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Iyengar yoga is considered the most practiced form of yoga in the world. Yet, it may also be considered a less popular and commercial system of yoga. It emphasizes tradition over trends, focuses on classical instruction of the poses, and demands continued learning development. “Iyengar can be practiced by everyone but is most appreciated by those who value a disciplined and structured approach to yoga.” (iyengaryogacanada.com)

Developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, Iyengar is a form of Hatha Yoga (combining physical poses and breath control) that is unique due to it use of props and sequencing. Props are used to ensure all of the Asanas, (postures) are expressed as true to form as capable, safely, and assists the learning process for the most classical expression of each pose, making it an accessible practice. Practicing the poses with accurate form is the best way to minimize strain and injury.

Iyengar Yoga uses more than 200 different poses and 14 patterns of Pranayama, (breathing exercises). His introduction of the props (bricks/wooden blocks, straps, harnesses, trestlers, heart benches, quarter rounded blocks, slanted planks, to name a few), has significantly influenced other yoga systems. However, Iyengar remains the pioneer of Yoga props, Kurunta yoga (a system of wall ropes) Restorative and Therapeutic yoga. Mr. Iyengar is recognized worldwide for his knowledge of the body and his expertise in treating many common and complex medical problems.

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How does Iyengar Yoga differ from other styles of yoga?

Sri B.K.S. Iyengar was the foremost authority on the subject of yoga until his death in 2014 at the age of 95. He authored a number of classic texts on yoga including Light on Yoga and Light on Pranayama. Until shortly before his death, he practiced and taught yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Institute in Pune, India along with his late daughter Geeta, son Prashant, granddaughter Abhijata, as well as many other highly skilled teachers that learned directly from the source, Sri B.K.S. Iyengar.

The Iyengar Yoga Association of Canada is committed to the dissemination and promotion of the art, science and philosophy of yoga according to the teachings of Iyengar and his family. With less than 150 teachers across Canada, to be able to call oneself a certified Iyengar teacher, one must fulfill passing a rigorous standardized International assessment in three categories: a demonstrated practice of asana, a written exam, and demonstrated skills teaching asana in a class setting. Certified teachers continue to maintain an ongoing practice, training and commitment to the Iyengar method.

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A Brief History of Yoga Coming to the West

1800’s – Swami Vivekananda was the first Person to Bring Yoga to America. Vivekananda had learned that spiritual essence could be transmitted from one person to another.

1920 – Paramahansa Yogananda wrote the first modern spiritual classic. His mission was to spread the message of kriya yoga to the West. His 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi remains a spiritual classic.

1937 – Indra Devi, often called the First Lady of Yoga, was admitted into Krishnamacharya’s school, making her the first woman chela (pupil) and the first Western woman ever at an Indian ashram. She later opened a yoga studio in Hollywood that had housewives across America standing on their heads in their bedrooms. Sri Krishnamacharya went on to become the grandfather of American yoga; his students included B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and T.K.V. Desikachar.

1950’s – Theos Bernard published Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience. It was a major sourcebook for yoga of its time and is still widely read today.

1958 – Indian-born Swami Vishnu-devananda, arrived in San Francisco. His 1960 book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, became an essential guidebook for many practitioners. Dubbed by a colleague as “a man with a push,” he founded the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, headquartered in Montreal, one of the largest networks of yoga schools in the world.

1960’s – Meditation and yoga exploded across America. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation empire now claims 40,000 teachers and more than four million practitioners, with 1,200 centers in 108 countries

1961 – Richard Hittleman Pioneered Yoga on Television

1966 – B.K.S. Iyengar Influences How We View anatomy with his book, Light on Yoga, a book that is still considered to be the Bible of serious asana practice. Nearly every Western teacher has been influenced by his emphasis on anatomical precision, many without even knowing it.

1966 – Amrit Desai founded the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania, and later the Kripalu Yoga Ashram.

1969 – Satchidananda opened the Woodstock festival in 1969, echoing Vivekananda’s greeting of 75 years earlier, he provided a living example of a life dedicated to spirit.

1970 – Swami Rama amazed researchers when tests showed he could control his autonomic nervous system functions including heartbeat, pulse, and skin temperature with a yoga practice.

1971 – Ram Dass a former Harvard professor, returned from India with a guru status and new identity. His book Be Here Now established the spiritual quest as a lifestyle for a new generation of seekers.

1975 – Pattabhi Jois made his first visit to the US and the set the Western world on fire with the vigor of Ashtanga-vinyasa Yoga.

1975 – The first issue of Yoga Journal was published, only to become the magazine of record for yoga in the West.

2015 – The first Yoga Day celebration was held at Raj Path in New Delhi. Among dignitaries and yoga leaders, over 35,985 people performed 21 yoga asanas and created the world’s largest yoga class, according to Guinness World Records.

To Learn more about Iyengar yoga read the paper published by yogitimes.com written by Samantha Bederman, What is Iyengar Yoga?

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