Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha yoga named after B. K. S. Iyengar who developed this style of yoga. Iyengar Yoga emphasizes precision and alignment in the performance of Asana (posture) and Pranayama (breath control). Iyengar Yoga has over 200 systems of classic yoga poses and 14 different types of breathing ranging from basic to advanced. The reason for this is to allow students to gradually develop moving to more complex poses and breathing as they improve. Iyengar Yoga is a step by step approach to developing the mind, body and spirit.
The focus on structural alignment of the body by working through the various Asanas aims to unite the mind, body and spirit for the purpose of improving health and wellbeing. There are three key elements that differentiate Iyengar Yoga from other styles of yoga. Firstly the technical focus is on the precision of the body’s alignment with simultaneous performance of Pranyama. Secondly sequences are to be conducted with specific Asanas and breathing techniques. Iyengar Yoga suggests that only the correct combination of poses and breathing techniques will achieve the required positive effect. The third key element is timing which, defines the correct amount of time spent in each pose or Pranyama.
Iyengar Yoga also pioneered the use of yoga props such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps and sand bags. These props function as aids helping beginners to experience Asanas easier. Without the use of these props many beginners would not be able to do these Asanas without years of practice. Props can also be used for the elderly and injured enabling them to enjoy the benefits of being able to perform certain Asanas by they support they provide requiring less muscular effort.
Other styles of yoga are more experiential where students are encouraged to independently explore their own way to performing Asanas by following the teacher’s movements. Iyengar Yoga differs from this with classes being very precise and delivered verbally. Misalignments and mistakes are actively corrected by the teacher. It can take a decade or more training to pass through intermediate and senior levels of certification under the Iyengar Yoga style.