Iyengar yoga has been named after the man who developed this approach to hatha yoga, Mr BKS Iyengar (1918-2014). There is much written about Mr Iyengar and links to his story can be found on this website.
From an early age he started practicing yoga to regain health after a sickly childhood. Over many decades he explored the different aspects of yoga through countless hours of practice, self study, and study of the ancient texts. He realised the importance of aligning the body correctly in yoga postures (asanas) and therefore in every day life. He explored how asanas and pranayama (breathing practice) should be sequenced, and how they should be held or maintained, in order to best benefit the body and mind. Through this focus, he moved from observing the outer layers of the flesh and bones, towards the more subtle workings of the body’s systems (respiratory, nervous, endocrine,digestive, etc.), and how energy flows to, through, and out of the body. This also led him to observe the habits of the mind, and to appreciate what is even more subtle than the body and the mind, the soul or spirit. His years and years of experience and experimenting, built a wealth of knowledge, without the use of modern equipment such as MRIs and monitoring tools. He wrote books and taught thousands of classes, to attempt to pass this knowledge on. His son Prashantji and his daughter Geetaji, and now his grand daughter Abhijata, as well as many long term students, continue to pass down his knowledge.
In Australia we have senior Iyengar yoga teachers who have practiced in the method of Iyengar yoga for decades, studied with Mr Iyengar and the Iyengar family over the years, and in turn pass their knowledge on via teacher training. This is how a lineage is created. There is great care taken by the Australian Iyengar Yoga Association to not dilute the teachings, and that is why the teacher training and certification process is so stringent.
When you attend an Iyengar yoga class you will practice the asanas (and later pranayamas), that are common to many hatha yoga classes. However, you will be asked to use your body in very specific ways to aim for correct alignment. There are props, such as blocks and belts, to help you. This demands your complete attention, and therefore your mind starts to move inward and develop concentration. This inward focus can become ever more subtle over time, until the practice becomes a meditation in movement. The mental freshness that you feel after a class, is because the constant jumpiness of the mind from one subject to the next, is stilled, and the mind learns to stay present in the body. You will never do “bad” yoga because you are stiff or old or injured. You will only miss out on the benefits if your mind wanders.
We do some strong asanas in an Iyengar yoga class. These include standing on our hands, our heads and our shoulders. However, these are asanas that we build up to with time, and you will not be asked to try them if your body and mind are not ready.