Iyengar Yoga FAQS
The Iyengar method of Yoga may be said to define itself as different from other styles of Yoga by 3 key elements, namely technique, sequence and timing:
Technique means that in practice one learns ever finer adjustments in the alignment of how one performs one's asana (poses) and pranayama (breath control).
Sequence refers to the sequences in which asana and pranayama are practiced. For example, by varying which postures are practiced after which, the mental and emotional effects of the practice can be intensified in a manner not otherwise possible in order to bring about changes to the whole being including ones spiritual evolution.
Timing refers to the length of time spent in postures or pranayama. Postures cannot be done swiftly or without awareness. It takes time to move into a posture and become stable. When this has been achieved then one remains stably for some time to intensify the depth of the posture and so extract its benefit. Otherwise the potential effects and benefits remain small compared to what is possible.
So one can begin to see how Iyengar yoga cultivates all 8 disciplines of yoga and is far from merely "gymnastics and deep breathing." With practice and understanding, one realizes that Asana (yoga posture) is as different from stretching or gymnastics just as Pranayama (Breath control) is different from merely deep breathing and meditation is different from self-induced trance.
Iyengar Yoga Certification
Yoga Center teachers that are preparing for or have achieved certification with the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States bring a wealth of experience to their classes. Including a commitment to furthering their education through study with the Iyengars or with senior-level Iyengar instructors in the U.S. and abroad. Iyengar yoga teachers work to the advanced study of asanas and pranayamas, their training includes teaching methods, anatomy, and philosophy.
The Iyengar Certification process is very rigorous, assuring you of a teacher well trained in the art of teaching yoga. There are six levels currently available for assessment, from Introductory to Intermediate Senior. Higher levels have been granted directly from B.K.S. Iyengar.
After years as a student of Iyengar yoga and with significant early teaching experience, candidates apply for assessment. Given over the course of a weekend, prospective teachers must show proficiency in performance of the asanas at their level and take a written exam on philosophy, anatomy, and practical knowledge of teaching. In the third and most important part of the test, the candidate is observed and assessed while teaching a sample class.
This process is repeated in a year or two with a different set of poses and only then is the full certification granted at the Introductory level. After successful completion of this exam, the teacher is considered Certified and may denote that with the official Iyengar Certification Mark.
HOW DOES IYENGAR YOGA DIFFER FROM OTHER STYLES OF YOGA
The Iyengar method is a progressive, innovative, and intelligent approach to the practice of yoga. The practice of Iyengar Yoga develops strength, endurance and flexibility while emphasizing correct body alignment in each asana (posture).
Teachers use props such as blankets, bricks, and belts to help individualize and modify asana according to the student’s need. Iyengar classes are tiered into levels from beginner classes to advanced classes. In this way students are able to safely, and intelligently build and develop their practice of yoga. Iyengar’s unique approach to teaching asana from its foundational level and using props to individualize an asana to meet each student’s need, allows for students of all ages and physical abilities to pick up the practice of yoga.
Iyengar Yoga teachers are rigorously trained to observe, correct, and refine each students practice of asana. The Iyengars have developed the most extensive and thorough system of assessing and advancing their teachers. You can learn more about teacher training and assessment through the national website: www.iynaus.org
WHY IS THE IYENGAR APPROACH IMPORTANT
The Iyengar method makes the practice of yoga possible for anyone that is curious to try, and willing to practice. The emphasis on proper alignment in the practice of yoga asana brings health, freedom and vibrancy to the body, mind and spirit. Iyengar Yoga encourages weak parts to strengthen and stiff areas to stretch, awakening and re-aligning the whole body. As the body re- aligns and finds health it affects the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.
WHICH CLASS SHOULD I TRY
Any student who is new to yoga or Iyengar Yoga in particular is encouraged to come to a beginning level class. Beginner level classes emphasize foundational standing postures. These classes are integral to developing an intelligent and nourishing practice. Do not be fooled by the word ‘beginner’! These classes are challenging and will prove invaluable to you in developing your practice of yoga.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT IN AN IYENGAR CLASS
In a beginner class, you will be introduced to foundational asanas which include standing poses, sitting poses and recuperative poses. The teacher will show you how to use yoga props such as belts and blocks to help you achieve each posture to the best of your ability. You will be introduced to the names of the poses in both Sanskrit and English.
As you develop maturity and confidence in the practice of these foundational postures, you will advance to intermediate level classes. Intermediate classes will introduce you to new poses and refine your understanding of foundational postures. Inversions such as headstand and shoulderstand and their alternatives are introduced at this level. Inversions bring strength and stability to the nervous system and are considered to be of upmost importance in developing your practice. The Iyengar’s progressive approach to learning asana ensures that you are safely challenged to grow in your practice. Yoga is a lifelong practice and the Iyengar method has classes to challenge students of all levels!
WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO MY FIRST CLASS
Yoga should always practiced on an empty stomach, so leave about 3 hours after a main meal or 2 hours after a light snack. Wear clothes that do not restrict your movement in any way. Most people wear shorts or leggings and a T-shirt. Yoga is always practiced in bare feet.
If you are menstruating, there are certain poses that are not suitable to practice. Please consult the teacher before the class begins. The teacher may give you some alternative postures to perform during the class.
CAN I COME TO A YOGA CLASS IF I HAVE HEALTH CONCERNS, CONDITIONS OR LIMITATIONS
Always inform your teacher of any limitations or injuries that you might have before class begins. If your physical limitations are serious, contact the studio and ask them to advise you which class/ teacher is best suited to help you with your particular needs. If your limitations make basic movements of the arms and legs difficult, you might be encouraged to meet privately with your teacher before attending your first class. Iyengar teachers are trained to modify, eliminate, and suggest alternate strategies (or poses) to enable you to practice safely.
Yoga is open to all people of all ages and levels of physical condition. Do not be put off from trying a yoga class because you feel that you are too old, too stiff, too fat, too thin, too tired, etc.