Iyengar Yoga is a system of hatha yoga developed by B.K.S. Iyengar; it is rooted in the traditional eight limbs of yoga as explained by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Iyengar who was also direct disciple of T. Krishnamacharya with Patabbhi Jois (who developed Ashtanga Yoga) were responsible for bringing the practice of modern yoga (as we know it now) to the West.
As a widely practiced style, Iyengar Yoga continues to provide benefits to all practitioners. Although there are numerous reasons to practice Iyengar yoga, here are 4 reasons to give this practice a try:
1. It can be adapted for beginners
Iyengar Yoga offers a balanced and progressive method to Hatha yoga through its emphasis on sequencing asanas (yoga postures). Unlike classes in other styles, a typical Iyengar Yoga class for beginners always starts with basic standing poses as the grounding element. The legs and arms are part of the “karmendriya,” or organs of action. They provide the structural foundation for the rest of the body. Forward-bending and lateral twisting poses are also introduced to continuing beginners. They prepare students for inversions, backbends, and arm-balancing poses. In a class, poses are organized to improve flexibility, strength and to prepare the mind and body for pranayama (yogic breathing) and dhyana (meditation).
2. It creates a greater sense of body awareness
The practice of Iyengar Yoga helps practitioners develop body awareness through focus on postural alignment. The emphasis on alignment is the basis of the practice. Instructions on how to do the poses direct attention and awareness to different parts of the body. This awareness allows one to understand different “koshas,” or layers of the material body, like muscles, joints, organs and nadis (energy channels). This enhances a smooth flow of energy throughout the body and mind.
3. It’s totally safe practice
Iyengar Yoga offers a flexible and safe instruction, suited to the student’s needs through the use of props. Iyengar adopted the use of props to get students to move deeper into a pose. For students with physical or mental limitations, props provide invaluable support and feedback. The use of props builds flexibility and endurance. For example, in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose), feet are on blocks to lift the pelvis and create more length in the lower back.
4. Like other styles of yoga, it’s universal
Iyengar Yoga is for everyone, at all ages and physical levels. Iyengar was the first modern yoga master to conduct “group classes.” Young or old, fit or weak, athletic or injured, people are drawn to Iyengar Yoga for its accessibility. Iyengar Yoga is available for all in their healing and rehabilitative process. In this sense, Iyengar Yoga clearly offers more benefits than just physical fitness. It is a holistic lifestyle of self-care and well-being.
In Hatha yoga, Sun Salutations warm-up the body. This Hatha yoga sequence gives the body time to settle into the posture and the mind a chance to go inward. Sun Salutation has twelve postures or asanas in it. Surya in Sanskrit means Sun and Namaskar means to bow down. Sun Salutation is one of the most powerful sequences in yoga; it is our basic source of energy and is one of the pranic forces (life forces, chi) that keep us alive. Classical Hatha Yoga has its own Sun Salutation system, which differs from the traditional Ashtanga Yoga Sun Salutation method. The main difference between the two sun salutation methods are the postures and the order of sequence they are in. There are many benefits in the daily practice of Sun Salutations. It strengthens the digestive system and improves the functioning of the whole body. The whole process purifies the blood and improves blood circulation throughout the entire body.
This sequence of twelve classical yoga postures flow into each other and works almost every muscle in the body. Each movement is accompanied by either an inhalation and an exhalation and it is important for the rhythm of the breath to match the rhythm of the movement as not to become breathless and tired. The yoga breath (ujjayi breath) is essential to this practice. Attempt to keep your breathing as long and as even as possible. This sequence should be done in an even flowing manner. If you have never practiced this sequence before, then start off by only doing one round. This would mean that you do the sequence twice: the first time taking the right leg back and then doing the sequence again, taking the left leg back.
More and more often today we hear the expression "being mindful" being used in general conversation. For those of us that have meditation and/or yoga practices this term is very much a part of our vocabulary but are we really comfortable with what it means for us in our day to day living. Mindfulness means being in the "moment", a conscious awareness of what is in our minds before we say or do anything. Not only being aware but of then examining those thoughts and deciding if they are negative in any way to ourselves or others.
"Before you speak, think - Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence". - Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Hurting ourselves or others through our words, actions or inaction's, brings negative energy into the lives of all affected. Even if what we are saying is true we have to ask ourselves what is the probable outcome of telling this truth. By withholding a truth are we saving someone from an unnecessary hurt or will their life be better in the long run? However, we also have to ask ourselves if we have enough real information on which to base our decision and if the answer is "no" or we are in doubt then we should withhold our comment. This is being mindful.
Even if someone has done something you consider careless - let it go. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes. We have no way of knowing what’s going on in a person's life that may have contributed to the perceived infraction. Take a deep breath and let go of any physical tension that has started to take hold of your body. Mindfulness exercises come from thousands of years of traditions and Eastern practices of meditation. By practicing mindfulness exercises, we can learn to focus our awareness/consciousness on the present moment without judging the thoughts that come in our mind. It's about letting the present become a reality in total consciousness and total awareness.
In yoga practice we learn to distinguish between when our bodies and our minds are in a state of tension/anxiety and when they are relaxed and we feel in control. Being mindful of what is happening to us and how we feel, allows us to lead a more organized and fulfilling life as we can direct our energies, both physical and mental towards being positive and productive.
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