Taking an Iyengar yoga class will introduce you to subtleties of physical alignment and structure as you progress from simpler postures to more challenging ones.
Iyengar yoga, like the traditional and more generic Hatha yoga, focuses on holding and perfecting individual postures rather than on flowing from one to another in the way many vinyasa-based styles do.
Along with physical postures, you can expect some training in yogic breathing techniques.
The originator and namesake of this style, B.K.S. Iyengar, was born in 1918 and began studying yoga as a teenager with the well-known teacher Krishnamacharya in Mysore, India.
Although he initially learned yoga because of health challenges, Iyengar went on to develop and define his own system over more than seventy years of teaching and training yoga teachers.
As a result, he is now a world-famous master whom many credit with disseminating and popularizing yoga across the globe in the second half of the twentieth century.
One of the first things you’ll notice about taking an Iyengar yoga class is the use of props, such as specially designed belts, blankets and wooden blocks. These aids help each student adjust and feel supported so that the result is precise alignment, strength and dynamic extension within each pose.
Through this attention to detail, Iyengar yoga often triggers a feeling of liberation, poise and calmness even in the midst of performing more challenging postures. Iyengar props are especially helpful for beginners and those with physical limitations.
In Iyengar yoga classes, the emphasis for beginners is on simple, foundational postures, especially those performed standing up. The Iyengar curriculum then progresses to more intricate bends, twists and inversions including seated and reclining postures.
For beginners and more advanced students alike, classes typically end with deep relaxation in a reclining position, where props may be used to enhance therapeutic and restorative effects.