Since B.K.S. Iyengar passed on August 20, there has been an outpouring of tributes from people around the world, who have been touched, directly or indirectly, by his profound teachings and wisdom. What Iyengar (or Guruji as his students would call him) left for the world was his multitude of teachings and his lifelong effort to make yoga accessible to all.

As the world’s most practiced style, Iyengar Yoga continues to provide benefits to all practitioners. Below are five things that I enjoy about the Iyengar yoga practice.

1. Iyengar Yoga can be adapted for beginners

First of all, 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. Our 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 inverted, backbending and arm-balancing poses. In a class, poses are orchestrated to improve flexibility, strength and to prepare the mind and body for pranayama (yogic breathing) and dhyana (meditation).

2. The Iyengar Yoga teaching

Iyengar Yoga is not a franchise but represents an organized system rooted in Patanjali’s principle of Eight Limbs. According to Patanjali, the path of Eight Limbs begins with yamas (moral observances) and niyamas (ethical observances) before asanas (yoga postures). Iyengar Yoga is distinguished by its “gold standard” of teaching certification, with on-going training requirements and ethical guidelines. Unlike Yoga Alliance, the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States safeguards the quality of Iyengar Yoga teachers by publishing an official certification manual every year. This manual outlines poses, teaching and philosophy. So students are not only offered yoga instructions based on a solid knowledge base, but also receive quality-controlled services.

3. Iyengar Yoga and body awareness

The practice of Iyengar Yoga helps practitioners develop body awareness through focus on postural alignment. Iyengar once said, “Alignment is enlightenment.” The emphasis on alignment is a cornerstone of the practice. Instructions on how to do the poses direct our attention and awareness to different parts of our body. Such refined awareness allows us to penetrate different “koshas,” or layers of our material body, like muscles, joints, organs and nadis (energy channels). This enhances a smooth flow of energy throughout the body and mind.

4. Iyengar Yoga and safety:

Iyengar Yoga also offers a flexible and safe pedagogy, 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 the backbending pose called Urdhva Dhanurasana (upward bow pose), we sometimes elevate our feet on blocks to lift the pelvis and create more length in the lower back.

5. Iyengar Yoga is universal

Iyengar Yoga is for everyone, at all ages and physical levels. Iyengar was the first modern yoga master to conduct “group classes.” He was also the first to accept female students in his classes, even before women could vote in the United States. 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.

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