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How Distinctive is Iyengar Yoga Versus Other Yoga Styles?

Updated on December 26, 2015

BKS Iyengar Practicing

Introduction to Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga is one of the most unique forms of yoga currently available. This particular style was innovated by yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar, thus it was named after him. It is based on the Hindu religion and the Eight Limbs of Yoga that was authored by Patanjali. The incorporation of meditation and concentration are considered as crucial elements in its practice to enjoy such benefits as flexibility, increased strength and stamina.

When it comes to the practice, the exercises of Iyengar Yoga are based on Hatha Yoga. But more than just the proper execution of yoga asanas, gaining proper structural alignment is crucial in gaining the benefits of these exercises. Thus, Iyengar Yoga consist of a specific set of exercises that enrich mind, body, and soul for a holistic sense of well being. This particular yoga style is therefore ideal for individuals experiencing a great deal of stress on a constant basis.

B.K.S. Iyengar 1938 newsreel Part 1 (SILENT)

Practicing Iyengar Yoga

Now that you understand the basic outline of Iyengar Yoga, it's time to move onto the practice of this technique. For this particular style, B.K.S. Iyengar conceptualized around 200 unique asanas to be performed and these postures are coupled with proper controlled breathing techniques. In addition to these postures, he also came up with 14 breathing exercises for each set of variations to maximize its benefits. Each postures and breathing exercises vary in difficulty level to suit all skill level practitioners. There are three distinct aspects about the physical postures that is required in this particular style and it will be discussed later on.

Any practitioner of the Iyengar yoga style must keep in mind proper body alignment to ensure that the benefits of the yoga asanas are achieved. When there is harmony in your body's anatomical structure, you can precisely execute the poses without harming or causing injury to the body.

In addition to proper body alignment, one's understanding of his or her own body during the practice is crucial to determine your limits and understand how far you can go in your practice. In some cases, the specific requirements of Iyengar Yoga can result to certain difficulties on the body and the use of props is often necessary to provide additional support to the body.

Iyengar Video 2

Breathing Exercises

As with all other yoga styles, asanas (exercises) and pranayama (breathing) always come together. But only after one has fully mastered the asanas can they move onto understanding the pranayama aspect of this particular style.

The incorporation of proper breathing into your practice of Iyengar yoga enables you to maximize the benefits that you can gain from it. Thus, it expands the array of benefits that you can enjoy including the enhancement of functions for your internal organ systems such as circulatory, respiratory, and digestive health systems. These are all made possible by the stimulating action that is produced on your internal organs to gain a renewed sense of energy and bring about calmness.

However, all of the above mentioned benefits are only at the core of the pranayama exercises for Iyengar Yoga. The most important benefit that can be derived from Iyengar yoga's pranayama exercises is the ability to control both your mind and senses, ready for the next stage in the process – meditation.

Iyengar Yoga lesson in Rome

Meditation Aspect of Iyengar Yoga

Unlike the common myth about meditation, this is actually a highly involved practice that require full participation of your mind and senses to happen. In Iyengar Yoga, meditation takes on a more important role such that it places emphasis on self culture providing an impact on your act of meditation. You therefore cannot expect success in your meditation practice unless physical and mental preparedness are achieved.

One distinction with Iyengar Yoga meditation is that it is highly associated with action. This means that meditation takes place by building awareness on the specific parts of your body as you try to perform specific yoga postures. Focus your meditation from one body part to another until you become fully absorbed in them. When you have achieved a certain level of awareness on your body, that is when you become comfortable with doing certain yoga poses.

What Makes It Unique as a Yoga Style?

There are three basic characteristics that Iyengar Yoga has to create a distinction over other yoga styles. These three characteristics are as follows:

*Technique – As mentioned above, B.K.S. Iyengar conceptualized nearly 200 distinct yoga asanas to be practiced in this particular style. Each of these poses have a purpose that define them and help achieve the ultimate goal of this yoga school of thought. In addition to these exercises, there are also specific breathing techniques intended to combine with these exercises.

*Sequence – Once you have learned the technique or specific yoga asanas to perform, they have to be done in a particular sequence. Unless you are able to execute these exercises in the specific sequence they were designed for, it cannot produce the same results as intended for this yoga style. Indeed, the body and the exercises that is to be performed all contribute as you work towards gaining spiritual benefits.

*Timing – Aside from taking note of proper sequence for Iyengar Yoga poses, you also have to properly time them. The amount of time you invest on doing each single pose also impacts the effect of each pose. So, make sure to devote some time to doing them to ensure proper execution, proper adjustment of your body, and to allow both physical and spiritual body to embrace its impact.

B.K.S.Iyengar interview, p.2

Spiritual Gain

One of the greatest benefits that one can enjoy while performing Iyengar Yoga exercises is the ability to nourish your spiritual body. This is probably one of the greatest benefits derived from this yoga style. But how can you achieve and optimize these results?

First off, Iyengar Yoga is loosely based on the teachings of Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, which believe that yoga must be adapted as a way of life, instead of a mere workout routine. In accordance with that, you need to develop behaviors and lifestyle choices that promote overall well being. Vices and other unhealthy habits or attitudes must be avoided at all times.

Meanwhile, one is encouraged to engage in introspective activities that improve physical and mental health condition. As you devote yourself into adapting this kind of lifestyle, one is able to tap the spiritual body and strengthen relationship with a Divine Power, whom is believed to be The One who controls everything in the universe.

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Submit a Comment

  • tracywong profile image

    Tracy Wong 5 years ago from Germany

    I hurt my elbows when I practiced Hatha Yoga at an ordinary yoga studio, at which the teachers didn't pay much attention on alignments. Then I changed to Iyengar Yoga, I found that it is suitable for me as it requires me to really focus on my alignment and how my muscles work. Comprehensive Hub!

  • Act 3 profile image

    chet thomas 5 years ago from Athens, GA

    I've got about 15 years of experience with Iyengar yoga. While there are a few small points I would disagree with, or rephrase, I think you have given a very good overview.

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    arnu619san 7 years ago

    i like it