Hatha and Iyengar Yoga for Beginners

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Beginning Students Increase Flexibility and Wellness with Hatha Yoga

Best known for its use of props, Iyengar yoga makes the asanas, or poses, more achievable for all levels of students—particularly beginners.

Iyengar yoga was created by B.K.S. Iyengar, born in 1918, as a unique form of hatha yoga. The world-renowned guru has published more than a dozen books on yoga and the health benefits of yoga. Iyengar yoga incorporates all eight ashtangas, or aspects, of yoga from the foundation texts, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Using Iyengar Yoga Props to Increase Flexibilit

Although most yoga equipment stores sell a variety of yoga blocks and straps, Iyengar props can often be improvised. A good sticky yoga mat, however, is essential equipment for all beginners.

Examples of Iyengar yoga props:

  • chair
  • belt or strap
  • foam yoga block
  • wooden yoga block
  • pillow
  • bolster
  • blanket

In conjunction with an experienced teacher, Iyengar practitioners use these props to achieve perfect alignment in asanas. Yoga props can be used in a wide-range of sitting, standing, twisting, bending, and supine poses.

Proper Alignment for Beginners through Iyengar Yoga

Proper alignment is paramount in Iyengar yoga. Starting with the feet and working upwards through the limbs, pelvis, spine, and head, this style of yoga strives for the entire body to be perfectly aligned during and in between poses. Maintaining this alignment requires strength and flexibility.

For beginner yoga students in particular, yoga props can make the practice of asanas less daunting, safer, and invigorating. Props help beginners overcome the challenges of limited flexibility and advance their practices.

Over time, Iyengar yogis adjust their use of props as they achieve better alignment, build strength, improve balance, and gain flexibility. For this reason, Iyengar yoga is often well suited to students who are recovering from injury or new to fitness.

Health Benefits of Iyengar Yoga

Beyond increased flexibility, improved overall health, better circulation, enhanced strength, and a more developed mind-body connection, Iyengar yoga is linked to improved healing. B.K.S. Iyengar has written on the health benefits for specific ailments in Yoga: a Path to Holistic Health, while many scientific studies have also tied yoga practice to overall wellness.

Recently, a Washington State University study linked Iyengar yoga to improvement in the immune systems of women recovering from breast cancer.

How to Find an Iyengar Yoga Teacher

During Iyengar yoga classes, the yoga teacher instructs students verbally and through demonstration. Descriptions of the poses are precise and incorporate the yoga props to accommodate a wide-range of ability levels. Iyengar yoga instructors will modify the poses to meet the level of the student.

The official website of B.K.S. Iyengar lists certified teachers in more than 40 countries. Alternately, many yoga teachers incorporate into hatha yoga classes.

Another great resource to draw from is the book Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar. This essential reading provides a wealth of information for students and offers more insight on the philosophy of yoga, illustrates poses with precise pictures, and details the health benefits of Iyengar yoga.