Iyengar Asanas: 7 Common Poses to Practice

Iyengar Asana

Within the Iyengar asana index, are several seated, standing and lying poses, as well as a few inverted poses. A thorough practice of Iyengar yoga, whether in a yoga studio or a private session at home, will include asanas from several types of yoga.

For an in-depth treatment of the yoga philosophy of B.K.S. Iyengar, read his book, Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga. It's an excellent resource, and many students of Iyengar yoga deepen their practice and understanding of this type of yoga by reading it.

Not interested in reading the whole book? An overview of the most commonly-practiced yoga poses will help you to start practicing Iyengar yoga right away.

A Sample of the Iyengar Asana Index

Iyengar yoga focuses on technique instead of flow. The following Iyengar asanas should be practiced in a sustained manner. When moving into one of the poses below, do not force yourself so far that you are in a pose you cannot hold.

Instead, choose a position that is comfortable for you; each day of practice you can increase your stretch or increase the amount of time you balance in a position. Yoga is never about competition. Accept your own version of each pose below, and strive to make your own version as good as you can possibly make it.

Seated Poses

Part of the Iyengar asana index includes a selection of standing and sitting poses. Many yogis start their practice with sitting postures. These two seated poses are the most elementary of the seated Iyengar poses for beginners:

  • Swastikasana: The seated pose with legs crossed at the knees while the hands rest on the knees. This pose is ideal for focusing your mind and body, getting you ready for a mindful practice of yoga.
  • Virasana: A more difficult seated pose, with your feet tucked under your buttocks and your knees touching each other in front of your body. This pose can be made more comfortable by putting a folded towel or rolled yoga mat between your buttocks and your feet.

Additional seated postures in Iyengar asana index are for stretching and for improved posture, and are more difficult than the two seated poses above.

Standing Poses

Standing poses make up the bulk of the Iyengar yoga routine. From Downward Facing Dog to Tree Pose and Triangle Pose, standing poses will likely be the focus of your Iyengar practice.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana: Otherwise known as Downward Facing Dog', this pose is essential to Iyengar yoga. It is because Iyengar yoga focuses so closely on technique that this is an important pose; the pose can be quite simple depending on how far you stretch your legs and how deeply you fold forward between the outstretched arms. Many Iyengar students consider performing the perfect Downdog their most fulfilling moment of a class.
  • Utthita Parsvakonasana: An extended side angle pose, this posture requires flexibility and balance. If you are a beginner of Iyengar yoga, use a brick under your hand that is near the floor instead of putting your hand on the floor itself. This is a posture where you should find your own version if you can't quite obtain the ideal pose; with practice, your pose will become closer and closer to the pose that Iyengar prescribes.
  • Tadasana: An elementary standing pose referred to as Mountain Yoga Pose, this is a great way to work on your technique. Make sure the balls of your feet gripping the floor, and not your toes. Relax your shoulders, straighten your back, and support your body's weight with your thigh muscles, keeping your buttocks relaxed. Focus your mind and become mindfully aware of your breathing and your posture.

Inverted Poses

The Iyengar asana index includes inverted poses even though not all students practice them. Never try these poses without the help of an instructor for the first time.

  • Halasana: This inverted pose is a good beginner inversion posture because it uses chairs and cushions to support your body. In this way, it is a much less severe inverted pose than other options, such as the headstand.
  • Salamba Sirsasana: The Headstand Pose requires intensive supervision for the first several times the pose is attempted. For seasoned practitioners, inverted postures can be relaxing and help bring blood flow above the heart, which has great physical and mental benefits.

Learn More about Iyengar Yoga

This short overview of the Iyengar asana index provides a taste of some of the most common asanas practiced in this type of yoga. If you enjoy this style of yoga, consider joining an Iyengar yoga studio or investing in Iyengar yoga DVDs to learn more.

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Iyengar Asanas: 7 Common Poses to Practice