What exactly is Iyengar/alignment based yoga?
In 1966 B.K.S. Iyengar published the yoga bible: "Light on Yoga" his self-enquiry via thousands of hours of practice led him to formulate a system based on aligning the bones. The theory behind this was that when the bones are aligned the wear and tear of gravity on your body is considerably lower. This style of yoga is all about creating more intelligent action in the body and penetrates all the systems (nervous, endocrine etc) not just muscles, tissue and skin. This is why you end up sleeping better, as well as feeling stronger, happier & your brain function improves.
Pain is the body's way of telling you that your pattern of movement is not effecient. Alignment based yoga is all about creating more intelligent action in the body. This will lead to a more efficient body posture & thus, thankfully, less pain. For example if you come to class with lower back pain, the teacher will assist you to find relief from that pain and then how to avoid it occuring again. This awareness begins to be linked through all the poses presented in class and a new intelligence begins to dawn. In contrast, if that same student goes into a general yoga class in which the teacher is not trained to help them then the student may do all the postures in an unbalanced position, which is called an asymmetry. Asymmetries are what causes injury in the body over time. How we do yoga (& how we move in daily life), will either help our posture or hurt it. When I was in Edinburgh 3 years ago, I met the inspirational Garth McLean. A frend of his had suggested he take up Iyengar Yoga to support his recently diagnosed MS. As we contined handing out promotional material for our respective shows, he gave me the big California grin & said "pretty good considering the weather!" We laughed & discussed how we were managing to continue our practice whilst spending months on the road. He admitted to depending on a mostly restorative practice to counteract the busyness of the Edinburgh Festival. & to manage his endocrine system.
If you have a medical conditon - (or want to prevent one!) Iyengar/Alignment Based Yoga is ideal. Take time to slow down and pay attention. Of course this style of yoga will not appeal to everyone but if you want to practice yoga for the rest of their liit is a path that allows all ages to keep strong mentally & physically.