Daily Archives: January 15, 2014

Iyengar Yoga with no props? No prop-lem!

ImageIyengar yoga has a mistaken reputation nowadays as “the style that focuses on props.” While it is true that props were introduced to recover from and prevent injuries through proper alignment (see Shoulder Stand Done Right), a main objective for Iyengar instructors is to develop the students to rely less on the props and eventually achieve the classic asana.

Here are two examples of Utthita Trikonasana:


You can’t get any better than this. Notice how his palm is on the floor BEHIND the shin and notice what that does to his upper body. It makes his chest spacious and vital. This is the classic pose. Notice how there are many triangles in this pose emulating a sri yantra. See if you can count them all.


This is how I see a lot of beginner students doing the pose. Notice how the hand is in front of the shin and the effect on her chest. It is collapsed and not vital. Her front leg is also slightly bent diminishing the structural integrity of the pose. She clearly needs a prop.

So what should she do if she does not have any props around? Use a shin! That is your body’s natural prop for Utthita Trikonasana.


By using her shin, this woman is recreating the vital chest of the first example. For some of my students, I even have them put their hand on the thigh to get the correct chest. You want to avoid putting the hand on the knee as it is a joint and can cause injury.

For this blog, I am addressing primarily basic students. For the first five years of Iyengar yoga, students should have a strong emphasis on Utthista Stithi (standing poses) to develop a strong skeletal-muscular structure to withstand more advanced poses.

Next time you are at a park, or want to do some yoga during your lunch hour with no props around. Here is a good standing sequence:

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose)


2) Tadasana Urdvha Baddangulyasana (Mountain pose with bound fingers over head)


Utkatasana (Fierce pose) most mistakenly call this “chair pose”


3) Utthita Trikonasna with hand on shin


4) Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)


5) Vrksasana (Tree pose)


6) Virabhadrasana I


7) Virabhadrasana III


8) Dandasana (Staff pose)


9) Upavistha Konasna (Seated angle pose)


10) Vajrasana (lightning bolt pose). If this hurts your knees, omit and do more upavistha konasna work.


11) Savasana (corpse pose) No photo needed. If you are are on a dirty floor or grassy surface, you can omit and end in Vajrasana.

The above is one of those “go to” sequences when you are away from your normal yoga practice. You could even build a practice on the above poses, but you want to eventually incorporate Viparita Stithi (inverted poses).

There are many “prop less” poses. The whole book of Light on Yoga shows asanas without props. Just remember than when Mr. Iyengar wrote and published those pictures, he was doing 4 hours of yoga daily for decades. But he started that practice with the basics of the standing poses like the ones featured above.

Why BKS Iyengar is a strong candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize


Courtesy Sakal Times

This year’s field of candidates for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize will be vast. Among them all, one stands head and shoulders above the rest: BKS Iyengar. Why would this 95 year old man be such a worthy candidate? He has dedicated his life studying and teaching yoga according to Patanjali’s yoga sutras and adapting them to modern life. As a result, yoga has sprouted outside of India not only in the West, but in the most unlikely of places: Iran, The West Bank of Israel, and Yemen.

Iyengar has defied the odds for the sake of propagating yoga to the world. He was born a sickly child with malaria and TB and was extremely impoverished. He took up yoga from his brother in a law, Sanskrit Scholar Krishnamacharya. His teachings were very harsh, but Iyengar was able to withstand them. He took the teachings further, and refined them using available bricks and other tools as “props.”

He went through years of poverty, but was steadfast in his yoga practice. In 1966, he published Light on Yoga which has become an essential text for modern yoga. He has also developed a system of teaching yoga that is safe and accessible for all levels of students. His teaching program remains the most rigorous, taking a candidate up to 4 years to be fully certified through a series of peer reviewed assessments. This is his contribution to glean the best and most serious teachers from those who are casual in their approach to the subject.

Because of these high standards, Iyengar’s yoga system has brought peace and health to thousands worldwide. One of his most famous students, Father Joe Pareira, is using Iyengar’s system to treat substance abuse. He has also adapted his poses for medical purposes. There are numerous studies emerging from medical journals about how Iyengar Yoga is helping with a host of ailments that the medical community only treats superficially.

Philanthropically, Iyengar has donated a portion of his wealth to help build schools and provide clean water for his hometown of Bellur, India. His trust has built a special high school for girls, so they do not have to travel to a faraway neighboring town for their education.

At 95 years old, Iyengar still practices yoga more than 2 hours daily at his home and institute in Pune India. He can still do an uninterrupted headstand for 30 minutes! His daily practice is a testament to what is possible for the aged.

No Indian has ever won the Nobel Peace Prize (not Gandhi, not Mother Theresa). It is about time the world has properly recognized this country’s contribution to world peace. There is no greater representative of peace than BKS Iyengar.

Below is a link to petition BKS Iyengar to receive the Nobel Peace Prize: