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Yoga as Therapy

Jennifer Beaumont, of the Iyengar Yoga Center of Grand Rapids, demonstrating the “classic” version of triangle pose without any props.

The practice of Iyengar Yoga is diverse; there is a wide variety of approaches within the method itself. This variety in approaches is important because people are varied. People within the same age group are varied compared to each other — for instance, some people are fit and some are not. And a person will need a variety of approaches throughout his or her lifetime. For this reason it is possible to practice Iyengar Yoga your entire life long. You don’t need to take up a new form of exercise when you get older.

The Iyengar Yoga method teaches students how to use props to complement a pose. If you cannot touch your toes with straight legs there’s no problem — you can use a belt, or block. The teacher will teach you how to best use the prop to support your specific needs. Some students do not require the use of a lot of props but some students need to use more props more often because of their limitations. It’s not a one size fits all approach. But just adding props to a pose does not make what you are doing Iyengar Yoga. A Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher knows when and how to use props for the individual person in front of them.

Carrie Owerko demonstrating one of the numerous ways to use props in the triangle pose. Check out her Yoga Journal article Iyengar Yoga 101: Triangle Pose Three Ways.

BKS Iyengar believed in the benefits of the use of props and developed an approach which could be therapeutic. At his Institute in Pune, India, which is now run by his daughter, son and granddaughter, there are daily “medical” classes. These classes are for students whose needs do not allow for attendance in the general classes. Many of these students have chronic health conditions which have been helped by the practice of Iyengar Yoga. Each student receives a sequence tailored to treat their health concern. When they come to the class they practice their sequence — sometimes with the help of an assistant. And often times there are many props involved.

The therapeutic approach, unique to Iyengar Yoga, has been the subject of many medical studies in the United States. The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States has documented many of these studies. You can read about many of the studies on the Research page of the IYNAUS website. Click on the images below to read the synopsis of two of these studies; one study on depression and one on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Iyengar Yoga & Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Iyengar Yoga & Treatment of Depression

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