Yoga is for everyone. But not every type of yoga is for everyone.Many like to bounce around and explore many different styles, teachers and studios before they find exactly what they want in a yoga class. After all, certain styles can feel radically different from one another.
But one of the least popular types of yoga among athletes and active folks may very well be among the most beneficial. A form of Hatha Yoga called Iyengar Yoga, created by B.K.S. Iyengar is known mostly for its extensive use of props like blocks, blankets, straps and ropes hanging from the wall.
It's very precise (you just can't get away with a lazy downward dog in one of these classes) and really focuses on the structural alignment of the body. Teachers stress the effect that every tiny action, right down to the exact positioning of your fingers or hands, has on the rest of your body. In fact, some medical schools, like Temple Medical School in Philadelphia has actually employed an Iyengar class in their first-year med school requirements for their medical students, in conjunction with their anatomy classes.
For this reason, Iyengar can be a great type of yoga for athletes—but it's certainly not for everyone.
Here are some of the pros and cons of getting into Iyengar to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to give it a try.
It's Hands On: Iyengar teachers have a well-developed eye. They'll observe and work closely with each student to individualize corrections. They adjust everyone according to their needs, injuries and body types. For runners and athletes who really take a toll on themselves, physically, the individual attention to your particular alignment and muscle intelligence is the bodywork you need.
You Can Go to Class With a Recovering Injury: In fact you should go with a recovering injury. You can have total and complete trust in your teacher to help you address and rehab your particular ailment, pain, suffering or physical problem and to adjust every pose for you based on your phase of recovery. Iyengar is often used in conjunction with physical therapy since it assists in the manipulation of the inflexible or injured area.
It Can Help You Prevent Future Injuries: Use it in conjunction with your training and events. It's like getting your car serviced and is just as beneficial as massage. Plus, your teacher will give you methods for home practice that you can also use to stretch and activate your muscles before your workout or training session.
It Gives You a Good Foundation: Become practiced in Iyengar and you can take all that precision and apply it to other classes where you flow into poses quicker ...or where you may not get as many adjustments and hands on attention.
You won't be as prone to pain or injury from doing poses wrong and you'll be more apt to get the full range of benefits from every yoga class you attend.
It Can Feel Slow: Iyengar isn't always the heart-pumping workout that you might want. Sometimes you only work on a series of three or four poses in one hour or hour-and-a-half long class. Teachers spend a lot of time on demonstrations and explanations. If you're looking to get your sweat on or get into a good-paced flow, an Iyengar class may not be your cup of tea.
Still, depending on the particular series you may practice in any given class and because, in Iyengar, you do hold poses for longer periods of time, there's still that chance that you can feel good and sore the next day.
It Can Feel Rigid and Demanding: In their attention to detail and precision, Iyengar teachers can come off as really strict and somewhat formal. They are usually adamant about new Iyengar students acclimating in intro classes—no matter how much other yoga experience you've had.
And this is because they will expect you to memorize the correct way to fold your blankets, use your props, the correct way to get into every pose (no matter how complicated and with how many props) and they sometimes won't use the English words for Sanskrit names in more advanced classes.
There is little room for interpretation here, when it comes to the way to do the poses. If you've gotten behind or have missed quite a few classes, you can feel out of place and a little dumb.
What's more, they expect you to practice at home. If you have tight hamstrings, your teacher will remember that. If you aren't putting in the home practice he or she designs for you to lengthen those hamstrings, your teacher will know. But then again, if your hamstrings are that tight,Iyengar might just be the kick in the bum you need to work on them.