Iyengar yoga is often known as the yoga of precision. Why? Because the focus is on alignment. You learn each of the postures meticulously, hold the extended pose, and use props to ensure all benefits are gained. When you join your first class, know that it will be an enjoyable education from start to finish.
The Perfect Yoga Style for Beginners
When you start practicing yoga, you may strive towards those extreme stretches or yearn to achieve advanced balancing postures. You may also wish to improve health and fitness generally. In fact, with Iyengar yoga, you gain numerous benefits, more than you might expect. Each lesson forms the foundation of learning. Teachers spend years perfecting their knowledge and teaching styles when they start their teacher training and so their abilities to instruct are sound. You learn why certain postures are performed. This is important because it enables you to understand why you must adjust the hold and work deeply within the body rather than forcing it. With Iyengar yoga, you participate fully. In addition to learning the postures, you cultivate strength and stability. Awareness improves too.
Your First Yoga Class
So, you’ve made the decision to try Iyengar yoga. It’s important to know what to expect from your first class. First, this style of yoga is different from others. All yoga styles benefit the mind and body but Iyengar yoga offers so much to those who practice it.
It’s physically challenging and there is a great deal to learn but progression occurs naturally as you study and utilize each one. Importantly, the benefits are gained quickly. You feel healthier in only a few sessions. Within the class, you achieve a sense of calmness.
Gradually, you learn to strive for the correct alignment for each posture. The teacher monitors progress throughout and adjusts your position if need be so that you feel the stretch. Often, when new, we practice a pose and believe we are doing it correctly, but a good teacher ensures tweaks are made to the final position. This may mean adjusting the position of the feet. You may need to widen the stance or move the hips. You will feel the difference as often minor adjustments make the stretch more powerful. Afterwards, it’s easier to move into the correct posture because it feels instinctive.
The Starting Point
You will often begin the session in a seated posture. You will no doubt see variations of the seated posture around the room. Some will use blocks as this helps to ease tight hips or knee joints, some will be cross-legged, others will be seated in varying levels of the lotus position. Do what feels right for you. Your teacher will start to make you aware of your body, lifting your spine and quietening the mind which may be busy at the start. You’ll also correct your posture so that the chest opens.
How Aware Are You?
When you are new, it is easy for awareness to fluctuate. With experience comes a strong and consistent awareness of your body. Attending a class is ideal because you learn so much from your teacher and they work hard to help you achieve maximum benefits irrespective of how flexible you are. Minor adjustments- bending from the hips rather than rounding the back will make a big difference.
Teachers are very involved in the class. They demonstrate new postures in front of everyone but, afterwards, walk around the class to ensure that everyone has attained the correct alignment. If not, they help to adapt the pose. So, standing at the back of the class will not save you from scrutiny but this is a positive. In Iyengar yoga, there is a strong emphasis on standing postures and developing the foundation of growth. But, postures include seated, twisting, back-bends, and inversions too. With each new posture, there is a greater understanding of anatomy and the importance of the spine.
If you have studied other styles of yoga previously, you may not have used props. These are extremely useful additions to the session because they aid the stretch substantially. Many people strive to reach the ultimate stretch within the pose but, if done incorrectly, you will not gain the benefits. Yoga postures work on more than the external factors but on the internal organs too. Flexibility as a starting point is not the issue. Anyone can practice Iyengar yoga irrespective of size, flexibility, or shape. As you progress, you may need to use props less or you may need them even more as you modify the poses so to gain an extended stretch. Again, your yoga teacher will tailor these postures, so they suit your needs.
Slowly but Surely
Think of Iyengar yoga as a slow, methodical style where you develop ‘the hold’ for a specific period of time. This ‘hold’ helps the body to relax into the posture and often sustains an increased stretch while utilizing the breath. Props aid this progression so that you avoid injury or pain.
Enter a Meditative State
When you practice Iyengar yoga, each posture becomes a type of meditative state. The focus is entirely on the alignment and you learn to ignore any external distractions. It mirrors the mindfulness way in that you remain in the moment, ensuring your body is in the correct position and the calmer you become. These benefits extend beyond the mat.
Iyengar Yoga and the Breath
Although the focus is always on the yoga posture, it is important to consider the breath. Use the breath to settle into the posture as well as to extend the pose. There is a tendency to hold your breath in the pose, but don’t. Breathing ensures a healthy amount of oxygen to the brain throughout.
Iyengar yoga improves overall health and wellbeing. The sequences are important. They improve body function, improve the nervous system, the organs, digestion, circulatory and lymph systems too. With regular practice, you will feel stronger, fitter, and more alive than you can imagine.