The Benefits of Iyengar Yoga

Can Iyengar Yoga Help You Heal?

Iynegar yoga. Child's pose
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Iyengar yoga is a style of yoga that emphasizes precision and physical alignment of the body. By working to achieve perfect alignment in each pose, Iyengar yoga students aim to create balance in the body and mind. In addition to helping students gain flexibility, balance, and strength, Iyengar yoga may be useful in the management of certain health conditions like chronic low back pain.

Practicing Iyengar Yoga

Like all forms of yoga, Iyengar yoga combines physical poses, deep breathing, and meditation. A unique feature of Iyengar yoga is the use of props (such as blocks, pillows, chairs, straps, and bolsters), which provide support and help students balance, stretch, and attain perfect alignment in each pose.

Iyengar yoga also involves performing poses in a specific sequence in order to maximize their beneficial effects. The poses can be standing, seated, or lying and may involve bends, twists, or inversions.

The Benefits of Iyengar Yoga

Research suggests that practicing Iyengar yoga may yield specific health benefits. Here's a look at some key study findings:

Low Back Pain

Iyengar yoga may reduce pain and improve health-related quality of life among adults with chronic low back pain, according to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga in 2014. Study results showed that yoga for four weeks resulted in significant reductions in pain intensity and improved physical and mental health-related quality of life compared to specific exercises targeting the back and abdominal muscles.

The yoga program in the study targeted core postural muscles (such as the abdominal, hip, and low back muscles and the diaphragm, hamstrings, quadriceps, and buttocks), lengthening and strengthening them through progressively more challenging poses.

When trying yoga for low back pain, it's important to work with your health care provider and a qualified yoga instructor who can help adjust the postures to your condition. Yoga poses that involve back bending, for instance, are often not done during the early recovery stage to avoid re-injury.

Breast Cancer Recovery

Iyengar yoga may not be more helpful than conventional therapeutic exercises in women with breast cancer who are undergoing chemotherapy, a 2016 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests. Researchers found that symptoms of dyspnea, appetite loss, constipation, and diarrhea improved in both groups, but yoga was not seen as more helpful than physical therapeutic exercises.

The Bottom Line

Although Iyengar yoga is generally regarded as safe, it's possible for injury to occur with any type of yoga if poses aren't executed properly. If you're considering trying Iyengar yoga for a specific health problem (or if you have a health condition), make sure to consult your healthcare provider before starting up your yoga practice.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.