Iyengar Yoga Sequence for Beginners (20-Minute Routine)

Iyengar Yoga was revolutionary when it was first popularized in the 1960s.

It really sets itself apart from other styles of yoga, both in its approach to the practice and the elevated focus on form and alignment.

Below we detail the most important tips for those new to Iyengar Yoga and walk you through a 20-minute Iyengar Yoga sequence for beginners!

Is Iyengar Yoga Good for Beginners?

One of the reasons Iyengar Yoga is so popular is its accessibility. This style of yoga holds alignment and proper execution of each pose in the highest regard. As a result, Iyengar practitioners are encouraged to use yoga props, such as blocks, straps, bolsters, and blankets.

Due to the special focus on alignment, and the extensive use of props, Iyengar Yoga is popular among beginner yogis, elderly practitioners, as well as students with disabilities and mobility issues.

In essence, the philosophy of Iyengar practice is that each pose can be adapted to suit the needs and abilities of practitioners of varying levels of experience. A clear benefit of Iyengar yoga is that once you establish the proper alignment, it’s much safer and sustainable long-term. Of course, all of that means this style is great for novice practitioners!

Iyengar Yoga Tips for Beginners

  • Take your time. The entire point of Iyengar practice is to do it well or not do it at all. If you struggle with particular asanas, take your time to establish a solid base for each posture. Learning the right form may take a while, but it’s worth it!
  • Props are your best friends! Is it possible to practice Iyengar Yoga without any additional equipment? Sure. But as a beginner, you want to give yourself the best chance to have a safe and enjoyable practice. If you’ve shied away from props, you’ll be amazed how much difference they can make even to the simplest of poses.
  • Endurance over strength. Iyengar follows a slower pace, with poses being held for a little while. When you get established in a pose, keep that in mind. You want to choose a variation you can perform for the entire duration without faltering.
  • Don’t discard the breath. Pranayama is an important part of Iyengar Yoga. Create some space for you to breathe and learn to control your own breath. This will bring a great benefit to your practice, as well as your life beyond the yoga mat.

Iyengar Yoga Sequence for Beginners

If you’re curious about the Iyengar practice and want to try it, this sequence is designed especially for beginner yogis.

So, grab your yoga mat and your props, and let’s get started!

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Steady breathing

Sit with your shins crossed in front of you. Lift through the crown of your head and rest your palms together at the heart center. Bring your chin slightly down and “inward” towards your throat. Stay here for 2-5 minutes with your eyes closed, all attention focused within. Try to establish a connection with your breath, noticing the rhythm, the sound,  the movement within your body, and the very feeling of air entering and exiting the body.

Add props: if you struggle to sit upright, elevate your seat with a block, a cushion, or a folded blanket. If your hips feel tight, you may add a block to support each thigh. Alternatively, use rolled-up blankets under each knee.

Awakening Arm and Shoulder Stretches

Inhale as you lift and lengthen, exhale as you descend or fold

Interlace your fingers, push the palms out in front of you, and straighten your arms. On an inhale, raise your arms above your head, lifting through the palms as if pressing them into an invisible ceiling. Stay here for about 30 seconds, breathing steadily and continuously lengthening through your spine. On an exhale, release your arms down.

Repeat the process once again, lifting the arms on an inhale. As you exhale, take a side bend to the left. Keep both sit bones grounded and breathe into the open space in your rib cage. After 30 seconds, inhale to rise into the upright position. Exhale and bend towards the other side. Keep your focus on your breath and your physical senses. After 30 seconds, return to the upright position. Exhale to release your arms.

Add props: if you have trouble connecting your hands with your arms lifted, stretch a yoga strap between your hands. That way, you can still benefit from the shoulder rotation and the “pushing” motion through the straight arms. For Easy Pose, the same modifications apply.

Upper Body Twists

Inhale to lengthen, exhale to deepen or release

Still in Easy Pose, reach your right hand towards your left knee. Gently turning through your chest and shoulders, position your left hand behind you. Make sure not to “sink” into the left shoulder. Instead, use the back hand for balance. Each time you inhale, broaden your chest and lift through the crown of your head. On the exhale, see if you can twist a little further. Spend about half a minute in this position. As you breathe out, carefully return to face forward. Repeat this twist on the other side.

Add props: if you can’t reach the opposite knee, you can either hold onto your upper thigh or loop a yoga strap around the knee. If you can’t reach down through the back arm without leaning, rest it on a yoga block. For Easy Pose, the same modifications apply.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Exhale to enter

Transition to a tabletop position. Bring your big toes together, and separate your knees to accommodate your rib cage and belly. Gently settle your hips back towards the heels. Lower your chest and forehead to the floor. Extend your arms forward, spread your fingers, and ground through your hands. Close your eyes and stay in Child’s Pose for 30-60 seconds. Focus on your breathing and take inventory of changes in the body.

Add props: if your hips can’t reach the heels without creating pain or discomfort, add a rolled-up blanket between your ankles and thighs for support. You can also rest your forehead on a block or cushion. Alternatively, if the forehead easily reaches the ground but the chest is suspended, you can support some of the weight with a block or a small bolster.

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Exhale to enter

Return to the tabletop position and bring your knees and feet to hip-width apart. Plant your hands firmly under your shoulders and engage the core. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, lift your knees off the floor and push your hips back into an inverted-V shape. Focus on creating a long, straight line from the wrists to the hips. Feel the stretch running through the back of your legs, and sink your heels towards the ground. If necessary, create a bend in your knees to maintain a straight line through your spine. Stay here for about 30 seconds.

Add props: if you have a practice buddy, you can ask them to help you. Let them stand behind you and wrap a yoga strap around the front of your hips. This can take some weight off the wrists and help you lengthen through the spine.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale to enter

From Downward Facing Dog, carefully step your feet towards the front of your yoga mat. Keep walking until the weight is resting fully in the soles of your feet. Try to maintain a long, straight back as you enter the pose. Keep your palms or fingertips in contact with the earth. Relax your neck completely. Feel the tension in your hamstrings and lower back. Stay here for about 30 seconds.

Add props: Reaching the floor in this position can be very difficult, especially when trying to keep the spine in an elongated position. Grab a pair of blocks and rest your hands on them to help you stay grounded. You can rest the blocks on any edge, depending on how much distance you are trying to cover between your hands and the floor.

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Inhale to enter

Soften through your knees. Engage the muscles in your back and lift your chest slightly. Connect with your core, and lift all the way to standing upright. On the inhale, reach your arms up. Keep your palms separate, with the arms positioned directly above the shoulders. Try to distribute the weight evenly through the soles of your feet. Keep your leg muscles active and your core engaged. Broaden through the chest and shoulders. Continue with steady breaths for about half a minute.

Add props: If you have trouble lifting your arms directly over the shoulders, stretch a yoga strap between your hands.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) – right side

Exhale to enter

Step your left foot back and turn the toes to allow the heel to land. Bend the front knee, but keep the knee directly above the front ankle. Don’t let it veer to the side, and don’t let it sink forward. Turn your hips and shoulders to face the long edge of your mat. Position your shoulders above your hips and open your arms wide. Extend through the fingertips as if someone’s pulling your hands apart. Turn your gaze forward, looking just over the middle finger of your right hand. Breathe freely and mindfully, and stay in this pose for 30 seconds.

Add props: if you struggle to support your weight with your legs in this position, you can add a chair under the front thigh. You shouldn’t completely relax into the seat, it’s only there for support. You can also practice this pose with your back to the wall to help you properly rotate.

Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) – right side

Exhale to enter

Lengthen through the front leg. Take a breath in and flip the front palm to face the sky. As you exhale, lean sideways towards your right leg and press the back of your right palm into the inner side of the shin, ankle, or foot. Use that contact to rotate your chest and shoulders away from the leg. Reach your left arm up, forming a straight line from your right hand to the left. Rotate your gaze up towards the left hand. Stay here for about 30 seconds.

Add props: you may add a block, or a stack of blocks, under the bottom hand for support. Be careful not to sink into that right shoulder if you rest it on the block.

Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Exhale to enter

From the Triangle Pose, use the top arm to create momentum and lift you into the upright position. Turn both feet to face the long edge of your mat. Turn the toes slightly inwards to rotate the hips and get a steady grip on your yoga mat. Rest your hands on your hips. Take an inhale and lengthen through the spine. As you exhale, start to gently fold forward, leading through the center of your chest. Keep your spine long and active the entire time. Each time you inhale, pause and broaden your chest. As you exhale, release your upper body a little bit lower. Once you’ve found the angle that works for your body, bring your palms to the ground. Stay here, and breathe steadily for 30-60 seconds. To exit, bring your hands back to your hips, and lift your torso halfway up. Activate your back muscles and return to the upright position on the inhale.

Add props: if you can’t reach the ground without compromising your posture, use a pair of blocks to bridge the gap.

Turn the toes on your left foot towards the back of the mat. Repeat the previous sequence on the other side of the body:

  • Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) – left side
  • Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana) – left side
  • Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)

Garland Pose (Malasana)

Inhale to enter

Instead of exiting Prasarita Padottanasana, heel-toe your feet closer together. With your heels positioned slightly wider than hip-width, open your toes outwards. With your hands still grounded and your back long, carefully lower your hips and lift your chest. Bring your hands together at the heart center, and place your elbows inside the knees. Keep your head held high, and focus on your breath.

Add props: If you struggle with ankle mobility, bring your heels closer together and lift them onto a pair of yoga blocks. You can place an additional block under your seat to support some of the weight.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Steady breathing

From Malasana, carefully lower yourself to your seat. Lie back and extend your legs on the mat. Bring your feet mat-width apart, and let your ankles relax. With your arms extended alongside the body, turn the palms to face the sky and let your fingers naturally curl. Soften your shoulders and lengthen the back of your neck. Close your eyes and relax your face. Bring the focus inwards and breathe. Stay here for at least 5 minutes.

Add props: sling your legs over a bolster, add an eye-pillow over your eyes, or cover yourself with a blanket. Make yourself as comfortable as possible.

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