Anyone can benefit from studying hatha yoga. Busy people
use it to manage stress in their hectic lives. Pregnant women
use it to prepare for the birth of their children. Elite athletes
use it to focus themselves toward a high level of performance
and to recover from injuries. You can use it, too.
When you study hatha yoga you will find that it works on
several levels. As a beginner, you will experience the practice
of hatha yoga as a form of physical exercise that challenges
and refines your flexibility, strength and balance. When you
go through this stage, you and your teacher will develop a
personalized approach to each hatha yoga posture.
To do this, the Iyengar approach to hatha yoga makes frequent
use of different kinds of props. These are objects like blocks,
chairs, blankets and belts that help you adjust yourself to
the different postures so that you can work in a range of
motion that is safe and effective for you. Learning how to
do this will increase your body awareness.
Often in conventional forms of exercise people hold their
breath while exerting themselves. In hatha yoga, you will
learn to control your breathing in a relaxed and modulated
way in order to provide focus in the different postures. Learning
to do this properly is the gateway to many of the mental and
spiritual benefits of hatha yoga.
As you progress with hatha yoga, you will gain greater flexibility
in your body and mind. Like any form of exercise, hatha yoga
helps develop physical strength. Hatha yoga adds another dimension
to this with a matching development in emotional strength
that will help you handle the challenges of life with a balanced
From there you can continue to grow with your hatha yoga
practice. And you will find that there are plenty of resources
to help you along the way. In contrast to conventional sports
and physical training programs, hatha yoga has been developed
over thousands of years as a way of teaching people how to
improve their lives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How does Iyengar hatha yoga differ from other
styles of yoga?
A: The Iyengar method places special focus on developing
strength, endurance and correct body alignment in addition
to flexibility and relaxation. Standing poses are emphasized
in this system of yoga. They build strong legs, increase general
vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance.
Iyengar hatha yoga is meditation in action. As students do
hatha yoga postures the mind is focused on the actions of
the posture and the movement of the breath. As the mind unites
with the body and the breath students move into a meditative
state. Self exploration occurs through discovery and release
of physical tension patterns and psychological resistance.
As practice continues, a student's ability to relax and to
concentrate improves and inner awareness is enhanced. Seated
meditation, incense-burning, or candle-gazing, often presumed
to be taught in yoga classes are not used.
Q: How does Iyengar hatha yoga differ from western
style exercise, such as calisthenics or aerobics?
A: Western-style exercise tends to focus on achieving
a goal, such as touching the toes ten times. Iyengar hatha
yoga places much less emphasis on goals. rather, it encourages
students to finely tune the manner in which they move. The
extreme concentration which such close observation requires
draws your attention inward, quieting and integrating mind
Q: Iyengar hatha yoga teachers emphasize improving
precision of alignment in the yoga poses. Why is this important?
A: Exercise as it is usually done only reinforces misalignment.
When people don't know how to exercise properly, they tend
to stretch from their more flexible areas and rely on their
better-developed muscles for strength. Iyengar hatha yoga
encourages weak parts to strengthen and stiff areas to stretch,
thus awakening and re-aligning the whole body. As the body
moves into better alignment, less muscular work is required
and relaxation increases naturally.
Q: How should I begin practicing Iyengar hatha yoga?
A: People who have not done yoga before should enroll
in an introductory series or in a beginning level public class.
Students who have done other types of yoga, but who have never
experienced Iyengar hatha yoga are also encouraged to enroll
in the introductory class series, or to take a beginning class
for at least several weeks. The sound principles of movement
and alignment on which the entire Iyengar approach is founded
may be new to many students and are presented in the introductory
and beginning classes.
Q: I have problems with my health. Can I practice
Iyengar hatha yoga?
A: Done properly, Iyengar hatha yoga will not harm
and often helps many physical conditions. Although yoga teachers
are not therapists, many students find that their physical
difficulties decrease as a by-product of improved alignment.
If you have a physical problem, you should tell your teacher
about it before you begin class, yoga poses can be modified
and adjusted to meet your needs. Many people feel that they
cannot join a yoga class for a number of reasons. Yoga is
open to people of all ages and levels of physical condition.
Do not be put off from trying a yoga class because you feel
that you are too old, too stiff, too fat, too thin, too tired,
etc. Yoga is a process-oriented activity with something to
For more than 60 years, B.K.S. Iyengar has developed a remarkably
innovative and inspired approach to classical hatha yoga.
Through his own vigorous practice, careful study of the earliest
available texts, and instruction of thousands of students
from all over the world, he has reached back to the roots
of yoga and brought forth a revitalization of the ancient
art of yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar is the author of Light on Yoga,
Light on Pranayama, The Art of Yoga, The Tree of Yoga and
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. He currently teaches
with his daughter Geeta and his son Prashant at the Ramamani
Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India.
The Iyengar Approach to Hatha Yoga
Yoga as taught by B.K.S. Iyengar emphasizes the integration
of body, mind and spirit. The Iyengar approach to yoga is
firmly based on the traditional eight limbs of yoga as expounded
by Patanjali in his classic treatise, The Yoga Sutras. Iyengar
yoga emphasizes the development of strength, stamina, flexibility
and balance, as well as concentration (Dharana) and meditation
(Dhyana). Students at IYISF are encouraged to refine both
their knowledge of asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing).
Asanas are individualized for the needs of different bodies.
Various props are used to maximize opening and awareness throughout
the body, and to stimulate the blood flow to the organs. Through
the emphasis placed on precise alignment in the poses, many
students find that their yoga practice helps them dissolve
stubborn musculo-skeletal and psychological blocks. The same
precision of practice brings the serious student to the cutting
edge of exploration in the field of mind-body interaction.
Comments or Questions
on Hatha Yoga?