What is Iyengar yoga?

An overview of Iyengar yoga, its origins and benefits, plus an introduction to our Iyengar yoga program.

Adela Serrano, Iyengar yoga pose with strap

Iyengar yoga is named after and developed by B.K.S. Iyengar who was a direct disciple of T. Krishnamacharya. Together with Pattabhi Jois (who developed Ashtanga yoga) they were partly responsible for bringing the practice of modern yoga, as we know it now, to the West.

“Iyengar yoga comes directly from the most classical Hatha yoga tradition, but it has evolved into a very precise and clear method that is easily understood by the modern practitioner. Lots of attention is paid to the technical alignment of the poses to keep the mind drawn inwards, but also focused and connected to reality.” Adela Serrano

What makes it unique?

Iyengar Yoga focuses on three aspects: alignment, sequencing and timing.

  • Alignment means maintaining the intended pose while respecting the body’s boundaries. Iyengar yoga encourages the use of props to assist students within an asana without putting them at risk of injury. Effective alignment can then help to achieve balance between body, mind and breath.
  • Sequencing refers to the order that the postures are practiced to enable a safe and structured progression of the poses, along with the ‘opening’ and balance of the physical and emotional body.
  • Timing: unlike Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar yoga poses are held for longer periods of time. When stability has been achieved in a pose, it’s then possible to safely intensify the depth of the posture. This helps to help develop strength and flexibility, along with sensitivity and awareness between the body and mind.

When stability has been achieved in a pose, it’s then possible to safely intensify the depth of the posture.

Teaching Iyengar yoga

Iyengar yoga teachers undergo a strict and in-depth training of three years before they get their first certificate. Afterward, their training is ongoing according to standards set by the various Iyengar Associations in the world and supervised personally by the Iyengars in Pune.

What are the benefits?

Mr. Iyengar started practicing yoga because he had poor health as a child. With daily practice, his health and strength improved and he experienced great benefits in his own body. This enabled him to develop an extensive knowledge of anatomy and a therapeutic approach to the practice.  

Mr. Iyengar recognised that all bodies are unique and have different strengths and weaknesses. He, therefore, advocated the use of props – blocks, chairs, belts, and blankets, etc. – to help students to gain the correct alignment suitable for their individual body. This ensured that asanas could be practiced safely and harmoniously.

Photographs of Mr Iyengar, who died at the age of 95, may be proof themselves that the benefits are plentiful! A regular Iyengar practice can help to:  

  • improve physical and psychological health
  • alleviate postural/structural problems
  • release emotional tension
  • increase focus and concentration
  • increase your energy
  • reconnect with your body and breath
  • bring intelligence and clarity to all parts of the body and mind.
Adela Serrano Iyengar Yoga Teacher
Adela Serrano Iyengar Yoga teacher

Who is Iyengar suitable for?

In a word – everybody! It is suitable for beginners and intermediate/advanced students.

Iyengar Yoga for Beginners on EkhartYoga

Iyengar Yoga’s attention to alignment and use of props to help students ‘into’ the poses means that it is ideal for beginners to gain optimal alignment and can be very therapeutic for people with postural issues.

Try our Iyengar Yoga Program for Beginners with Adela Serrano who will guide you through the Iyengar basics. Although designed for total beginners, it’s also suitable for experienced yoga students who want to start practicing yoga from the Iyengar approach. 

Iyengar Yoga for intermediate and advanced students

Although Iyengar Yoga may not offer as intense a cardiovascular experience as, for example, a Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga practice, it’s great for intermediate and advanced students too. Holding the poses for longer helps to develop strength and increase flexibility, as well as encourage a deeper connection to the breath and overall concentration. 

Read more about Iyengar Yoga, on our Yoga Styles page where you’ll find our latest classes.

Share article
Kirsty Tomlinson
Kirsty TomlinsonKirsty Tomlinson trained with Esther Ekhart in 2013 and moved to the Netherlands from the UK to work for EkhartYoga in 2015. She previously worked as a legal recruiter and taught yoga part-time. Her role here is a varied one - teacher manager, copywriter, editor, and dog walker. You may recognise her beloved canine, Hunter, hogging the limelight in several of our classes!