Yoga Therapy: Discover Iyengar Yoga!
Have you ever heard of Iyengar Yoga? Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Yin yoga, we hear about many different types of yoga, but this one is a bit unique.
In this article:
- Introduction to Iyengar
- Origins and History of Iyengar
- Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar
- Principles of Iyengar
- The benefits of this yoga
- What equipment should I use to practice Iyengar?
- Where can I find an Iyengar course?
- Which teachers to follow?
- To go further
- Practice to music
Introduction to Iyengar
- Iyengar comes from the name of its founder: Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar .
- It is a so-called therapeutic yoga, many people have praised its benefits on the immune system.
- It is based on asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing)
- Its key principles arealignment, rigor and precision. This is a particularly rigorous type of yoga.
- It must be practiced with accessories (brick, rope strap, bolster, etc.)
Origins and history of Iyengar
If you have read our previous article on Ashtanga yoga you may have an idea of the origins of Iyengar yoga. So, what is the link between the two? He is the person who trained the founders of these two types of yoga. Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888 – 1989), who is credited with the creation of modern yoga, had three students who went on to become the founders of world-renowned types of yoga today:
- Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who we mentioned in our article on Ashtanga as the founder of the art
- Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, the founder of the yoga that bears his name, Iyengar, and which will interest us here.
- his son Desikachar who developed viniyoga for therapeutic purposes.
Who is Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar?
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (B.K.S.) Iyengar was born in 1918 in India. He came from a very poor family and had serious health problems. However, at a very young age (16), he discovered yoga with Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who was his brother-in-law at the time. This literally changed his life as it gave him the keys to overcome his health problems. In 1973 he decided to create his own school of yoga, the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute . Her goal was to share with others the benefits of yoga practice on her health. He was thus quickly recognized worldwide.
Want to know more about the different types of yoga? Go to the article “The different styles of yoga where Yogom presents the different types of yoga and their characteristics and benefits. It may also be useful if you still have difficulties in finding the one that suits you.
Principles of Iyengar
This precise and rigorous method is made up of different principles:
- Alignment: it is essential to have a perfect positioning in Iyengar to avoid injury while performing the postures. Indeed, being aligned means that all parts of your body must be placed correctly and well aligned together. It is also important that your whole body is aligned with the different supports used, whether it is the wall, the chair or the brick for example. You should not hesitate to spend more time in your posture to find your alignment rather than doing it quickly but badly.
- Stretching: Focusing on your breath helps you go further in your stretching without hurting yourself. Iyengar stretching aims at stretching all parts of the body (from feet to head) but also muscles, tendons and ligaments!
- Extensions: the logical continuation of stretching, they also go hand in hand with alignment. If we are correctly positioned (and thus well aligned) we will then potentially discover or even awaken certain parts of the body that we had never learned to work. Yes! If you have been doing a posture in a bad position for a long time, it may not be the same muscle that is working! This yoga corrects this effect.
- A fidelity to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: according to B.K.S. Iyengar, the objective of yoga (Iyengar or other) remains in all cases“to work for the realization of oneself and the purification of the mind“.
What are the benefits of Iyengar?
This yoga has the particularity of being adapted to everyone thanks to its therapeutic approach. It can be practiced for different purposes:
- To heal your aches and pains: indeed, in the manner of B.K.S. Iyengar, you can use the Iyengar to relieve your aches and pains and to solicit your body gently. Of course, it does not replace real medical care. However, it can be an excellent ally in your recovery. By strengthening your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, you may find that some of your pain disappears.
- As a complement to your practice: if you already practice another style of yoga, Iyengar remains very interesting for the flexibility work it allows! This will also allow you to vary your practice. In addition, the alignment work done in Iyengar can very easily help you in other types of yogas.
- Concrete effects on the body: doing Iyengar helps to fight back pain, reduce stress and strengthen the functioning of internal organs
- Improve your coordination and balance: This Iyengar yoga has so many benefits that in addition to relieving your aches and pains, it will allow you to work on your balance and the coordination between your different limbs. To you the postures on a foot, even perhaps on the hands, who knows?
With which equipment to practice?
To practice Iyengar, it is imperative tohave yoga accessories. Indeed, as said above, this style of yoga has the particularity of always being practiced with the help of accessories. Bricks, straps, bolster, chair, rope, wall, everything is used to work in depth on stretching and alignment.
- Which yoga mat to choose ?
To practice Iyengar, the surface will not matter much, unless you tend to slip quickly on your mat. In these cases you can consider a mat from the Star Yogom range to solve this problem. This range is one of the most anti-slip mats on the market! But the main criterion in Iyengar is alignment, so look for mats that include the Bodyline system.
- The cork or EVA yoga brick: access the postures and work on your flexibility
The yoga brick will be your first necessary accessory after your mat! Whether it is made of cork (ecological) or EVA (low budget), it will allow you to access certain postures or to work on your stretching more deeply!
- The Stretch Strap: To improve your flexibility and go further in your hip openings
The stretching strap is used to improve flexibility, which is also the objective of Iyengar! It will be your third must-have in your sessions. Its advantage remains its price, relatively accessible for a yoga accessory. Moreover, like the other accessories, it is not strictly limited to the practice of Iyengar, of course, you can use it in many other types of yoga. Good news! At Yogom we have developed two sizes of straps, one of which is particularly long and adapted to hip openings.
- The bolster: stretch in comfort
The bolster is that cushion that looks like a small bolster. It is widely used to prolong stretching while remaining in relatively comfortable positions. It is very often found in Yin Yoga, where the postures are held for several minutes. Did you know that? Yogom has developed two types of bolsters, the first is a merino wool bolster certified by the Oeko-Tex label and made in Europe. The second one is an empty bolster cover, to fill yourself with old clothes or others to value upcycling. The latter is a very economical solution because bolster covers can be very expensive to buy.
Need help choosing your bolster? At Yogom, we answer all your questions with a dedicated article: Meditation zafu or bolster how to choose?
That’s a lot of information about choosing accessories. It is quite normal that you do not know at all what to choose. No problem, Yogom has foreseen everything and invites you to read the special guide on How to choose your yoga accessories according to your practice and your needs. Let us guide you!
Where can I find an Iyengar Yoga class?
- Iyengar is not widely practiced in studios, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find it! Turn to specialist studios, there are at least in all major cities.
- If you don’t have a studio nearby and you have all the equipment you need, you can practice at home. But be careful! Practicing at home does not mean practicing alone and without any guidance! There are now many online yoga studios that offer Iyengar classes. In the post-covid era, doing yoga at home has never been easier!
- Even if the practice is not very suitable because of all the accessories needed for its practice, you can consider outdoor classes. Some studios or independent teachers sometimes offer outdoor classes in parks. Feel free to dig into this if it’s something that interests you!
Which teachers to follow?
- In France, the French Iyengar Association is doing a remarkable job. It gathers all the information you need to know about the practice of Iyengar in France. You will find a directory of all the teachers who are members of the association, as well as the trainings and workshops they offer.
- How can I tell you about an Iyengar teacher to follow without telling you about the mythical Eyal Shifroni ? Originally, he was the Hebrew translator of B.K.S. Iyengar and then became a teacher in Israel, his home country. He has directed the Iyengar Yoga Center in Zichron-Ya’akov in Israel. He now travels around the world for training and courses. You can also take some of his courses via the Zoom platform. You will need to have a minimum command of the language of Shakespeare to be able to follow.
To go further
You liked this article but you are still hungry? Yogom proposes you some tracks to go further. Reading, events, but also addresses of training to become, why not, an Iyengar teacher!
- On the reading side: Laplage Editions have published an excellent book on Iyengar which can clearly be considered as a bible on the subject. The author Eyal Shifroni has written 5 other books dedicated to Iyengar if you wish to deepen your knowledge on the subject.
- Event : The French Iyengar Yoga Association organizes each year the Iyengar conventions in France. These conventions are ideal to meet other practitioners of this type of yoga or other teachers as well.
- Training: In France, you can contact the French Association of Iyengar Yoga mentioned above. If you are not afraid to go outside the country, you can go directly to the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune to train with the Iyengar family. However, beware, the waiting list is long, and you will need to have a very good level in yoga practice and philosophy, as well as in English! (the entire course is given in English)
Practice to music with the Yogom playlist
Discover over 20 hours of relaxing music ideal for yoga practice or simply to relax! Mantras, hangrum, Tibetan bowls … Let yourself be guided by the melody to enter your practice gently.
Contrary to what you might think, music can be a great help to focus during your yoga sessions, whether they are gentle or dynamic. Do you like this playlist ? Don’t hesitate to discover the others by subscribing to the Deezer Yogom account!