What is Iyengar Yoga?

What Is Iyengar Yoga?

Yoga, the Iyengar way. But, what is Iyengar Yoga?

I recently realised we, at the Garage Studio, are the only ones around with yoga classes taught the Iyengar way! Of course, the first question you’d ask is “What is Iyengar Yoga?”

After all I can go down to any advertised yoga class, hold a posture, get instructions to breathe in and out, ‘feel the breath within the body’ while there is chanting or buddha bar kind of music in the back. In fact, everywhere I look yoga teachers are ex-gymnasts, dancers etc – people with super supple, flexible, lithe bodies. That certainly isn’t most of us, is it?

So, let’s start at the beginning.

What is yoga? Yes, it is based on an ancient Indian text; instructions on how to channel the mind, increase concentration moving towards meditation. The first line in the book defines yoga as a union of body and mind.

When I first started yoga decades ago, it was in its simplest form – plain, simple hatha yoga. Jump in, jump out. Make shapes. Breathe.

But as I got into my twenties, I realised something was missing. If I was pushed into making a shape which my muscles were not ready for, I’d pull something and injure myself. And if it was too easy, I’d drift off to la-la land dreaming or making to-do lists. Most importantly, it made me better where I was already good with no improvements in areas that I found difficult to work.

And that’s when Iyengar yoga and I crossed paths. I can go on about how Iyengar yoga focuses on strength building not just pure stretching. It works on the correct alignment within your own body rather than making a generic shape.

But I thought let me address that with a specific asana/ posture.

So, today I’m addressing two groups of people with one yoga pose. The first – friends who tell me they really want to try yoga but are too conscious that they’re not flexible. The other are the runners, weightlifters, rowers with tight hamstrings.  

Picture 1: What we’re asked to do in classes. Hold your toe, extend the leg, bring your foot close to your face – yeah, right, like that’s going to happen! (with the correct alignment!!) After all, I can take my foot all the way down to my nose but there is no way my hips are going to stay level.

Picture 2: What we do in class and (to paraphrase the Beatles) get by with a little help from my belt. So now we can work on straightening the legs, keeping the hips level, softening the abdomen, lifting the chest and a myriad other instructions. And that’s the beauty of it – the one pose makes you work intelligently in so many parts of the body.

Come and try out a free class for yourself – every Sunday morning.