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Yoga Is…

An ancient art, science, and philosophy that emphasizes performing one’s daily responsibilities with awareness, integrity, and compassion. From Sanskrit, the word “yoga” translates as union of the mind, body, and spirit. For many, that includes an ongoing practice of yoga postures. Working through the instrument of the body, yoga teaches one to observe and integrate body, breath and mind, to penetrate beyond the outer, physical layers and reach the inner sheaths of one’s being.

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Iyengar Yoga Is…

Characterized by care and precision, Iyengar Yoga is systematic intelligence of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. He has made yoga relevant to modern life and accessible to a broad base of individuals, no matter their physical and/or mental abilities. The system of teaching is methodical and progressive, emphasizing safety, alignment, and the development of exquisite self-awareness. He is the author of the classic Light on Yoga, called the “bible of yoga,” which has been the source book for generations of yoga enthusiasts. Iyengar’s teachings have systematically evolved precise posture (asana) and breathing (pranayama) techniques with a firm philosophical base; according to this unique perspective, the asanas and pranayamas are the means and the medium to explore the more internalized limbs of yoga, including meditation (dhyana) and kaivalya (absolute freedom). BKS Iyengar revolutionized the art of yoga by introducing and incorporating the use of supports called “props” to facilitate learning and accommodate safe appropriate progress. Based in Pune, India, his daughter, Geeta, and son, Prashant, are also accomplished teachers of yoga.

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Philosophy of Yoga

Patanjali, a scholar who lived approximately 2500 years ago, is credited with having written the Yoga Sutras, 196 terse aphorisms that teach about Ashtanga (eight limbed) Yoga. The “eightfold path,” includes yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi, and is non-linear. In fact, all the limbs may be practiced and integrated into asana, the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga—this is one of the most innovative and distinguishing aspects of BKS Iyengar’s methodology. For example, the complete attention and presence required of dharana (concentration) can be achieved through the self-awareness brought by focusing on the alignment, actions, and techniques of any given posture. Yama, universal moral values, are also to be observed within the practice of asana. By recognizing limits within asana practices, to avoid injury and self-harm, one adheres to Ahimsa (nonviolence), one of the yamas. These principles should be transferred to your daily life, words, thoughts, and deeds.

Ashtanga Yoga | Eight Limbs of Yoga

Yama | Universal moral values: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacarya (continence), Aparigraha (non-coveting)

Niyama | Self-purification by discipline: Sauca (cleanliness), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (burning desire), Svadhyaya (self-study), Isvara Pranidhana (dedication of one’s actions to the Divine)

Asana | Postures, sequenced together to achieve a state of integrated well-being

Pranayama | Regulation of the life force through channeling the breath

Pratayahara | Withdrawal of the mind from the domination of the senses

Dharana | Concentration, single-pointed attention

Dhyana | Meditation, attention focused internally and externally at the same time

Samadhi | State of absorption in which the aspirant is one with the object of meditation

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Science of Yoga

More than 5000 years of Eastern scientific traditions have shown that the practice of yoga can improve the muscular, skeletal, physiological, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, and central nervous systems of the body. Yoga provides the means to become physically fit in the context of a philosophy that encourages positive health practices and personality characteristics. Contemporary research studies on the beneficial effects of Iyengar Yoga confirm change in self-awareness and perspective especially for long term practitioners. Heart rate, blood pressure, and perceived level of exertion are higher during the practice of Iyengar Yoga standing postures than during walking. Iyengar yoga provides pain relief and improved grip strength in individuals with carpel tunnel syndrome. An Iyengar Yoga based regimen for osteoarthritis of the hands reduced pain and tenderness in the hands and increased range of motion in the fingers. Iyengar Yoga has beneficial effects on chronic low back pain, depression, and helps alleviate symptoms from breast cancer treatment.

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Categories of Yoga Postures

Standing poses - Utthistha Sthiti - correct carriage and improve balance, creating lightness in the body and agility in the mind. They shape, and strengthen the leg and arm muscles and decrease stiffness in the legs, hips, and shoulders. This category of postures alleviates back and shoulder aches. The feet become supple, the ankles are strengthened, and the chest expands fully. Practice of the standing postures invigorates the abdominal organs, increases peristaltic activity, aids elimination, and increases the blood supply to the spine. Mastery of these poses increases stamina and prepares the student for all the other categories of poses.

Seated postures - Upavistha Sthiti - benefit reproductive organs and the urinary system, and relieve menstrual irregularities. They benefit pain and/or stiffness in the joints of the lower limbs. Practice of seated poses quiets the mind and reduces anxiety, tension, and mental stress.

Forward bends - Paschima Pratana Sthiti - loosen the joints and lengthen the muscles of the upper and lower extremities. They make the spine elastic. Blood flow is increased in the pelvis, which benefits the digestive, reproductive and eliminative organs. Practice of these poses tones the liver, kidneys, intestines, spleen, and aids digestion. Circulation to the pituitary, pineal, thyroid, and parathyroid glands is improved, and the adrenal glands and pancreas become healthy. Forward bends soothe the nerves, reduce stress and remove mental and physical fatigue.

Twists - Parvritta Sthiti - increase lateral movement of the spine and blood supply to the region of the disks. They relieve neck and shoulder pain, tension, stiffness, and reduce fluid in the sinus passages and ear canal. Backache may also be alleviated with the practice of lateral extensions.

Inversions - Viparita Sthiti - increase circulation around the neck and chest, facilitating healthy blood flow through the brain, including the pituitary and pineal glands. All of the organic systems of the body, including the endocrine and lymphatic systems, benefit from inversions. They improve sleep, memory, and vitality when practiced regularly by developing the body, quieting the mind, and lifting the spirit.

Backward bends - Purva Pratana Sthiti - invigorate the spine, and keep the body alert and supple. They strengthen the arms and legs and have a soothing effect on the head. The pelvic region is opened, the abdominal muscles and chest are lengthened and strengthened, and the reproductive organs are kept healthy. The diaphragm is opened and the heart is gently massaged to help to strengthen it. Practice of backbends enhances vitality, energy, and lightness.