The word “yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root yuj that means to unite, join, or attach. According to the great master B.K.S. Iyengar, yoga teaches you to discover yourself—“to know your body, mind, and soul.”

B.K.S. Iyengar developed a method inspired by the ancient tradition of yoga, transmitted to him by his teacher Shriman T. Krishnamacharya The method begins with the body and goes on to address all dimensions of a human being in a quest to achieve balance, harmony, and beauty. With this approach students evolve toward a sense of well-being, each at their own pace.

Iyengar once said, “ I have not called this Iyengar yoga, but others call it so, maybe for the sake of convenience.” Thus, the term Iyengar Yoga—adopted by his students—applies to the practice of poses (asanas) and breathe control (pranayama). Although B.K.S. Iyengar left us in 2014, his work lives on in the teachings of his children Geeta and Prashant Iyengar, as well as his granddaughter Abhijata Shridhar Iyengar, and the many Iyengar Yoga teachers around the globe. This is the most widely practised method in the world with over 10 million practitioners in over 75 countries.

Four features of the Iyengar method:

  1. Precise alignment accompanied by the stretching and strengthening of different body parts
    The practice of asanas (poses) emphasizes proper body alignment, joint mobility, and flexibility. B.K.S. Iyengar ranked the asanas in order of increasing difficulty to ensure that students approach the more advanced ones gradually. Over time, students become adept at more complex asanas, which include forward bends, backbends, twists, and inversions. Mastery of these poses leads to the opening of the chest area, which prepares the body for the practice of pranayama (yogic breath control).
  2. Sequencing of postures
    An important feature of the Iyengar method is the sequencing of asanas. In most classes the poses are presented in an order that yields optimal physical and mental benefits.
  3. Props and accessories facilitate the practice of asanas
    This yoga method is accessible to people of all ages. Flexibility is not a prerequisite to practice! Teachers adapt poses progressively to suit students’ particular physical conditions and body types. Drawing on his vast experience, Iyengar developed a set of supports and props—such as blocks, blankets, chairs, belts, and the rope wall—to adjust poses so that disciples could practice them correctly and safely.
    These props help stretch and strengthen the body and improve alignment. They lead to greater chest opening, a profound sense of relaxation, and increased mental stability. With props students perform the asanas more optimally and, in doing so, achieve a sense of freedom. In addition, props are used therapeutically to place students in specific postures that accelerate the healing process.
  4. A gradual and methodical approach to the teaching of inversions
    The consistent practice of inversions is essential and leads to demonstrable health benefits for both mind and body. Salamba Sirsasana (headstand) is called the “king” of asanas, while Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) is considered the “queen”. However, proper preparation of the body is required to perform these postures safely. In the Iyengar method we introduce Salamba Sarvangasana at the end of Level 1 and Salamba Sirsasana at the end of Level 2, using props (blankets, belts, chairs, the wall) to facilitate the learning process.

Everyone can benefit from this precise, rigorous, and subtle style of yoga. The yogic path will imbue your life with vitality, well-being, and serenity. B.K.S. Iyengar wrote: “Yoga has a threefold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits the development of diseases, and it aids recovery from ill health.”

Iyengar, B.K.S., Light on Life, Rodale, 2005.