Skip to main content

About Iyengar Yoga

The origins of Yoga are lost in the mists of prehistory. A carving four to five thousand years old, from Mohenjo Daro in present day Pakistan, suggests that yogic practices long predate Hinduism. Although it is most often linked to Hinduism, yoga is not a religion and can be practised by those of any religion or none. It is a complete and universal discipline for the body, mind and spirit. Yoga brings health and inner peace. It comprises eight aspects: rules for social conduct, for disciplined personal conduct, yogic poses or asana, breath control, through meditation and liberation or enlightenment.

What is Iyengar Yoga?

The teaching of Yoga according to B.K.S. Iyengar is based mainly on the in-depth practice of Asanas, the postures of Yoga and of Pranayama, Yogic breathing. They are two of these eight aspects of Yoga.

B.K.S. Iyengar, who died in 2014 aged 96, was the inheritor of a tradition going back more than a thousand years. His brother-in-law Krishnamacharya of Mysore was a south Indian scholar versed in Sanskrit and the Vedas who spent seven years studying asana in Tibet. Unlike most Indian yogis, Krishnamacharya taught many vigorous standing poses which have now been adopted in various western schools of yoga. He instructed the teenaged Iyengar for two to three years before sending him to teach in Pune, where he remained until his death.

B.K.S. Iyengar, during a teaching career spanning more than seventy years, evolved a method of teaching the classic yoga postures that is precise, progressive and accessible.

The Iyengar method

The Iyengar method is based on the teaching of Yoga according to B.K.S. Iyengar. His watchwords are precision and safety – for the health of the student and to cultivate inner awaremess.

Through a deep study of the postures, he produced:

He was a genius at reading, treating and transforming the human form and psyche. This genius extends to his ability to make his teaching transmissible by ordinary teachers. Our job is to remain true to our training, so we can pass on his system for culturing the body, for restraining the mind and making both a vehicle for self-discovery. This great stream inevitably gets diluted but should not be mixed or merged with other currents. This is the purpose of the strict rules of the IY(UK).

Health for the body, peace for the mind

The Asanas develop strength and flexibility. In particular they can help to relieve back pain, help all the organs to function well and improve the digestive and circulatory systems.

The postures may also bring relief from the effects of stress and fatigue; they can help to bring about a state of deep relaxation.

Pranayama is the art of extending and controlling the breath. It brings vitality and mental balance and improves concentration. It is introduced only when students have a degree of mastery of asana, to be able to control the muscles of the chest and sit with a straight steady posture.

Meditation in action

Postures and regulation of the breath are two essential disciplines in the practice of Yoga. They bring the body and mind into contact with the light of the soul to find inner peace.

An art

Yoga brings grace, beauty and firmness. The body is freed from tensions by stretching and movement. The breathing can become deep and even. Uniting spirit and body, the practitioner learns the art of self-observation. The intelligence and powers of perception are enhanced.

About BKS Iyengar

Mr Iyengar was born in south India in 1918. For more than 70 years he dedicated himself to the practice and teaching of Yoga. His books have been translated into many languages and have become classic texts.

He was introduced to the West by his pupil the violinist Sir Yehudi Menuhin and won world wide respect as a master of Yoga. Mr Iyengar travelled extensively and his teaching is established in every continent.

He lived in Pune in South India where his Institute was founded in 1975. After he retired from teaching, his son Prashant and daughter Gita taught under his watchful eye. His granddaughter Abhajata also teaches at RIMYI.

His method is both traditional and modern, proving that Yoga can be practised by men and women of all cultures; it demonstrates how this ancient science can provide effective answers to the problems of our age.

More information on the life and work of Mr Iyengar is available in our article, celebrating his 90th birthday.

For more information, see:

Iyengar Yoga UK

Iyengar Yoga Associations exist throughout the world. The UK organisation was founded in 1977 to promote and regulate the teaching of Iyengar Yoga in Britain.

For more information, see:

Links to Iyengar Yoga resources

The Iyengar Yoga Centre, Maida Vale, London

London’s original specialist yoga centre, the Iyengar Centre in Maida Vale offers expert teaching in two airy, purpose-built studios. Sallie has conducted teacher training classes at the Iyengar Centre since 1994.

The centre is at 223a Randolph Avenue, Maida Vale, London W9 1NL, phone 020 7624 3080.