, you understand a little bit more about Iyengar yoga. The practice is heavily focused on balancing meditation with correct alignment movement. You’ll take things a little slower and try to go deeper into each and every pose. 

And as you can see from this article, your efforts do not come without reward. From mastering this practice, you are likely to feel less anxious and happier. You’ll also receive several physical benefits such as improved flexibility and strength. 

So, what  are you waiting for? Try out Iyengar yoga today!

Laura Simmons
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