The Iyengar yoga method was developed by BKS Iyengar (1918-2014), who is credited with bringing yoga to the West. His teachings were influential and bits and pieces of his teaching method can be found in many different styles of yoga instruction. For example, many of Iyengar’s inventions–blocks, straps, etc.–have become commonplace and can be found in any yoga studio or gym across the U.S. Furthermore, he was the first yoga teacher to lead large public classes, now a common phenomenon across the West.
Why do I love Iyengar Yoga?
I love Iyengar Yoga for its clear and precise instruction. I love how an Iyengar Yoga Teacher will without fail deepen my understanding not only of yoga āsanas (poses) but also of the overall system of yoga, which helps me understand how to live a fuller and happier life.
When I go to an Iyengar Yoga class I know my body and mind will feel amazing afterwards. For example, if the teacher focuses on forward extensions, I know I will feel cool and calmed. If the class focuses on backbends I know I will feel invigorated and energized, a fountain of focused energy. If it is a class of restorative āsanas and pranāyāma (a practice of rhythmic breath control) I know my body will feel refreshed and my mind will feel collected and clear.
BKS Iyengar was a whiz at sequencing poses, to say the least. He mastered the art of putting particular poses together to create certain effects in his students. I strive to do that in my classes.
Who can benefit from Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga is great for lengthening and strengthening muscles. It’s great for stabilizing joints. It is great for people who have issues such as back pain, or for people who are looking for a way to exercise their bodies and calm their minds. It is great for active young adults and those who have never done yoga before. It it great for seniors and young people, men, women, and gender non-conforming folks. It’s great for those who are pregnant or menstruating. It is great for anyone who has ever had a knee, hip, back, or shoulder issue. No one is exempt. 😆✨
People with therapeutic conditions often come to Iyengar Yoga when other styles of yoga are inaccessible to them. According to my teacher Leslie Bradley, the Iyengars always find a way. No matter what is going on with your body the Iyengars will find a way to make it accessible for you.
What is the Iyengar Method?
The Iyengar method of yoga instruction includes emphasis on correct alignment and an Iyengar Yoga Teacher will use precise and frequent instructions (i.e. “Extend your arms out past your fingertips!” or, “Tighten your kneecaps and grip your quadriceps”) along with hands-on assists as needed to help students understand how to do the āsanas in a way that is healthy and beneficial.
The method also includes an emphasis on demonstration. Often, an Iyengar Yoga teacher will ask students to watch them demonstrate a pose from a particular angle in an attempt to increase the students’ understanding of a particular concept. I.e; How do you turn your front thigh in Trikonāsana? Well, come and watch!
What can you expect from an Iyengar Yoga Class?
Expect to be present. Iyengar Yoga Teachers ask that rather than letting your mind wander, you focus directly on what your body and mind are experiencing in a yoga class. They will ask for you to perform āsanas in a way that might be unfamiliar or uncomfortable, either for body or mind. But at the end of class, expect to feel a sense of clarity, calm, and transformation.
Who are Iyengar Yoga Teachers?
Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers (CIYTs) have practiced Iyengar Yoga for years before even taking a teacher training course. In the Iyengar Yoga system, you must first steep yourself in the method before even thinking about becoming certified in the method.
Because Albuquerque, New Mexico was until recently an “Iyengar Desert” (there were no Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers in town until I got certified!) I traveled to Denver, Colorado to study with Leslie Bradley and Craig Kurtz at their acclaimed teacher training program.
As a side note, BKS Iyengar at first did not even like the idea of a creating a certification system for his method of yoga, not to mention even branding his teaching as “Iyengar Yoga,” as it is seems rather ridiculous to hand out certificates to people on the path of a deeply personal and spiritual practice. It was when people who Iyengar did not know started using his name as a marketing tool that he began to formalize the certification system so that when students come to an Iyengar Yoga class they know to what standards that teacher is being held.
What standards are Certified Iyengar Yoga Teachers held to?
The Iyengar Yoga Certification system includes detailed requirements for each candidate. To go up for assessment, you have to have studied for a certain amount of time with a qualified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, in addition to tackling a long list of practical and theoretical yoga knowledge.
All CIYTs have gone through this process of intense study and a stressful weekend of practical and theoretical testing in front of a board of Senior Iyengar Yoga Teachers.
The idea is that, backed up by their years of practice and careful training, Iyengar Yoga Teachers teach with unparalleled clarity and precision to help beginning yoga students get a firm foothold in their yoga practice, and more advanced yoga practicioners reach deeper and deeper in their practice.