Interview: What is Iyengar Yoga?


Iyengar yoga is one of yoga styles that is popularly practiced nowadays. Here we have Vivienne O’Brien to share her knowledge about Iyengar with us.

Would you mind to explain a little about Iyengar Yoga?

BKS Iyengar in his 95th year lives in Puna, India. He has dedicated his life to the practice of yoga. He describes his yoga as “Patanjali Yoga”. He published his first book “Light on Yoga” in 1966. It has been in continuous print ever since and is recognized as the standard reference for yoga asana practitioners.

Mr. Iyengar himself did not use the phrase “Iyengar Yoga”, rather his pupils did. They wished to differentiate his teachings from other forms of yoga. The name Iyengar Yoga has been in general use now for over 20 years.

A senior Iyengar teacher, Pixie Lillas, sums it up, “Iyengar Yoga aims at developing clear and continuous attention, bringing consciousness to each and every part of the body. In this process we explore the effect of ‘the mind on the body’ and ‘the body on the mind’. The body is used as a tool for greater self awareness so that the practice becomes a mirror to the self.”

How this certain type of yoga helps practitioners?

Mr. Iyengars’ son Prashant has suggested three defining characteristics of Iyengar Yoga: technicalities, sequencing and timing.

Technicalities are the precise and often subtle technical points given to explore the asana fully. The points are aimed to give precision, alignment and support.

Sequencing is the way the postures are put together: what postures need to precede certain postures and what postures need to counter balance certain postures. Mr. Iyengars planned sequencing can achieve a particular physical, physiological and mental effect that can totally transform a practice.

Timing is the way that the postures can be held for different lengths of time to enable a more profound exploration of the physical and mental challenges in the poses.

These three features help define the development of Iyengar Yoga. But they are just the beginning to what Mr Iyengar sees as continuous life long process of understanding.

How props can help one practice Iyengar Yoga?

Mr. Iyengar is renowned for the development and use of props. They include mats, blankets, belts, blocks, benches, wall ropes, chairs and other objects to help students experience the yoga poses more profoundly. They encourage students to create optimal body alignment. Especially students with specific physical limitations the props support the body, enhancing ease and stability in the poses thus allowing the mind to relax.

What is the challenge of doing Iyengar Yoga and how a practitioner should deal with it?

The challenge is to meet the demand that each pose is asking of you. The demand requires you to “work”. Some people see yoga as the soft option for exercise but when you take on the challenge of Iyengar yoga you realize it is not for the “faint hearted” but requires courage and conviction. The practitioner’s key to dealing with the challenge is to face it square on with honesty. With honesty we seek out our weaknesses and vulnerabilities as opposed to avoiding and ignoring them. When we see them clearly we have the opportunity to understand and with understanding we have the possibility of transformation.

What level of experiences required to join an Iyengar yoga class or to join your retreat?

To join the retreat you do not need to have any Iyengar Yoga experience as long as you are reasonably fit and healthy and come with an open mind. If you are already an Iyengar practitioner and recovering from an illness or injury you are welcome to join if you know your limitations and have an understanding of how to work with them.

Vivienne is leading the Pure Iyengar Yoga retreat at ONEWORLD retreats on 20 – 25 October 2015.

Vivienne O’Brien is a guest leader at ONEWORLD retreats. She did her teacher training in Melbourne and became a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher in 1998. In 2000 she opened the Luna Yoga Studio in Fairfield. Her aim as a teacher is to share her understanding of how yoga can transform us and our lives. She believes that a consistent and dedicated practice builds momentum that in turn allows us to develop our yoga skills. Read more about Vivienne

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