What is Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga is a style of yoga that focuses on precision and alignment of the body, as well as the use of props for support and enhanced practice. It is named after its creator, B.K.S. Iyengar, who developed this practice in the 1970s and became one of the most influential yoga teachers of all time. Iyengar Yoga is based on the traditional teachings of yoga, including the practice of asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing), and meditation.


Woman wearing white tank top working out against grey wall
Source: Istockphoto. Woman wearing white tank top working out against grey wall

B.K.S. Iyengar was born in India in 1918 and began practicing yoga at a young age under the guidance of his brother-in-law, T. Krishnamacharya. Iyengar had suffered from various health issues throughout his childhood, including malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis, which led him to pursue yoga as a means of healing his body. Over the years, Iyengar became recognized as a leading authority on yoga and its therapeutic benefits. He wrote numerous books on the subject and was instrumental in bringing yoga to the Western world.

Iyengar’s approach to yoga is characterized by a focus on alignment and the use of props, such as blocks and straps, to help students achieve proper positioning. This attention to detail and precision has made Iyengar yoga popular among those seeking relief from chronic pain or injury. In addition to his contributions to the practice of yoga, Iyengar was also a strong advocate for social justice and environmentalism, often incorporating these themes into his teachings.

Despite his passing in 2014, Iyengar’s legacy continues to influence the world of yoga and beyond. His teachings have inspired countless practitioners and teachers, and his emphasis on mindfulness and self-awareness has resonated with people from all walks of life. Today, Iyengar yoga remains a popular and respected style of yoga, with dedicated practitioners and studios around the world.

The principles and philosophy behind Iyengar Yoga

Female Making Yoga Practice In Light Studio
Source: Istockphoto. Female Making Yoga Practice In Light Studio

The principles and philosophy behind Iyengar Yoga are based on the eight limbs of yoga as outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These eight limbs provide a framework for a holistic approach to yoga practice, including ethical guidelines, physical postures, breath control, concentration, meditation, and ultimate realization.

Iyengar Yoga emphasizes the alignment of the body in each posture, as well as the use of props to help students achieve correct alignment and support. The practice also emphasizes the use of the breath to deepen the postures and improve overall health and well-being.

In addition to alignment and breath control, Iyengar Yoga also places a strong emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of yoga. The practice is often used to help alleviate physical ailments and injuries, as well as to promote mental and emotional well-being.

Another key aspect of Iyengar Yoga is the use of sequencing. Classes are carefully structured to build upon each other, with each posture preparing the body for the next. This approach helps students to progress safely and effectively in their practice, while also providing a sense of continuity and connection to the broader principles of yoga.

How Iyengar Yoga differs from other types of yoga

One of the main differences between Iyengar Yoga and other types of yoga is its emphasis on precision and alignment. In Iyengar Yoga, students are encouraged to pay close attention to the details of each posture, including the positioning of the feet, hands, and core. This attention to detail is intended to help students develop a deeper awareness of their bodies, leading to a more effective practice.

Iyengar Yoga also makes use of props such as blocks, blankets, straps, and chairs, which allow students to modify their practice and support the body in more challenging postures. This use of props is unique to Iyengar Yoga and not found in many other styles of yoga.

Another key aspect of Iyengar Yoga is its focus on sequencing. In Iyengar Yoga, postures are arranged in a specific order to create a balanced and effective practice. This sequencing is designed to warm up the body, build strength and flexibility, and then cool down and relax the body and mind. By following a specific sequence, students can experience the full benefits of each posture and create a more holistic practice.

Finally, Iyengar Yoga places a strong emphasis on the use of breath. In Iyengar Yoga, students are taught to use the breath as a tool to deepen their practice and connect with their bodies. By focusing on the breath, students can calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve their overall well-being. The use of breath in Iyengar Yoga is integrated into each posture, creating a seamless and powerful practice.

The benefits of practicing Iyengar Yoga for the mind and body

Practicing Iyengar Yoga can provide numerous benefits for both the mind and body.

  • The precision and alignment of the postures can help to improve posture, flexibility, and balance, as well as reduce pain and stiffness in the body.
  • The use of props can also provide support and increase the accessibility of the practice for students of all abilities and levels.
  • Additionally, Iyengar Yoga can promote mental clarity, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. The practice emphasizes mindfulness and self-awareness, helping students to develop greater emotional resilience and a stronger connection to their inner selves.
  • Another benefit of practicing Iyengar Yoga is that it can help to improve the functioning of the respiratory system.
  • The focus on deep breathing and the use of specific breathing techniques can help to increase lung capacity and improve the flow of oxygen throughout the body. This can lead to improved energy levels and a greater sense of vitality.
  • Furthermore, Iyengar Yoga can be a great way to build community and connect with others who share a similar interest in yoga and wellness.
  • Many studios offer group classes and workshops, providing opportunities to meet new people and develop supportive relationships. This sense of community can be especially beneficial for those who may be feeling isolated or disconnected from others in their daily lives.

The use of props in Iyengar Yoga and how they aid in alignment and support

Props are an essential part of Iyengar Yoga practice, as they help students achieve proper alignment and provide support in more difficult postures.

For example, blocks can be used to prop up the hands in forward folds, allowing students to reach the floor without straining the back or hamstrings. Straps can be used to help extend the arms in certain poses, improving shoulder and chest mobility. Chairs can be used as a support in poses such as headstand, providing a stable base for the head and reducing the risk of injury.

Understanding the various poses and sequences used in Iyengar Yoga classes

Iyengar Yoga classes typically consist of a variety of postures, including standing poses, seated poses, forward folds, backbends, inversions, and twists. Sequences may be designed to target specific areas of the body or to address particular health issues. Students of all levels are encouraged to practice at their own pace and listen to their bodies, adjusting their practice as needed.

How to find a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher or studio near you

To find a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher or studio near you, you can search the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States directory (https://iynaus.org/find-a-teacher). This directory lists certified Iyengar Yoga teachers and studios throughout the United States.

Tips for beginners starting their Iyengar Yoga journey

For beginners starting their Iyengar Yoga journey.

  • It’s important to find a qualified teacher who can guide you through the practice and provide support and guidance as you learn.
  • It’s also important to start slowly and focus on proper alignment and breath control.
  • As you progress, you can gradually increase the intensity and depth of your practice.

Frequently asked questions about Iyengar Yoga

Some frequently asked questions about Iyengar Yoga include:

  • What types of props are used in Iyengar Yoga?
  • How does Iyengar Yoga differ from other types of yoga?
  • What are the benefits of practicing Iyengar Yoga?
  • Is Iyengar Yoga suitable for beginners and those with injuries?
  • How can I find a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher or studio near me?

These questions and more can be answered by exploring the practice of Iyengar Yoga with a qualified teacher or studio.


Iyengar Yoga is a unique and powerful practice that emphasizes precision, alignment, and the use of props for support. The practice can provide numerous benefits for the mind and body, including improved posture, flexibility, balance, and overall well-being. Finding a qualified teacher or studio and starting slowly and mindfully can help beginners to embark on their Iyengar Yoga journey with confidence and ease.

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