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Hatha Yoga

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 disposition.

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 and body.

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 offer everyone.

B.K.S. Iyengar

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.


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