Category: Useful Asana Resources

Elizabeth has recently discussed the question of how one’s practice changes as one ages. The same question was addressed recently in a Q&A in the NY Times, which included the following exchange referencing Mr. Iyengar.

Q. For fit people without specific health issues in middle age who already practice yoga, it would be nice to have knowledge about and access to a series of poses appropriate for this age group, which can be arranged into routines of various difficulties to form the core of a yoga class. Also targeting areas, like the lower back, with specific poses for this age group would be helpful. We can then take this knowledge to and practice it with our local yoga community. Thanks. — David, Maine

Q. Which yoga styles are best if you’re starting at age 50? — LOL, Ithaca

Q. I am 61. Very inflexible, have a history of low back and neck pain that are currently minor. I get regular exercise at a gym and I hike in the mountains several times a week. What is the best way to get introduced to yoga? — Burrito’s, Westbrook, Maine

A. Besides these readers, Big Bird from NYC and SH and Pinotman from Chicago wrote in wanting to know the best place and the best way to begin or resume yoga when you are over 50. The absolute best way is to find out what your liabilities are, and this is an individual matter, requiring a medical visit or summary. The next step is an appointment with an experienced and smart yoga teacher, one on one. Group classes are an artifact of urban economics: the teacher cannot afford to live in the city in which she teaches any other way. But chronic conditions are cumulative, by definition: when you’re older you need the individual attention that yoga has traditionally offered.

I believe the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar are the most anatomically sophisticated and therapeutically oriented, but there are many other good types of yoga. You’ll need a resourceful and sensitive person to get you started, and to introduce you to an appropriate yoga practice that you can do every day. Then, after a month or two or three, you should go back to that person for a reassessment and suggestions about how to progress to the next step. Yoga, practiced consistently, does good things to your temperament and perceptions.

To read the whole article, go here.



Elizabeth recommends an interesting site called IHanuman which lets people download classes for practice and has a lot of other material as well. The site shares the teaching of a number of yoga teachers including one of Elizabeth’s teachers, John Schumacher.

They describe themselves as follows: We are an online community of yoga teachers dedicated to serving the yoga world. iHanuman is the monkey bridge between students, teachers, and the ancient wisdom of yoga. We have created an avenue for people to connect with others through new technology and positive social media. We offer audio and video of your favorite teachers. Our focus is yoga including ayurveda, sanskrit, philosophy, meditation, and yoga therapy.

To visit the site click on the image above or go to .

Inner Yoga: Selected Writings of Sri Anirvan

This book explores the meditative aspects of yoga. It might be of particular interest if you are experimenting with or beginning to think about sitting meditation. Written by Sri Anirvan, who was a monk, scholar and philosopher, this book includes the meditation: breathing the vastness of the sky in on the in-breath and breathing oneself out into that vast sky on the out-breath. This book is not at the Bellingham Public Library unfortunately, but you can order it through Village Books here.

A Photographic Exploration of Yoga Poses

For home practice, it’s very useful to use the yoga sequence practice sheets here. For those wanting to think about and explore more poses between classes, there is a blog called Yoga Art and Science that has a kind of yoga pose photographic encyclopedia here. The person who writes this blog is very much Iyengar-based (though he has other influences) and so much of what he writes will be familiar.

Practicing Iyengar yoga offers us the creative and perhaps potentially daunting task of sorting through WHAT to practice when we practice on our own. The gift is in the possibility of finding a practice that suits our emotional state, physical condition, stage of life and so forth; in at least many other yoga traditions, there is much more set sequencing—this leaves less room for tailoring practice to particular needs of the moment. Having a few basic guidelines for “the natural order” of poses in the Iyengar system will help you find your way, as will relying initially on books, class remembrances and recorded sequences, prior to you being motivated to consider truly formulating your own sequences. As one astute student points out, the teacher is actually teaching students to BE their own teachers! So, if you plan on formulating your sequences, consider your emotional and physical state of the moment, any ongoing chronic conditions you would like to be focussing on regularly, and then also know that if you plan on inversions and will practice classical sirsasana (headstand) you then will also need to practice shoulderstand (sarvangasana), though you could practice the latter singularly. Also, if you practice backbends or forward bends, it is important if not essential to practice the appropriate preparatory poses for the body to yield to the more demanding spinal tasks of these categories of asanas. And then, a bit of counter pose is important as well; so if you have a backbend practice, some neutral spine and forward bending is important when you have finished the backbending, for example. There is also the consideration here that if you are practicing even standing poses, that if you have tight hamstrings, calves or hips you as an individual, may be optimizing your practice with asanas to prepare for the standing poses, though there is no guideline in general suggesting this approach. If you have been in classes over the years, you may likely have an “imprint” that is influencing your sense of the “natural order” of asanas; being awake and aware to the order in class will help you develop a more natural sense of the orders of asanas that will serve you in home practice. So as usual, paying attention, being awake is an important and central element of practice! Ruturning to the simple approach, most important is beginning to practice, and so there is always the handy formula, passed along to me by Felicity Green, of choosing an asana from class that was challenging, and one that was agreeable, and focussing on those for a satisying “seed” of a hopefully expanding garden of possibility.

In this second week of Summer Session, I am delving again into the subject of developing your own practice of yoga. Often this topic provokes guilt or disappointment, as students recognize their lack of initiative in practicing at home. If we can witness these reactions, and explore more openly, we may find just the right insight to help inspire a more fulfilling practice, especially if we are motivated by clear intention in WHY we do yoga! One important element in practice, is in its offering of relief, sanctuary and healing in our lives. In order to experience this, it is essential that we decide on our expectation of how much time we will spend that is reasonable within the context of all our other tasks and pleasures! I have recognized that many students receive benefit from just 10 or 15 minutes of practice, several times a week. As it turns out, major medical research studies bear out the truth that even practice short in duration can creat measureable change for an individual. Record your practice sessions in your calendar and conduct your own study to see  what difference your practice makes, physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as in your spirit!

Intention in Practice

In considering how to help students practice at home, a strong challenge for many, I will be offering suggestions and support through the summer session; if one establishes a practice, however modest when it is warmer and lighter, it is easier to continue practicing when the season may take us towards less natural inclination to move our bodies! The first step in establishing a home practice, is in clarifying your own intention in practicing; ask yourself why you would like a practice– is it for flexibility? strength? general physical well-being? self-inquiry? deeper relaxation? As you narrow the intention to specifics within that arena of practice, it will become clearer how and what to practice. If you are focussed and INTENTIONAL in your practice, you will have the most obvious and satisfying results.  If you have a sense of clarity of purpose in the foreground, when the inevitable resistance to a specific moment of practice arises, you will be buoyed by your intention. Take a few moments to write your intentions in practicing yoga on a card or piece of paper, and leave it near where you keep props for practice, or someplace where you will remind yourself of your intention.

As requested, here are more details on the books mentioned in class this week.

Inner Yoga: Selected Writings of Sri Anirvan

This book explores the meditative aspects of yoga. It might be of particular interest if you are experimenting with or beginning to think about sitting meditation. Written by Sri Anirvan, who was a monk, scholar and philosopher, this book includes the meditation which you might do during savasana this week: breathing the vastness of the sky in on the in-breath and breathing oneself out into that vast sky on the out-breath. This book is not at the Bellingham Public Library unfortunately, but you can order it through Village Books here.

Yoga-for-a-World-Out-of-Balance-coverThis book, written by Michael Stone, activist and ethicist, explores how yoga can help us to live an ethical, sustainable and just life. The book has been described as an explanation of “how yoga belongs in our world and how the world belongs in our yoga.” The Bellingham Public Library has it here. Or you can order through Village Books here.

Yoga The Iyengar Way

This book, published a couple decades ago by Silva, Mira & Shyam Mehta (with the blessing of Mr. Iyengar), is very useful for home practice. It has large, informative photographs of asanas and detailed instructions about how to work in the poses and how to work toward the poses with props. The text includes sanskrit names for poses,  sequences for a variety of ailments, as well as discussion of breathing practice and overall yoga philosophy. And it’s all in very much the Iyengar style. This book is available at the Bellingham Public Library here if you want to try it out before purchasing. It’s also available at Village Books (at the moment there’s one sitting on the shelf there).

If you have a book that you’ve found helpful in your yoga practice or in understanding and exploring yoga philosophy, please share it in the comments.