Chet is a Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher and has been practicing yoga for over 15 years. He teaches three to four yoga classes per week.
Yoga students are hungry for information. After a few weeks or months of classes, they start to feel better and want to begin practicing at home. Some students will repeat yoga poses they remember from class; others want a yoga DVD or video to guide them through a sequence. Often, both new and experienced yogis search for yoga books to help them deepen their practice or to learn more about yoga philosophy and history.
Students of Iyengar yoga are fortunate to have a large number of resources available. B.K.S. Iyengar and some of his longtime students have written extensively on the topic of yoga. There are books on yoga asanas (poses), pranayama (regulation of the breath), philosophy and more. Some of these are targeted for beginners and some are easily accessible only to intermediate and advanced students or teachers. Though these resources are all in the Iyengar yoga tradition, they can be useful to all practitioners of hatha yoga.
Several DVDs and online yoga videos are directed toward those wanting to practice Iyengar yoga poses. Though not as numerous as Iyengar yoga books, these are still worthwhile ways for all yoga students to learn more about yoga. Let’s take a look at some of the best Iyengar yoga resources.
Iyengar Yoga Books
Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar - First published in 1966, Light on Yoga is still the most comprehensive, thorough, detailed and informative yoga resource available. At over 500 pages, it is often called the Bible of yoga. The book has a long introduction that gives an overview of the depth and breadth of yoga, followed by almost 400 pages of descriptions and lots of pictures of yoga asanas and a section with instructions for the basic types of pranayama. The appendices provides sequences for over a year’s worth of intensive yoga practice and lists of asanas for various ailments.
For most people, the book has more than a lifetime worth of yoga practice and study. The sheer volume of information and number of asanas can seem overwhelming at times, but Light on Yoga remains an essential resource for serious students of yoga. Unfortunately, the format of asana instructions and photos is not as user friendly as it could be. That’s a rather small complaint given the value of this book.
Yoga The Iyengar Way by Silva, Milva & Shyam Mehta - This is the book I usually recommend for students that want to learn more about basic yoga poses and begin a home practice. Close to 100 asanas are shown with photos and detailed instructions. The layout and format are easy to follow. Variations, often using props, are shown to adapt poses based on ability. Like Light on Yoga, there are sections on pranayama, philosophy and asanas for health issues. There are lots of yoga sequences given for home practice; most can be completed in an hour or less.
Published in 1990, Yoga The Iyengar Way remains the most accessible and affordable Iyengar yoga book for most students. The Mehtas all studied with B.K.S. Iyengar for many years.
Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by B.K.S. Iyengar - If you are interested in a thorough, in-depth discussion of yoga philosophy, this is your book. The yoga sutras were written 1200 or more years ago and serve as the foundation of classic yoga. Iyengar interprets and expounds upon each of the 196 individual sutras. Each sutra is an aphorism or brief statement. The book is not for beginning yogis, but those interested in applying yoga to all aspects of their life will return to it again and again.
The Sanskrit glossary at the end of the book is a particularly useful resource.
The Tree of Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar - This is the book I often suggest for those ready to move beyond regular asana practice to study other aspects of yoga. Iyengar writes about his personal history, yoga history and each of the eight limbs of yoga. The chapters are short, so that each can be read in a single sitting. When I first got this book, I read a chapter each night before bed. An excellent, practical introduction to yoga philosophy with ways to incorporate it into your daily life and into your yoga practice.
Iyengar Yoga Videos Online
The the best way to learn yoga is directly from a qualified yoga teacher. For some, due to distance, circumstances or finances, this is very difficult to do on a regular basis. If you are in this situation, or just want to experience a different perspective, there is the internet. There are very few complete Iyengar yoga classes online. This may be partly due to the Iyengar teaching methodology; initial instructions are given and then poses are refined or repeated based on what the teacher sees in class. A few highly qualified Iyengar instructors do have some videos online.
Senior Iyengar teacher John Schumacher, who studied with Iyengar beginning in the 1970s, has several short videos sponsored by iHanuman. A dozen of these are focused on specific yoga poses. The instructions are detailed and precise. There are also several short interview segments with Schumacher.
Searching for Patricia Walden on YouTube will lead you to a series of varying length videos. Some are demonstrations and some are instructional. Walden also has a very senior level of Iyengar yoga certification. She teaches with directness and compassion.
Iyengar Yoga DVDs
Yoga for Beginners - Patricia Walden - This is probably the best DVD to get if you are brand new to yoga. The pace is slow enough that you will not be lost or overwhelmed. Ways to use props and modify some of the poses are shown; there are two or three different sequences shown. More experienced students or those wanting a fast-paced vinyasana yoga sequence may be disappointed.
Iyengar Yoga with Gabriella - Gabriella Giubilaro is an Italian Iyengar yoga teacher who teaches internationally. Her DVD works well as a home practice supplement for students that have some Iyengar yoga experience. Like most senior level teachers, she has studied Iyengar yoga since the 1970s. The demonstrations and instructions are clear, but some level of basic knowledge is assumed. Some modifications with use of props are shown.
It’s hard to find a yoga DVD that makes everyone happy; it can be a hit or miss process. Fortunately, these DVDs are fairly inexpensive. If you don’t like one, try another.
The Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States website has lots of information for students and yoga teachers. The IYNAUS store has additional books and DVDs not listed above. Most of them are of interest only to intermediate and advanced students and teachers of the Iyengar approach to yoga.
Even with all of the items listed above, remember the best way to learn yoga or refine yoga poses is with a good teacher and dedicated, regular practice.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 chet thomas