What is Iyengar Yoga?

Published on : 1 June 2022
Yoga Iyengar


The word yoga in Sanskrit means union. The French word joug is derived from it: union of the body and the spirit, union of nature and the creative principle, (praktri- purusha) etc… The meanings are numerous. The discipline of yoga is an art, a science of great richness and addresses the individual as a whole. The asanas; the postures which are the most known aspect of yoga in the West, are one of the eight “petals of yoga”.

Yoga Iyengar

What is Iyengar Yoga? A method of yoga based on the teachings of BKS Iyengar (1918-2014). It is now one of the most practiced yoga styles in the world. It is for everyone, regardless of age, experience and physical condition. Its benefits are felt from the very first sessions. Both traditional and modern, his method proves that yoga can be practiced by women and men of all cultures and that this age-old science is an effective response to the problems of our time.

The practice of asanas (postures) is the first aspect addressed, with particular attention paid to the precise alignment of the different parts of the body. This quest for precision in action makes the Iyengar method a rigorous and demanding practice. Practiced with regularity and consistency, it strengthens physical flexibility, endurance and balance. It brings stability, joy and strength.

The Iyengar method is to yoga what classical dance is to dance in general. It is a method that gives the practitioner a precise and solid foundation. This precision in the postures as well as the use of accessories to facilitate the alignments protects from possible injuries. The therapeutic use of yoga is also an important dimension in this method. His daughter Geta, for example, has developed a yoga that is accessible to pregnant women (which was unthinkable until now).

What is Iyengar Yoga?

One of the modern styles of ” Ashtanga yoga ” ( Ashta : eight, anga : parts )… the eight parts are broken down as follows : Yama (personal moral discipline), Niyama (discipline of living in society), Asanas (physical postures of yoga), Pranayama (discipline of the breath), Pratyahara (discipline of the 5 senses), Dharana (discipline of the concentration), Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi (realization of the self)…

The philosophical bases of the Iyengar yoga draw essentially from two sources, on the one hand in the “yoga sutra” of Patanjali and on the other hand in the “Samkhya”. The “yoga sutra” are a series of aphorisms which synthesizes and codifies the traditional yoga, it is a kind of philosophical instructions. ( sutra= pearl necklace )… while Samkhya is one of the ” Darsana ” (point of view), philosophical schools of Hinduism : its particularity is that of being atheist and places the individual in front of the responsibility of his destiny. Buddhism is largely derived from it…

BKS Iyengar, ( 1918-2014 ) :

Born in 1918 in southern India and passed away in 2014 at the age of 96, BKS Iyengar is recognized worldwide as one of the greatest masters of contemporary yoga. He is the author of numerous books, including the famous Light on Yoga, considered the standard treatise on yoga. Both traditional and modern, his method proves that yoga can be practiced by women and men of all cultures and that this age-old science is an effective response to the problems of our time.

Fragile child, tubercular, from a poor Brahman family (Brahman are in traditional Hinduism, the superior caste of priests), and moreover orphaned at a very young age, had little chance of survival without his encounter with the yoga discipline.

Bellur (from his first name)

Was entrusted to his uncle by marriage, Krishnamacharya. A hard man, who in order to survive trained teenagers in the art of asanas in order to present them as a show to the Maharajas (Maha=great, raja=king); patrons of the time. Krishnamacharya in spite of his hardness, is the father of the modern yoga because he makes survive this thousand-year-old art in decline by forming pupils such Patabhi Jois (Ashtanga Yoga), Iyengar, or Deshikashar, which all three propagated yoga to the rest of the world.

As a man, Iyengar was sent alone to teach yoga in Bombay with no other knowledge than that of the practice of asanas. It is this very strong will to survive and to learn as well as his empathy towards the pain of others that made him revolutionize the art of yoga, by opening it to the greatest number of people, among others to women who were traditionally excluded from it. Yoga was reserved for a few initiates (Brahmin & Sadhus caste)

Recognized by the Times magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century, he has taught Yehudi Mehunin, Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, Sting and Madonna among others.

After a serious accident, he had to relearn everything… He invented the use of props (bricks, chairs, blankets, trapeze…) to realign his body. It is the originality of his method that inspired modern yogas such as Power Yoga, fly yoga, yoga wall…

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