About Iyengar Yoga

The 'founding father' of yoga was the sage Patanjali, who wrote down the Yoga Sutras over 2,000 years ago. All yoga has come down the ages from him. Ashtanga Yoga, Bikram yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Yin yoga and so on, are all just different methodologies for how to teach the same poses.

Iyengar - the man

B.K.S. Iyengar was a charismatic teacher of yoga, who is credited with bringing yoga to the West in the 1950s. A sickly child, he was sent to live with his sister and brother-in-law, who just so happened to be T. Krishnamacharya, a renowned yoga master. Iyengar was tasked with learning 'yoga', but without guidance or help. The story goes, that one day the usual star pupil was ill and the teenage Iyengar was told to demonstrate Hanumasana (the splits) to a visiting VIP. He tried to protest that he'd never done the pose, but was told to do it anyway, and consequently, ripped his hamstrings. This was one of many injuries he sustained in his lifetime.

Iyengar, known as Guruji (beloved teacher) to his many thousands of students around the world, was determined that no student should be left to learn the poses the hard way, as he had done. After many years of teaching he was asked to write a book on the subject, and the result was Light on Yoga.  First published in 1966, it has gone on to become the 'Bible of yoga'.

Through clear, precise instruction and perfected photographs of each stage of every asana, Light on Yoga meant that anyone could practice yoga, safely and accurately.

He lived to the age of 95, survived illnesses, a horrible crash and a heart attack at 80, and was devoted to his subject till his dying day. His message to all his students was:

I pray that my ending will be your beginning.
— B. K. S. Iyengar

What makes Iyengar Yoga unique

B.K.S. Iyengar devoted his life to yoga and created a methodology that is precise, disciplined and safe. Due to his early illnesses he learnt the importance of using equipment and props in order to progress with a healthy alignment. In an Iyengar yoga class you will use blocks, bricks, belts, the wall and chairs. In a fully-equipped Iyengar yoga studio you will also find ropes hanging from the wall to further enhance your pose. Iyengar yoga teachers will nearly always demonstrate the pose first, as we learn best through watching. Each pose is broken down into its component parts, so that students are not rushed to a final pose that they cannot perform.

Image by @karlanegra

Image by @karlanegra

Let the goal be to reach Perfection, but be content with a little progress toward perfection every day.
— B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life

With the Iyengar family still at the head and helm of the Iyengar yoga movement worldwide, the discipline is still very much rooted in the principles of the philosophy of the yoga path. The yoga poses that we practice to keep fit and supple are just one strand of an 8-limbed path to enlightenment.

These 8 limbs begin with individual and social morals, followed by practice of the asanas (poses), then pranayama (control of the breath), pratyahara (discipline of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and finally, samadhi (self-realisation). But you don't need to come to an Iyengar yoga class seeking self-realisation. If you practice it for long enough, it will seek you.