A Complete Guide to Iyengar Yoga

Sep 14, 2020


Iyengar yoga is a unique style of yoga that was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in the mid-1960s. The life-long relationship of B.K.S. Iyengar with yoga began under the aegis of his guru T. Krishnamacharya, who is often known as the ‘Father of Modern Yoga’. B.K.S. Iyengar later rose to become one of the most renowned and most successful yoga teachers of all time. He had successfully taken this ancient Indian knowledge to the west and made that part of the globe aware of the many benefits of yoga. His famous book ‘Light on Yoga’, the most famous Iyengar yoga book, continues to remain a guiding source for yoga enthusiasts even today. Yoga scholar Elliot Goldberg described this book as the ‘Bible of Modern Yoga’. 

Let us understand this famous yoga style better.

What is Iyengar Yoga?

Iyengar yoga is a style of Hatha Yoga that lays importance on correct physical alignment. Hence, this style is extremely beneficial for those who are suffering from issues with their postures and body structure. This style of yoga also introduced the use of props into the discipline. In fact, Iyengar is credited with the invention of many props that are widely used today, like blankets, blocks, pillows, chairs, etc. The introduction of props helped yoga in improving many anatomical medical conditions as well. The use of props makes this style of yoga accessible to beginners as well by helping them reach the perfect balance of postures. 

Iyengar yoga requires dedicated concentration to each pose. This is why many people feel that Iyengar yoga classes proceed very slowly. However, the demand for concentration actually helps in reducing stress (yoga to relieve stress), anxiety, and fatigue, and also helps in attaining the desired accuracy in the poses.  


Benefits of Iyengar yoga

  • Tones muscles

  • Strengthens the body

  • Helps release tension in the muscles

  • Helps ease stiffness in the body

  • Improves posture

  • Boosts immunity (yoga for immune system)

  • Helps improve breathing (breathing techniques)

  • Helps increase flexibility

  • Helps calm the brain


Iyengar yoga poses

Iyengar style yoga poses are easy for everyone. The poses of Iyengar yoga for beginners use a lot of props which allows them to reach their level of accuracy with ease. To understand how to do Iyengar yoga, it is important to understand that it is not merely about the asana here. It is more about how one performs the asana, how long to hold the asana, and in which sequence the asanas be performed. The aim here should be to align the body, mind, emotions, and senses, so much so that it transforms into an act into deep meditation and devotion.

Let us now learn some easy Iyengar poses in the right sequence. 


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Tadasana or the Mountain pose

This is a beginner-level standing pose. This pose is excellent to restore balance. It is very effective in correcting posture.


How to do tadasana:

  • Stand on a comfortable surface with barefoot and straight knees.

  • Keep your focus at a single point.

  • Lengthen the spine.

  • Lift the chest and stretch the shoulders back.

  • Keep your arms beside your body.

  • Inhale and gently lift your hands together by interlocking the fingers.

  • Stretch the body from the feet to the fingers of the hands (yoga stretching).

  • Hold the position for around 10 seconds.

  • Exhale and release the pose.


Urdhva uttanasana or upward forward fold

This is another beginner-level yoga pose that helps in relaxing the body and calming the mind. This pose is also done with the help of a pose.

How to do urdhva uttanasana:

  • From the mountain pose, exhale and bend forwards from the hips. 

  • Try to touch the floor with your fingers.

  • Make sure the knees are straight.

  • Open your shoulders and arch the back.

  • Look straight and hold the position for a few seconds.


Ardha parivrtta prasarita padottanasana or revolved wide-legged forward bend pose

This one is also a forward bending pose that is very easy for beginners. It stretches the entire body and helps stimulate the digestive organs ((Yoga for indigestion problem).

How to do ardha parivrtta prasarita padottanasana:

  • Start with tadasana.

  • Then, separate the feet hip-width apart.

  • Inhale and lengthen the spine.

  • Exhale and bend forward from the hips. 

  • Look back gently by turning the head towards your back.

  • Bring both the hands to the floor.

  • Then gently bring the left hand between the feet and right under your chest.

  • Place the right hand on the right hip.

  • Exhale and straighten the right hand out and towards the sky.

  • Turn the head gently and look at the right thumb.

Trikonasana or triangle pose

Again, a very easy pose for beginners, the triangle pose is excellent for improving digestion. It also restores balance physically and mentally. 

How to do trikonasana:

  • Stand straight with the feet hip-width apart.

  • Gently turn the right foot out by 90 degrees and the left foot in by about 15 degrees.

  • Make sure that the center of the right heel is aligned with the center of the arch of the left foot.

  • Breathe deeply and gently push the body towards the right and down from the hips.

  • Make sure you keep the waist straight.

  • Gently bring the left hand in the air and the right hand towards the ground. 

  • Make sure both the hands are fall in a straight line.

  • Place the right hand on your ankles or a prop, and stretch the left one towards the sky.

  • Keep your vision towards the left palm.

  • Make sure the body is bending sideways and not forward or backward. 

  • Hold the position for a few seconds. 

Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I pose

 Another very easy pose that helps in stretching the shoulders and the neck. It also helps in strengthening the arms and the back.

How to do virabhadrasana I:

  • Stand straight in a comfortable position.

  • Make sure the right foot is out by 90 degrees and the left foot is in by about 15 degrees.

  • Gently lift both arms keeping them on the side bringing then up to the shoulders.

  • Make sure the palms are facing the sky.

  • Exhale and bend the right knee out.

  • Look towards your right and breathe normally.

  • Hold the position for a few seconds.

Adho Mukha Svanasana or the downward-facing dog pose

This easy pose is known to help relieve stress and anxiety (yoga for anxiety)and calm the brain. It improves digestion and also reduces headaches and insomnia.

How to do adho mukha svanasana:

  • Come on all fours with the help of your knees and elbows.

  • Exhale, and lift the hips.

  • Straighten the knees and elbows.

  • Form an inverted V shape.

  • Make sure the hands are shoulder-width apart and the feet are hip-width apart.

  • Keep the legs and hands parallel to each other.

  • Lengthen the neck.

  • Hold the position for a few seconds.

Bhujangasana or cobra pose

This easy pose is a back-bending asana and is a part of the sequence of the Suryanamaskar. This pose helps in strengthening the spine and helps relieve stress and exhaustion.

How to do bhujangasana:

  • Lie flat on the stomach on a comfortable surface.

  • Make sure the heels and the feet are slightly touching each other.

  • Place the palms under the shoulders with elbows parallel to the torso.

  • Inhale and gently lift the head, chest, and abdomen.

  • Make sure the navel is touching the ground.

  • With the help of your hand, pull back the torso lifting it off the ground.

  • Curve the spine and arch back. 

  • Take the head back and look towards the sky.

  • Do not forget to keep the shoulders relaxed.

  • Hold the position for a few seconds.

Marichyasana C variation

This is a very easy beginner-level pose that helps strengthen the spine. It helps in opening the shoulders and improves posture.

How to do marichyasana C variation:

  • Begin with the Dandasana pose by sitting on a blanket.

  • Make sure the feet are touching each other and the toes are pointed upward.

  • Bend the right knee and bring the right foot close to the left knee.

  • Turn the torso 90 degrees right by moving the shoulders, chest, head, and the back. 

  • Move the left shoulder forward and bend the left arm

  • Stretch the left shoulder and hold the right knee with the left hand.

  • Make sure the right palm is placed close to the hip and in a line with the right shoulder.

  • Make sure the left leg is not tilted to the left do not move the right hip from the mat.

  • Hold the posture for a few seconds. 

This is one of the many Iyengar yoga sequences. There are many others with lots of amazing benefits. So if you want to concentrate on your physicality along with some mental relaxation, you must join an Iyengar yoga institute and check out all the sequences of Iyengar yoga. 


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