October 17, 2008 by Ray Baskerville
The Iyengar method of yoga is named after its creator B.K.S. Iyengar. Like Pattabhi Jois, Iyengar studied with Krishnamacharya. In fact Krishnamacharya. was married to Iyengar’s sister. Iyengar studied with him for two years when he was 14 and 15 years old. During that time the teaching consisted of about 15 days, but despite this seemingly short time Iyengar revered Krishnamacharya as his guru. Mr. Iyengar has said that the few asanas that he learnt at that time were the seeds that grew and flourished through the evolution of his own dedication and investigation. In 1961 Krishnamacharya gave Iyengar a gold medal known as Yoga Shikshaka Chakravarti (Emperor of Yoga Teachers, Teacher of Teachers) and encouraged him to begin teaching publicly.
Iyengar has made some very specific contributions to yoga as we know and practice it today. It was Mr Iyengar who introduced and developed the use of props, like blocks, belts, and blankets in yoga practice. Today it is quite common to see blankets, blocks, straps, pillows, chairs, and bolsters being used in yoga studios. The use of these props is comparatively new in the history of yoga and comes directly from Iyengar.
But probably the greatest contribution has been the thing that makes Iyengar yoga distinct…
The primary focus of Iyengar’s method of asana practice is the understanding, and perfecting of the physical alignment of the body in the poses. It is to this end that the props are used. They allow those whose bodies are not yet sufficiently open to learn the correct alignment in the body without strain.
unlike the forms of vinyasa yoga that flow posture to posture, Iyengars method it is more static. The emphasis is developing conscious awareness within the posture, while working with the body to attune and perfect the alignment. However this does not mean that an Iyengar yoga class isn’t physically demanding, as the postures can be held for much longer.
Iyengar in his philosophy of yoga, does not denote differences between the body, the mind, and the self. To him the body is the biggest self, the mind, a small self, and the self, the smallest self. So, in his view they are all interconnected. In his practice the objective is to unite them and to experience how they are all interwoven. He sees the body as a receptacle for the soul and the mind. Greater awareness of the physical body opens the way for better receptivity to the dormant spirituality within. Iyengar sees the practice of asana leading towards the focus of awareness evenly and without interruption throughout all the channels of the body. In this state of equilibrium and harmony consciousness rests in its natural state or in the body, mind, and soul, as one.
Iyengar has has drawn throughout his life, practice, and development of his teaching, on the yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the eight limbs of yoga. indeed it is largely through his translation and interpretation of the yoga Sutras, that they became known outside India. Other books of Iyengar have also become classic texts of modern yoga, for example, " Light on Yoga" and "Light on Pranayama".
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