The rudiments of Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is perhaps best summarized by saying that it teaches that a profound spiritual education is possible with (i) the right approach; (ii) practised in the right way; and (iii) over a period of time. These three elements are grounded in India’s Vedic and Upanishadic philosophy as codified by the ancient sage Patañjali in his Yoga Sutras.

The body is the vehicle of all personal expression. Yoga’s philosophy points to an eight-fold path. The first two steps are the ethical disciplines (yama), and the personal observances (niyama). Once a desire to “live well” has awakened, Iyengar yoga offers techniques to guide, to refine, to nurture and to enhance that initially spluttering flame. Those techniques are, for the most part, enshrined in the way the body is approached. This is through a set of postures (asanas).

While the body is of course more than the ‘physical’, for it is the abode of an awakened and indwelling Spirit, working with the physical body nevertheless allows an ever finer comprehension of, and adjustment to, that ever-growing insight. Different sequences of postures, done with ever increasing degrees of understanding and sophistication, enhance the mind's ability to comprehend and perceive. Over a period of time, continuing practice brings wisdom in its wake: a new view and understanding of life. That gentle flame of insight is then further enhanced by a watchful attitude of mind and breath (pranayama). Things seen and felt “on-the-mat” gradually stop being just either ‘mental’, or ‘physical’, or ‘spiritual’. They instead commingle. They acquire a communion as the boundaries between them break down. The insight becomes equally adept at “seeing” and “understanding”, whether it be “physical”, “mental”, or otherwise. The seemingly physical and the seemingly mental are both seen in a new light (pratyahara, often translated as “withdrawal of the senses”).

As time continues, a different kind of purpose, focus and attention results. Just as it can take fifteen years for a child to become a proficient dancer or musician, so it can be with the yogi. The key is in both cases the same. As a deeper distillation of understanding comes, so it becomes easier and easier to maintain direction, steadiness and concentration (dharana). Purpose and practice become simply a part of daily life as old habits and boundaries slowly break down, and a gradual metamorphosis occurs—a merging or dissolving into a new state of being (dhyana). The prolonged practice of the three core elements (correct approach, right practice, prolonged study) results in the gradual unfolding of the being that first awakened … until it eventually merges with its true divine self (samadhi).

Finding a teacher

If you would like to study Iyengar Yoga, then you should be able to find a class, an Institute or a Teacher close to you by browsing through the links on the Associations tab above.

Teaching Certificates

There are five basic teaching certificates: Introductory, Intermediate Junior, Intermediate Senior, Advanced Junior and Advanced Senior. Each of the five kinds of certificates is divided into graded levels, forming a 12-level progressive tier of instruction and practice. The range is from the most basic upwards. The Introductory Certificate is divided into Levels 1 and 2. The Intermediate Junior and Intermediate Senior are divided into three levels each. The Advanced Junior and Advanced Senior are divided into two levels each. The training, even for the Introductory, is rigorous. It can take three to four years to complete. Students are also asked to practice for at least three years before beginning training. As teachers gain in experience and proficiency, they can submit for other assessments in order to be awarded higher and higher levels of certification. These entitle them to take on remedial and therapeutic work, to train other teachers, to be able to assess the suitability of others for teaching and so forth. Although the Intermediate Senior Certificates can be awarded by senior and experienced teachers within particular countries, the recipients must generally at some time have studied directly with BKS Iyengar or in the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune. The Advanced Certificates are personally awarded by B. K. S. Iyengar and/or at the recommendation of his Institute.