The word “pranayama” is synonymous in yoga. It means breath control. The word “asana” means posture. It means yoga posture. It means Life.
Doing yoga may be quite beneficial to your health, but please don’t just assume that you’re doing it for a good reason. Yoga is a very different practice, and each asana could have a different purpose. For example, doing headstands and backbends during your yoga practice could help you keep your head in the game. But perhaps you want to lose weight or become more flexible. You can also practice your “down dog” style in yoga to stretch out that tight lower back, and many other Iyengar poses help with posture and flexibility. But it is important to talk to a qualified teacher about your reasons to practice yoga, and make sure you’re meeting your goals.
Iyengar yoga is one of the most traditional forms of yoga, and I believe it is a form of yoga that has tremendous power to benefit and heal the body. There are countless reasons to practice Iyengar yoga, but here are eight that make this practice worth trying.
1. Greater flexibility
You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to practice Iyengar, but if you do, it can be one of the side effects you’ll experience.
Iyengar is a slow, gentle exercise that leads the practitioner to a stretch and holds it for about a minute. Through the use of props, any practitioner, from beginner to advanced, can perform postures without causing pain or injury.
2. Tense muscles
In addition to stretching your muscles, the physical activity required to hold each pose will help you build strength and tighten your body.
Since Iyengar involves the whole body, the emphasis is not just on the core muscles, but teaches the practitioner to think about where the muscles are connected to other parts of the body and to include them. The result is an amazing tightening effect for the entire body.
3. A quieter mind
When you do an asana or posture, Iyengar asks you to focus on the alignment, ignore all other thoughts in your mind and be in the present moment. You can see it as a form of meditation, and as with meditation, the more you practice it, the calmer your mind becomes, both on and off the mat.
4. Pain management
Studies have confirmed that Iyengar yoga can relieve back and neck pain. By focusing on alignment, Iyengar helps to overcome sitting, bending and the muscle weakness that leads to back and neck pain.
This exercise also stretches the muscles of the back and releases the tension that causes pain.
5. Posture Improvement
By focusing on proper posture, Iyengar yoga helps strengthen the muscles responsible for posture, such as the legs, back and core.
With small adjustments that improve alignment, small and often neglected muscles become stronger. The result is that you will sit and stand straighter, which will give you more energy, less pain and more self-confidence!
6. Disease control
Disease often occurs when the body’s normal processes are not working as they should. Iyengar yoga helps improve the overall functioning of the body, from the circulatory and lymphatic systems to the nervous system and digestion.
When the body’s systems are doing their job, the organs are nourished, toxins are eliminated and the risk of certain diseases is reduced.
7. Dietary and lifestyle improvements
When you quiet your mind and improve your physical well-being, your body responds with a desire – even a craving – for a healthier lifestyle. This means eating healthier and making healthier lifestyle choices. Iyengar teaches you to love your body, and how can you really love your body if you abuse its unhealthy potential?
8. Improved respiration
While holding the asana and paying attention to alignment, Iyengar also teaches you to focus on your breathing.
Whether you realize it or not, many of us hold our breath during times of stress. However, the more you practice Iyengar yoga breathing, the less you will unconsciously hold your breath, and oxygen to the brain is good!
If you are new to yoga or just starting out with the Iyengar method, I encourage you to try this style and see how many of these and other benefits you will experience.