“Yoga refreshes the body while other exercise methods exhaust it. Unlike other exercises, yoga results in the concentration of immunity cells in the areas affected by disease and thus improve immunity. That is why the ancient sages called yoga a therapeutic as well as a preventative science.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Yoga poses offer medicinal and spiritual benefits and Iyengar Yoga capitalizes on these through the following:
- In Iyengar Yoga, poses are held statically and the pace tends to be meditative so that the complete pose can be achieved. Completing the pose ensures that the maximum medicinal benefits can take effect and holding the pose longer also has the benefit of building muscle.
- In Iyengar Yoga, props are used to ensure proper alignment and to make yoga accessible to everyone including beginners and the unwell. B.K.S. Iyengar is credited with bringing yoga to the western world by making it understandable and accessible. Using props also guards against injury. B.K.S. Iyengar developed the use of props, such as belts, blankets, bolsters, blocks and other wooden structures so that even beginners can move their bodies towards the full extent of each pose in order to receive its benefits, thus making restorative yoga extremely effective. The restoration that is achieved is essential in our modern world of increasing stress, caused by an environment of exponentially multiplying technologies that cause over-stimulation, fast-pace, and unhealthy competition. The yoga asana practiced with props is unique in that it is the only form of exercise which allows both action and relaxation simultaneously.
- Iyengar Yoga uses sequences through a continuously connected order of poses. The sequence can result in a specific healing or psychological/enlightening effect, depending on the sequence. Sequencing also helps guard against injury by warming up the areas of the body that will be used more frequently in later poses. Iyengar’s knowledge of the effects of each pose enabled him to develop sequences that led to specific outcomes such as lowering blood pressure or relieving depression. Each sequence ends with restorative poses that leaves the student feeling well and balanced.
Though the poses may appear to deal with the outer physical body only, Iyengar Yoga works at a much deeper level.
- Because Iyengar Yoga Method trains the students to hold the poses steadily, muscle is developed, including uncommonly used muscles.
- Each pose implements stretching that creates space in the joints and throughout the body, including the heart and lung cavity.
- Certain poses promote blood circulation throughout the various glands and organs of the body, improving their functions.
- Students are trained to assume the poses using a thoughtful process. There is an attention to awareness of intelligence from the skin to the self and the self to the skin. This leads to a balance of movement, resistance, alignment, and better body awareness.
- Different asanas can affect the chemical messages sent to and from the brain. This improves and stabilizes the mental state, soothes the nerves, and makes the mind fresh and tranquil. Yoga provides the most comprehensive and effective solution to stress. For example, irritation and insomnia can be tempered with forward bends. Also, utilizing salamba sirsasana (head stand) and salamba sarvangasana (shoulder stand) as part of the sequences percolates blood through the brain, refreshing and restoring the body. This moves the practitioner towards spiritual awakening by producing a balanced, positive feeling, and emotional stability.
Iyengar Yoga brings a multitude of restorative and muscle-toning benefits. However Iyengar was not interested in emphasizing Iyengar Yoga as a separate practice or exercise. He was quoted as saying “How can I give my name to a universal art?” Iyengar Yoga is based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as are all types of yoga. He is also quoted as saying: “There is no Iyengar Yoga-only the urge to unite with the divine”
- Iyengar, B.K.S. Yoga Wisdom and Practice. New York: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2009.
- Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Yoga. New York:Schocken Books, 1979.
- Iyengar, B.K.S. Yoga, the Path to Holistic Health. London:Dorling Kindersely Ltd. 2001.
- Iyengar, B.K.S., Geeta. Basic Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga. Mumbai: YOG Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, 2003.