Iyengar Yoga The Style

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Iyengar Yoga is most frequently taught in a class setting, although, as in most styles of yoga, private instruction with a teacher is generally widely available. Classes typically last from 60 to 90 minutes. They are typically ranked by level of difficulty and the background of the students.

During an Iyengar Yoga class, the teacher pays great attention to instructing students as specifically as possible in how to perform each asana. This may entail the instructor's demonstrating the proper way to execute the asana first, then having the students follow. Once the students have performed the asana a first time, the instructor might then demonstrate the pose again, pointing out a deeper subtlety and specificity of the pose. Students then repeat the asana. This process may continue for several rounds until the students become even more precise in their repetition of the asana. Often, the teacher will focus on just one aspect of an asana in order to bring full awareness to its execution. For instance, a teacher may focus on just one position in the Sun Salutation series, such as Downward-Facing Dog Pose, in order to emphasize the correct form in holding the position. (For more information on this yoga sequence of movements, see "A Complete Yoga Practice Session for Men.")

In order to assist students further in their asana practice, teachers of Iyengar Yoga also often incorporate rich visual imagery into their speech as they talk students through the execution of a posture. This imagery has the effect of taking the student deeper into the pose, as well as allowing the student's mind to become engaged in the pose, thus promoting yoga's goal of uniting body and mind.

Classes in Iyengar Yoga often incorporate the props and accessories discussed earlier in this chapter. For instance, while performing Triangle Pose (see Fig. YPS.4b, page 123), a teacher might encourage a student to use a wood or sturdy foam block for support. In the Triangle Pose, a student stands with his legs several feet apart while lifting the torso to one side as one hand is raised toward the ceiling and the other is placed on the floor. For many students, it is difficult to lower the hand onto the floor without losing the form of the pose. Placing a prop on the floor provides added height that allows the student to perform the pose without compromising the integrity of his form.

Iyengar Yoga is often considered a dynamic form of yoga. In fact, movements can range from very gentle to rather active. In general, beginning students use slower, gentler movements, and hold postures for a shorter period of time. As they progress in their practice of Iyengar Yoga, postures become more complex and are held for longer periods of time. The quality of dynamism is most appropriately applied to the dynamic interplay between mind and body while performing asana practice. It is this connection of mind and body that makes Iyengar Yoga meditation in motion, and enables the practitioner to be at one in body, mind, and spirit.

Iyengar Yoga is particularly beneficial for those individuals who are interested in detailed, precise instruction in performance of the asanas. These instructions are geared to take the student from beginning to advanced postures in a systematic, step-by-step fashion.

Iyengar Yoga can be especially helpful for those individuals who are suffering from a particular health problem and wish to help resolve it through the practice of yoga. Iyengar views yoga as therapy. He studied the physiological effects that yoga has on the body and applied the practice of yoga to the treatment of a host of medical conditions, such as liver and stomach problems, psoriasis, muscular complaints, and eye and hearing problems. These are just a few of the many conditions for which Iyengar Yoga has been used.

Iyengar is clear in encouraging students to begin their practice of yoga gradually and within the limits of their abilities. Because Iyengar has specialized in developing methods for helping people modify postures in accordance with their physical limitations, Iyengar Yoga may be especially well suited to men with particular disabilities. Older men may also benefit from Iyengar Yoga's extensive use of props, whose support can help them execute postures that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.

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