There are many people all over the world reaping the benefits of a regular yoga practice. They are healthier, calmer, more centered and generally happier. But let’s consider those people who can’t take part in your standard yoga session, either due to old age or injury. How can these people take part in the manifold benefits yoga has to offer?
Those people were exactly who B.K.S. Iyengar was thinking when he created Iyengar yoga in the 1960’s. This practice takes the asanas and sequences of your standard yoga practice and modifies them, ensuring that the poses are accessible to anyone--regardless of their age or fitness level.
Iyengar yoga also focuses primarily on precision and strength; yogis hold their poses longer than usual in an effort to build stability, balance, and connectedness between the body and soul. And let’s face it: every last one of us could use a little more balance in our lives. Find your center and discover a boost of energy with these Iyengar yoga poses:
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands at your sides. Push against the earth to elongate the spine and push energy and vitality into your limbs. The mountain pose is a common asana in yoga, but remember that Iyengar yoga forces the yogi to hold poses much longer. As you stand, be sure to perfect your positioning so you can feel the energy building from head to toe.
This pose, known as the boat pose, involves balancing on your sit bones while your torso and legs point upward, creating a “v” with your body. The pose develops your core muscles, giving you the inner strength and energy you need for most physical activity. However, if the boat pose is too difficult for you at this time, don’t worry! As with most Iyengar yoga poses, this pose can be modified to suit all fitness levels. Simply use a chair, box, or yoga block to hold your back and legs up.
Adho Mukha Virasana
Depending who you ask, this pose is either known as child’s pose or forward facing hero pose. Start on your knees, then bend at the waist and put your arms ahead of you (or, if you’d rather, at your sides). This pose stretches both your shoulders and back and restores vitality to your physical body, while the soothing nature of the pose calms your mind and frees up your mental energy.
You know that warm feeling you get after a great big stretch? Get ready to feel that energy all over your body once you finish spending time in this pose, known commonly as the camel pose. Kneel on your mat and arch your back, throwing back your head and arms so that your fingers reach your heels. The stretch through your thighs, hips, belly, and back will give you all the energy you need to power through a busy day.
This is another Iyengar yoga pose that uses props to help you get the most benefit for your fitness level. To start, stand firmly on the ground with your feet shoulder width apart. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left, resting it on a block, chair, or other flat surface beside you. Keep your shoulders facing forward as best you can, so that your torso twists and stretches your sides. Hold the pose, and then repeat with the opposite leg. For a greater challenge, add height to the surface your foot rests on!
This is a wonderfully energizing pose that will give you a boost after a long day on your feet. Lay on your back against a wall and put your legs straight up into the air. You can rest them on the wall if you wish, or for a greater challenge continue rolling the spine until your lower back is off the ground, too. Hold the pose as long as you can, relaxing the feet and legs while working the stomach muscles at the same time.
Now we return to a standing yoga pose, similar to the tadasana we started with. However, this pose is quite different due to the positioning of the arms. Stretch out your shoulders and chest as you stand by bringing your arms into a prayer position behind your back. This is difficult at first, particularly if you aren’t flexible in your chest or arms, but keep at it- you’ll get it eventually!
The staff pose, like tadasana, focuses on strength, energy, and power radiating through the body. However, this Iyengar yoga pose also gives you the opportunity to take a seat. Sit on you mat with your feet out in front of you. Straighten your spine and place your hands at your sides. As you breathe into the pose, focus on the precision of your movements; perfect your posture and push against the earth with your legs and sit bones for an energized stance.
Another Iyengar yoga pose that can be part of a tadasana, the cow face pose is a great way to stretch your arms and back, reviving and energizing those muscles. Take one arm and bring it over your head, bending at the elbow and letting the forearm hand down your neck and back. Then, take your other hand and drop it to your side. Again, bend at the elbow so that the other arm moves up your back. If you are flexible enough to grasp your hands together, feel free. Breathe into the stretch and remember to stand firm and tall throughout.
Corpse pose is typically the yoga instructor’s top choice to close out a class. At first blush, it hardly seems like an energizing pose: all you have to do is lay flat on your mat, like a corpse. But savasana is the key to stirring up your mental energy and restoring you after a strenuous yoga practice. Don’t shy away from it, and don’t be afraid to spend plenty of time meditating or recuperating. When it comes to yoga (and health), your mind is just as important as your body.