What is So Different About Iyengar Yoga?

What is So Different About Iyengar Yoga?

by Linda DiCarlo

Linda teaches beginning to advanced students at the Iyengar Yoga Source in Providence, RI.

The art and science of yoga has evolved over the last several decades to appeal to contemporary society. In an effort to keep up with trends, individual teachers have devised a variety of approaches in yoga classes. There is something for everyone: slow, fast, sequential, hot, suspended, musical, silent, eyes opened or closed, disciplined, freedom of movement and the list goes on. All yoga is good as long as no one is getting injured. After all, the philosophical tenet of ahimsa, non-violence, is the first step of a yoga practice. 

  • Yoga is An Attention Game

The Iyengar method of yoga is "meditation in action" according to BKS Iyengar. After ten years of searching, I first started practicing the method in 1986 and was impressed with the mental discipline required to pay attention for the duration of a class. At the same time I was fascinated by the effects of following the precise instructions on alignment. This was yoga with a clear purpose, no ambiguity! It taught me how to pay attention for an extended period of time.

  • Instructions are Clear and Precise

The teacher was articulate and had the ability to describe what I was to do in a pose and then how to make that happen. He demonstrated the poses being taught and invited us to all watch him closely. Then we practiced the pose and he observed us keenly to see what we missed. He demonstrated again and we repeated the pose. The end result was impressive. Alignment improved and concentrated deepened.

  • Rich Diversity of Poses are Utilized

Iyengar Yoga has a rich, diverse collection of poses that are practiced over time. No two classes are the same. Each week there is a different emphasis. Standing, Seated, Arching, Twisting, Inverted, or Restorative. The creativity of the teacher is well exercised. 

  • Home Practice is Cultivated

As one moved through the various levels of classes, new sets of poses are learned and students cultivate the ability to develop a home practice. Practitioners are considered beginners for five years, but after only a couple months one feels as if mastery has begun. Confidence builds and the evolution of the yogi continues for years and years. It is a beautiful awakening of body, consciousness and soul. 

There is an ineffable quality to Iyengar Yoga and one must try it to truly understand the uniqueness of the method. It is best to attend a few consecutive classes to investigate the teacher, the variety of sequences and the effects created. As an educated consumer you will be able to describe the differences for yourself. Do come. 

Start your Iyengar Yoga training with our beautiful Iyengar Yoga Beginner Pose Guide. Download for viewing on your mobile device or order a poster size print today. Featuring 28 basic poses along with the Sanskrit and English names, our guide will assist you in your home practice. Click below to view: 

Yoga Sequences to Uplift the Spirit - Providence RI Yoga Studio

Yoga Sequences to Uplift the Spirit

It is interesting to study the psychology of yoga poses. Different states of mind can be experienced while in yoga postures (asanas) of various shapes. Hence, you can design a practice to become more calm, joyful, focused, alert, or relaxed. The spine arching, chest opening poses are utilized to relieve depression or uplift the spirit.

What is normal posture? 

The range of movement during the course of the day typically does not include chest expanding actions, rather the opposite is more likely. The chest houses the physical heart, considered the seat of emotions. The heart chakra, Anahata, located at heart level in the center of the body is associated with love and compassion. When thee components are crowded, the mood is flattened or deflated and the depth of breathing is shallow. By standing with shoulders rounded and chest sinking, the head tilted forward and downward, one can observe this psychological state. 

What are the Effects of Chest Opening?

When we expand the chest with active or supported chest opening poses, spaciousness in the chest cavity is created. The ability to breathe is enhanced and body chemistry is transformed. We become more alert, energized and open hearted. 

Supported or Energetic Approach?

Methodically practice to strengthen the back, extend the shoulders, hip flexors and thighs to prepare the body to open the chest region. Work with a chair or bolster to provide support to remain in the pose for several minutes. This is an excellent way to work if one has low energy or a flat affect. For a more energetic practice use the rope wall to invigorate the chest cavity. Use the yoga chair as support to increase the movement of the spine away from the skin on the back. Once one has suitably prepared, the classical backbends can be practiced. 

These sequences are somewhat technical and are generally followed with poses to bring the body back to a neutral position. It can take some time to understand how to create a sequence to open the chest. Lessons with a good teacher can help you cultivate the skill to practice in this manner. At our Iyengar Yoga Source studio, we practice spine extending poses every month. They are progressive and you can learn to practice in the privacy of your home practice space.