Iyengar yoga is one of the more traditional types of yoga, and I believe it is truly one form of yoga that holds the tremendous powers to benefit and heal the body. There are countless reasons to do Iyengar yoga, but here are eight of the top reasons to give this practice a try.
1. Increased Flexibility
You don’t need to be able to touch your toes to do Iyengar, but if you practice it, that may be one side effect you experience.
Iyengar is a slow, gentle practice guiding the practitioner into stretches that are held for approximately one minute. The use of props is to enable any practitioner, from beginners to advanced, to hold postures without causing pain or injury.
2. Toned Muscles
In addition to stretching your muscles, the physical demand of holding each pose will help you build strength and tone your body.
Because Iyengar engages the whole body, the attention goes not just to the main muscle, but instructs the practitioner to think about where the muscles are connected to other body parts and engage those as well. The result is an awesome full body toning experience.
3. A Calmer Mind
Once you enter an asana or pose, Iyengar encourages you to focus on the alignment and ignore all other thoughts in your head and being in the moment. You can think of it as a type of meditation, and, like meditation, the more you practice it, the calmer your mind will be—on the mat and off of it.
4. Pain Relief
Studies have supported the power of Iyengar yoga to relieve back and neck pain. By focusing attention on alignment, much of the slouching, hunching, and muscle weakness that leads to back and neck pain can be overcome in Iyengar.
The practice also helps stretch the muscles of the back and relieve pain-causing tension.
5. Improved Posture
Through its focus on alignment, Iyengar yoga helps you strengthen the muscles of the body responsible for posture, like the legs, back and core.
With minor adjustments to improve alignment, the small muscles that are often ignored become stronger. The result is that you’ll find yourself sitting and standing straighter, which will give you more energy, less pain, and increased confidence!
6. Protection from Disease
Disease often results when the normal processes of the body don’t happen the way they should. Iyengar yoga helps improve the overall functioning of the body—from the circulatory and lymph systems, to the nervous system and digestion.
When the body’s systems are doing their jobs, organs are nourished, toxins are eliminated, and the risk of some diseases goes down.
7. Better Food and Lifestyle Habits
As you calm your mind and improve your physical condition, your body responds by wanting—even craving—healthier living. This means healthier food and lifestyle choices. Iyengar teaches you to love your body, and how can you really love your body if you’re abusing it with unhealthy choices?
8. Improved Breathing
While you hold your asana and consider your alignment, Iyengar also instructs you to focus on the breath.
Whether you realize it or not, many of us hold our breath during times of stress. The more you practice breathing through Iyengar yoga, however, the less you’ll end up holding your breath unconsciously, and oxygen to your brain is a good thing!
Whether you’re new to yoga or just new to Iyengar, I encourage you to give this style a try and see how many of these benefits and more you experience.