Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga, which focuses on the physical alignment of the body through a series of poses. Often props such as belts and blocks are used to help a person achieve the proper pose which makes this form of yoga easier to do for the average person. There are many benefits to Iyengar Yoga such as improved strength and flexibility as well as greater peace of mind. Studies have shown this form of yoga to be beneficial in improving symptoms for a variety of ailments ranging from arthritis to bi-polar disease and it is perfect for physical therapy patients because of the way that small muscle groups are strengthened and posture is improved.
B.K.S. Iyengar was born in India in 1918. He became interested in Yoga in an effort to improve his own health because he was suffering from tuberculosis and he began studying with the yoga guru Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India. He started teaching yoga in 1936 and soon developed his own method which involved using props such as belts and blocks which could help persons with limited abilities get into and maintain the poses that would be the most beneficial for their ailments. Iyengar believed that eventually through continued practice, each person would become capable of doing the poses perfectly without props because their body would be strengthened and their alignment perfected.
Iyengar yoga does not rely on flowing from one pose to another and therefore is not as cardiovascular in nature as some other forms of yoga. Rather, the emphasis is on perfecting the body’s alignment and strengthening the muscles. Often students will rest between poses which is excellent for increasing muscle tone. Since experts today agree that both cardiovascular and strength training are essential for good health, it would make perfect sense to perform Iyengar yoga several days per week alternating with a more cardiovascular form of yoga such as Ashtanga on the opposite days and always remembering to include one rest day each week. Many people prefer yoga to the more modern forms of exercise such as running or weight lifting and since yoga is also beneficial for the mind and spirit as well as the body it makes a great alternative.