Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar who studied with Sri T. Krishnamacharya beginning at age 16. He began teaching in 1936 in Pune, India at the age of 18. He later authored the yoga classic Light on Yoga and is one of the main teachers credited for bringing yoga to the West. Iyengar passed away in the summer of 2014 at the age of 95. He continued teaching until his very last year of life alongside his daughter Geeta and son Prashant. His son and daughter carry on the teachings.
“Research based experience” and “experience based research” helped Iyengar develop his yoga teachings which are based on the eight limbs of yoga as outlined in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Iyengar Yoga caters to any and all body types. It is a highly alignment-focused practice that utilizes many props in order to facilitate the postures for different bodies. Poses are often held for longer periods of time so that the student can learn how to find steadiness and ease within the posture.
The practice begins with introductory postures, many of them standing poses. Once some degree of familiarity in the standing poses is achieved, forward folds, backbends, twists, and inversions are added. Shoulderstand and headstand are introduced as soon as the student is ready, due to the therapeutic nature of these poses. For students who cannot safely practice shoulderstand or headstand, other inversions are taught so that the student can still get the benefit of inverting the body. Postures are adjusted on an as-needed basis while specific cues are given to help the student understand the mechanics of the postures in his/her own body. Every class ends with Savasana to release the body and still the mind.
Over 200 asanas, or postures, are included in the Iyengar system, and each practice varies so that the student can experience a range of postures. Once the student is ready, pranayama (breath control practices) are introduced to further help the student concentrate the mind and optimize the flow of prana, or life force, within the body.
While Iyengar Yoga is a specific style of yoga, many other styles incorporate aspects of Iyengar Yoga because of its longstanding influence in the West. Chances are good you have experienced some form of Iyengar Yoga if you are a regular yoga student who has tried a variety of yoga styles.