B.K.S. Iyengar has systematised over 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama (with variations of many of them) ranging from the basic to advanced. This helps ensure that students progress gradually by moving from simple poses to more complex ones and develop their mind, body and spirit step-by-step.*Iyengar Yoga often, but not always, makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas (postures). The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimising the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Iyengar Yoga is firmly based on the traditional Raja_Yoga#Eight_limbs_of_Ashtanga_Yoga|eight limbs of yoga as expounded by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
FocusA form of Hatha Yoga, it focuses on the structural alignment of the physical body through the development of asanas. Through the practice of a system of asanas, it aims to unite the body, mind and spirit for health and well-being. This discipline is considered a powerful tool to relieve the stresses of modern-day life which in turn can help promote total physical and spiritual well-being.*It can be said that Iyengar differs from the other styles of yoga by three key elements: technique, sequence and timing.
Iyengar Yoga is characterized by great attention to detail and precise focus on body alignment. Iyengar pioneered the use of "props" such as cushions, benches, blocks, straps and sand bags, which function as aids allowing beginners to experience asanas more easily and fully than might otherwise be possible without several years of practice. Props also allow elderly, injured, tired or ill students to enjoy the benefits of many asanas via fully "supported" methods requiring less muscular effort.
Standing poses are emphasized in Iyengar Yoga. They are said to build strong legs, increase general vitality, and improve circulation, coordination and balance, ensuring a strong foundation for study of more advanced poses.*Unlike more experiential approaches where students are encouraged to independently "find their way" to the asanas by imitating the teacher, an Iyengar Yoga class is highly verbal and precise, with misalignments and errors actively corrected. Iyengar teachers complete at least two years of rigorous training for the introductory certificate. They may complete subsequent intermediate levels and senior levels of certification, potentially entailing a decade or more of training.
Healing effectsIyengar also targeted various ailments, diseases, and disorders with his practice. Chronic back pain, immunodeficiency, high blood pressure, insomnia, Depression (mood)|depression and menopause have specific programs of yoga associated with them. Iyengar worked with those who had myocardial infarctions.* The asanas are designed to be adjusted based on a person's stage of recovery.* These programs are formulated in their most advanced form at the centre of Iyengar Yoga: the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute located in Pune, India.
There have been many studies performed on the effects of Iyengar yoga on patients with physical problems. In general, Iyengar yoga is useful in physical therapy because it assists in the manipulation of inflexible or injured areas. One study by Dr. Sharon Kolasinski et al. studied the effects of Iyengar yoga on symptoms of osteoarthritis of the knees. The 11 participants attended a weekly 90-minute session for eight weeks in which they practiced Iyengar yoga. After the program, they had reduced pain and disability. This study had some limitations in that only 11 patients were involved and there was no scientific control|control group.*In another study, Iyengar yoga was shown to be promising as a complementary treatment for depression. Shapiro et al. performed this study in which 17 participants with major unipolar depression attended at least six sessions of Iyengar yoga. At the end, they reported a reduction in depression, anxiety, and anger. This was a pilot study with a single-group outcome design and no placebo or other control group. The study concluded that yoga is cost-effective and easy to implement and that it produces many beneficial emotional, psychological, behavioral, and biological effects.*