You crawl out of bed at the last possible moment, start up the coffee machine and stumble into the shower… do your mornings look a bit like this?
Is it a slightly frantic blur of lunch boxes, drinking your first coffee – still too hot – while checking your emails, then trying to find a matching pair of socks before running out to the car or the train, already 10 minutes late?
If this morning ritual is stuck on repeat, it is perhaps time to recognise the patterns that keep you frazzled and shift some habits. Starting your day energised by spending just a few moments on self-care every morning is time well spent. It will allow you to recalibrate and prepare you for the rest of the day. With a clear head and rested mind, you are more likely to cope with whatever that day has in store for you.
“My poor health was matched, as it often is when one is sick, by my poor mood”(B.K.S. Iyengar)
Starting the day with an Iyengar Yoga sequence makes a real difference to my sense of wellbeing. It’s my antidote to the stresses of life. It allows me to greet the day refreshed and calm. That little bit of me-time carved out from my morning has a positive ripple effect on everything – and everyone – I encounter and engage with that day.
We are celebrating International Day of Happiness this month, which serves as a timely reminder of the many small things we can do that will have a real, positive impact on our wellbeing and our pursuit of happiness. Looking after our body and mind through a yoga routine, self-care and care for others play an important role in how happy and balanced we feel.
I invite you to read on to get a deeper understanding of the health benefits of Iyengar Yoga. And to get you started on that new wellness habit straight away, I’ve developed an Iyengar Yoga sequence for you to try at home.
History of Iyengar Yoga
Founder B.K.S. Iyengar is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential yoga teachers globally. Sickly and frail as a child, he started to analyse his own body to understand the physiological and psychological effects of yoga techniques and refine them to overcome his poor health. This resulted in this style of yoga being practised widely today.
Iyengar Yoga is characterised by great attention to detail and a precise focus on body alignment. In all of my online or in-person classes, I always emphasise mastery of each pose and encourage each student to allow for time and patience to develop their yoga practice.
Iyengar Yoga is frequently perceived as a physical form of yoga because of its proven health benefits. However, it uses a far more holistic approach and can touch and extend our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being.
Iyengar Yoga is rooted in traditional yogic philosophy and based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which serve as roadmaps for the inner journey. It is a living tradition with techniques applicable and relevant to our modern times.
When practised with awareness, intention and purpose, it touches every level of our being and offers enormous physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
Health Benefits of Iyengar Yoga
“The evidence is showing that yoga really helps change people at every level.”(Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Stanford University, 2009)
In Iyengar Yoga, physical, mental and spiritual well-being melds, complements and impacts each other.
One cannot be without the other and combined, Iyengar Yoga’s benefits on our health and wellbeing are tremendous. Many studies have shown that its holistic approach can result in practitioners feeling fitter physically and mentally, more resilient, focused, and positive.
So let’s look at some of the common benefits, in no particular order:
Improved posture, strength and balance
Iyengar Yoga poses will help improve your core strength and will help you to sit and stand tall. Your muscles will strengthen and tone because you hold each pose for longer and some with props.
One-legged poses, for example, are designed to find your centre of gravity, bring the body into alignment, create a sense of stability and improve coordination. This, in turn, will nourish your nervous system and help build mental and physical resilience.
Improved body awareness also helps you notice – and correct – when you are slouching.
A US study revealed that 55% of respondents reported improved sleep when practicing yoga regularly. Most of us will have noticed that a lack of sleep or broken sleep can leave people moody, a tad more irritable and often less productive.
A good night’s sleep can:
- boost your immune system,
- strengthen your heart,
- improve your memory,
- increase your exercise performance,
- even help prevent weight gain.
Better sleep, better health, higher spirits!
It’s good for the heart
In Australia, about 1 in 10 people aged 18 and over have high blood pressure (2018). Whilst yoga is not a cure, studies have shown that focused breathing during yoga can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Yoga can also be beneficial to people who have suffered a stroke.
More focus and energy
Iyengar Yoga will help improve and recalibrate your mental focus, increase your circulation and improve your energy levels.
The precision of its practice has a grounding effect, allowing you to steady your breath and calm your mind.
Feeling more refreshed and fitter can have this wonderful snowball effect. We feel happier with ourselves, feel motivated to exercise more, eat healthier and have the energy to tackle the day ahead with a clear focus.
Chronic pain management
4 million Australians suffer from back pain (2018), and for 38% of sufferers that back pain interferes with daily life. Often triggered by muscle weakness and hunching, chronic back and neck pain can be a debilitating condition and burden. Studies have shown that this pain can be overcome with regular yoga practice. In Iyengar Yoga, we focus on alignment and stretch back muscles to relieve pain-causing tension. We also give attention to our breathing techniques, breathing into asanas for up to a minute, which can help alleviate chronic pain in general.
Did you know that just six weeks of practicing Iyengar Yoga can significantly increase your flexibility? We use props such as blankets, bricks or blocks to support your body in several poses that might otherwise be more difficult.
Increased flexibility will help with:
- Good posture
- Lowering the risk of injuries
- Less pain. Targeted stretches can release tension and tightness in your muscles
- A greater range of motion
- Less stress. You may feel more relaxed when muscle tensions are released
- Improved circulation to help with a faster recovery after exercise and prevent stiffness
Morning Iyengar Yoga practice
Yoga is a wonderful practice in so many ways. You won’t need a lot of space or expensive equipment. You can do it by yourself but also make it a group or family practice. Spending just 15 to 20 minutes a day on it will make a difference.
What is important, though, is that you are present and focused during that short period. No distractions! Make it part of your morning routine, like brushing your teeth. Mornings are the best time for yoga.
I have developed this short morning routine for you to try at home. It has six poses and emphasises quieting down the senses and allowing the body to be still, typically holding a pose for 30 seconds to up to a minute and ending with meditation and relaxation poses.
Today’s the day
By connecting body, mind and spirit, the positive impact of Iyengar Yoga practice on our health and wellbeing is tremendous. Make yoga your spoonful of sugar, the antidote in an increasingly busy world.
If you haven’t already, now is a good time to start Iyengar Yoga. It can be practiced by all body types, ages and levels. It can also help people with injuries. It is not a fast-paced form of yoga, and it is important to me that students are guided and developed according to their individual needs in all my yoga classes.
So, make today the day to start Iyengar Yoga. Start a class, bring a friend, make it a family activity. Contact me to find out more and find the best yoga class for you.