What is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is a method of yoga named after yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-2014) and is firmly rooted in the 2500 year old classical yoga tradition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. One of most widely practiced types of yoga in the world today, Iyengar Yoga emphasizes the alignment of body in yoga poses (asana) in order to achieve balance between the body, mind and breath. This precision builds strength, stamina, balance and flexibility, avoids injury, and provides a deep sense of well-being. While Iyengar Yoga uses the physical alignment of the body as a starting point, the practice eventually leads students to experience greater and greater self-awareness. Intelligence spreads throughout the body and the practice of asana then can become a form of “meditation in action.”
Hallmarks of Iyengar Yoga
Intelligent sequencing of poses keeps students safe and allows them to study in a logical and progressive manner. Sequencing also is used to achieve particular physical and emotional affects such as lengthening the spine or quieting the nervous system.
Use of Yoga Props
Iyengar Yoga also uses props as teaching tools and aids, allowing students of varying abilities to work in the poses with integrity and alignment. Props also are used to educate students and to deepen their experience of asana.
Excellence in Teaching
Iyengar Yoga has a highly developed teaching methodology. Practitioners train for many years to become a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher (CIYT). They are precise in their teaching instructions and in their demonstrations, have keen observation and adjustment skills, and know how and when to offer modifications to students to keep them safe in class.
Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar (B.K.S. Iyengar) (1918-2014) was born during an influenza epidemic. The 11th of 13 children, he overcame poverty and deadly childhood illnesses to begin his study of yoga at age 16 with his brother-in-law and guru, T. Krishnamacharya. Through his passionate study and practice of yoga, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge on the subject and became an internationally renowned teacher. Promoting yoga as an art, science and philosophy, Mr. Iyengar made yoga accessible to ordinary people worldwide, regardless of race, gender, religion or ability.
B.K.S. Iyengar brought his profound method of teaching to the West in the 1960’s and 70’s and is responsible for today’s explosive growth in the popularity of yoga. Among his many lasting contributions to the study of yoga is his development of yoga props such as blocks, straps, chairs and bolsters so that everyone — regardless of age, strength, or flexibility — can benefit from the study and practice of yoga. For his role in making yoga a ubiquitous element of mainstream culture, Time Magazine in 2004 declared Mr. Iyengar to be one of the 100 “most powerful and influential people” in the world.
B.K.S. Iyengar is the author of many books including the seminal Light on Yoga, Light on Pranayama, Light on the Yoga Sutras, The Tree of Yoga, Light on Life, and Core of the Yoga Sutras.
Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar (1944-2018), the eldest daughter of B.K.S. Iyengar, began learning yoga as a child by observing her father. She began teaching just after graduating high school in 1961 when her father was away on teaching tours, and brought her own passion to the subject. An avid practitioner and scholar with a doctorate in Ayurveda, she went on to become one of the world’s most influential female yoga teachers. After her father’s retirement in 1984, she became co-director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India where her devotion to her father and her students became legendary. Despite painful health issues, she continued to teach until only days before her death. Geeta Iyengar is the author of several books including Yoga: A Gem for Women, a pioneering work on yoga for every stage of a woman’s life.
Sri Prashant Iyengar is the son of B.K.S. Iyengar and director of the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) in Pune, India. He is a life-long student, practitioner, and teacher of yoga and author of numerous books on the subject of yoga philosophy, ancient scripture and texts. Prashant Iyengar conducts daily classes at the Institute, bringing his own unique style and extensive philosophical knowledge to his teaching. He also is an accomplished violinist.
Abhijata Iyengar began studying yoga at the age of 16 under the direct guidance of her maternal grandfather B.K.S. Iyengar, her aunt Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar and uncle Sri Prashant Iyengar. She received a Bachelor of Science in Zoology in 2003, and a Masters in Bioinformatics in 2005. Rather than pursue a Ph.D., she decided to follow in the footsteps of her family by teaching yoga. She now is a senior teacher at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) and regularly teaches around the world carrying forward the profound teachings of her family with charisma, humor and humility. In response to a question about the most important thing she learned from her grandfather, Abhijata said: “I vividly remember he said life is as dynamic as the River Amazon. As that river flows, life flows with that energy, hence your practice and your living has to be so dynamic.”