Iyengar yoga is named after B. K. S. Iyengar, the world’s foremost authority on Hatha Yoga. The school is best known for its emphasis on detail and technique, and aims to take the practitioner through an exploration of the inner self, integrated into a challenging physical and meditative practice. However, the use of props when needed, enable the practitioner to move at their own pace without creating stress or injury to the body.
A precision master, Iyengar focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body so that energy can flow without obstruction. Through the development of asana (postures); pranayama (breath control); pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses); dharana, (concentration); dhyana (meditation), one aims to unify the mind, body and spirit towards a point of stillness, where one is awakened to the fullness of life in the present moment.
The Iyengar methodology differs from the other schools of yoga by three key elements: technique, sequence and timing.
Technique refers to the precision with which the body is aligned to allow energy to flow without obstruction
Sequencing is integral in bringing transformation to the practitioner on a physical, physiological, mental and spiritual level. Not only is the level of awareness of the practitioner taken into consideration, but ensuring that the nervous system is not left agitated at the end of a practice is key.
Timing is the third key element, which defines the time spent in each pose integrated with the breath to achieve a point of total stillness.
Iyengar Yoga often makes use of props when necessary, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, to aid in performing asanas. The props enable beginner students to perform the asanas correctly, minimizing the risk of injury or strain, while also making the practice accessible to the young, old and those with ailments.
Hatha yoga is the oldest form of yoga focusing on physical and mental strength building exercises and postures described primarily in three texts of Hinduism: Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama (15th century) Shiva Samhita, author unknown (before 1500 CE or late 17th century) Gheranda Samhita by Yogi Gheranda (late 17th century)
Traditional hatha yoga is a holistic yogic path, including postures (asana), purification procedures (shatkriya), gestures (mudra), breathing (pranayama), and meditation.
Hatha represents opposing energies: hot and cold (fire and water, following similar concept as yin-yang), male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body via physical postures or "asanas", purification practices, controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance and strength and are practiced to improve the body's physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation. Classical hatha yoga is a little less physically challenging than an Iyengar yoga practice.
Composed of eight limbs which are integral to the practice are: yama and Niyama, ethical observations; asana, postures; pranayama, breath control; pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses; dharana, concentration; dhyana, meditation; and samadhi, which is a high state of concentration and mastery of the mind. The eight limbs are more precisely viewed as eight levels of progress, where each level provides benefits and also lays the foundation for higher spiritual growth.
Ashtanga Yoga is a physically challenging form of classical hatha yoga developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, who by 1948 had established an institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") Vinyasa Yoga.
The term vinyasa refers to the alignment of movement and breath, a method which turns static asanas into a dynamic flow. The length of one inhale or one exhale dictates the length of time spent transitioning between asanas. Asanas are then held for a predefined number of breaths. In effect, attention is placed on the breath and the journey between the asanas rather than solely on achieving perfect body alignment in an asana, as is emphasized especially in Iyengar Yoga.
The breathing style used in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is Ujjayi which is a relaxed diaphragmatic style of breathing, which resonates in the practitioner's throat. Throughout a practice, this specific breathing style is maintained in alignment with movements. The steady cycle of inhales and exhales provides the practitioner with a calming, mental focal point. Additionally, vinyasa and Ujjayi together create internal heat, which leads to purification of the body through increased circulation and sweating. Ashtanga Vinyasa is a challenging physical practice.
Another major principle of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is the bandha, or muscle locking/contraction, which focuses energy in the body and is closely tied to the breath.
Hatha Flow links the postures practiced in a regular Hatha class into a sequence of movements that "flow" with the breath in a more vigorous series. Hatha Flow involves moving from one posture to another with very little rest in between, and creates a strong cardiovascular workout.
Variations on the Sun Salutation are often used as a warm-up, followed by a standing sequence, balancing poses, and seated poses and inversions. As in all Hatha classes, relaxation ends the class. Hatha Flow is recommended for students who have practiced Hatha Yoga and are interested in exploring a more movement-oriented class. Hatha Flow builds strength, endurance, and a strong focus.
Restorative yoga is the therapeutic form of Iyengar yoga that seeks to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation, and to heal the body with the aid of props. The use of props makes it easier for the student to maintain balance, release stress, restore and rejuvenate the body with ease. While restorative yoga poses are beneficial to the entire body, others target specific parts of the body to promote healing in specific areas.
Restorative yoga provides healing for the body and the mind. It is especially useful when one needs to eliminate fatigue and stress. It can also help recover from illness, injury and to overcome emotional depression and anxiety that are caused by traumatic events.
Restorative yoga can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which enables automatic control of the body. As such, the regular nervous system is at rest, and the muscles become more relaxed increasing the flexibility of the body. Constant practice of restorative yoga makes the body less vulnerable to stress-related illnesses and help one achieve optimal health.
This practice is part of our Life Enhancement Series and is dedicated to raising universal consciousness through love, compassion, awareness, and healing, where the principle philosophy behind this practice is love and its connection with the heart chakra called the Anahata Chakra.
Techniques used involve diverse and intense physical movement, breath, meditation, music and chanting to create a beautiful high energy environment to promote the release of accumulated stress, tension and blocked energy in the body, while overcoming the fluctuations of the mind to reach a point of stillness.
Before we can hope to access our powerhouse of consciousness, we need to first release our tensions, limitations and negativities. This practice enables the awakening and opening of the heart; our energy center for love, compassion, hope and joy.
With regular practice one can expect to develop a very fit body, and a positive attitude towards our life, our relationships and our environment, leaving us filled with love, laughter and a wonderful lightness of being.
Please note, Kundalini Yoga - As Taught by Yogi Bhajan, is an exploration of the inner self following a unique system of release, and unlike a normal yoga class does not include a traditional asana practice but diverse physical movement. This class is best suited to those who do not suffer from any major physical ailments, and who also have some level of physical fitness.
This class follows a workshop format and goes into detailed explanation of the postures; the practitioner is guided through a series of asanas to develop a thorough understanding of the core principles of the particular practice. The Master class is taught by Deepika Mehta (Ashtanga Vinyasa) and Radhika Vachani (Iyengar Yoga).