Iyengar is a style aimed at perfecting chosen postures. It is a much slower style than Ashtanga and certainly less vigorous or demanding than Bikram.
It was created by B.K.S. Iyengar, born 1918 and he began teaching it aged just 18 after completing his studies with Guru Krischnamacharya in India. He had been struck down by tuberculosis and was seeking a way to improve his health.
He based his style on Hatha Yoga, the most practised style in the western hemisphere, and placed emphasis on the perfection of poses through consistent practise. It is his belief that every pose has a correct way of being reached and held, and that once the balance is created in the body it will also be reflected in the mind.
Iyengar’s style was innovative and he introduced a set of props designed to help maintain poses for long periods and attain physical alignment where the body isn’t yet supple enough to complete them. Nowadays it is normal to see students using blocks, straps and blankets but this idea is still relatively new to yoga.
It is believed that the discipline required to perfect the poses will help in everyday life and make the student more focused and at peace in all things they set out to do.
Iyengar also focuses on Pranayama, or Yogic breathing, which assists in maintaining poses. The breathing exercises give energy to muscles by helping blood and oxygen flow but they also increase lung capacity and stamina.
Iyengar is not to be taken lightly however. Although not a cardiovascular workout, the effort required to hold poses can be quite difficult and practise is needed. The lack of flowing movements in practises like Ashtanga means that less physically fit students have a good place to start and the sessions can be tailored to suit each individual’s level. The use of props makes Iyengar a good place to start.
In summary, Iyengar is a gentle style for people who like subtle, meticulous or technical aspects of movement and is one of the most popular styles of Yoga.
Images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BKS_Iyengar.jpg, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joshua_Tree_yoga_-_handstand.jpg