Yoga is a movement technique — a series of poses (called asanas) that emphasize stretching, attentive breathing, and relaxation. The poses are part of a spiritual discipline and belief system from India. The exercises promote physical and mental well-being; some improve flexibility and strength as well.
What Is Iyengar Yoga?
Iyengar yoga, developed by yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar more than 60 years ago, promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. Like other types of yoga, it also encourages self-awareness through meditation. The difference is that Iyengar yoga focuses on physical methods to cultivate spirituality. For example, the poses, breathing, and meditation aren’t separate stages to achieve; they’re inseparable parts of the whole. The reasoning behind Iyengar yoga is that it’s impossible to do a pose correctly without strict concentration. Such deep concentration means you’re automatically in a meditative state, and rhythmic breathing follows from the effort of maintaining the pose. Also, depending on where you study, like a health club or a gym, for example, the focus will be more on the physical goals of yoga, rather than a state of higher consciousness.
Equipment like cushions, blankets, straps, and wooden blocks to help the less flexible also distinguishes Iyengar from other types of yoga. Although Iyengar incorporates the traditional postures, or asanas, that make up the broader category of hatha yoga, the cushions and other props revolutionized yoga by enabling everyone — even the elderly, sick, and disabled — to practice. Iyengar is still one of the most popular types of yoga taught today.
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