Yoga is an invaluable tool in letting us navigate through our lives with its physical, mental and emotional ups and downs. Practiced intelligently and regularly, it can become the force that anchors our lives.
For sure, the practice needs to be adapted not just to one’s age, but also to one’s physical, mental, emotional state. Women’s practice should reflect the stage of life they are in (youth, pregnancy, menopause, menstruation). In fact, whether or not your yoga practice is adaptable to your life-condition is a great litmus test of its veracity. There are traditions where yoga is practiced in an all-or-none style. If you are sick, getting old or feeling weak - exactly at times when you need your practice - it is either proscribed, or it is not physically possible. Part of the uniqueness of the tradition as developed by B.K.S. Iyengar is its adaptability. A good teacher can teach students to become sensitive to their own physical/ mental emotional state, and guide them on adapting their practice suitably whenever required.
Many men do not come to yoga thinking that their bodies are stiff and that flexibility is a pre-requisite. Or that yoga is only for toning/ weight loss, and not for strength building. All these are misconceptions. Men need yoga and benefit from it just as much as women do.
It is true that older people benefit tremendously from yoga. Often, this is the only form of physical exercise that is accessible to them. Starting a yoga practice early in life gives one the opportunity to explore the body when its abilities are higher. Young people will find that the practice of yoga can be adapted to make it challenging for them. It goes much beyond a physical exercise regimen and it makes them better students/ householders/ career-people, as well as preparing them for their old age.
“Even if a child is interested in yoga, you will kill that that interest if you put them in an adults class.”
B.K.S. Iyengar, Tree of Yoga
Children can practice yoga. But it has to be remembered that children and adults are in very different states of physical, emotional and intellectual development. A child’s intellectual development has not reached the level of an adult, but the child has higher intuitive intelligence – observing and learning certain things faster than adults; the child does not like monotony, needs variety, and is capable of fast body movements; children do not need the kind of quiet, restorative poses that are beneficial for adults, and in fact should not be forced to do them. Children’s yoga classes are designed keeping these things in mind. While a one-off mom/dad-and-me class can be a lot of fun, children's classes and adults classes should be conducted separately.
Many people stay away from yoga thinking their bodies are too stiff. This is akin to saying that one should not bathe because one is too dirty. Precisely because you are too stiff, you should start a yoga practice, before your physical stiffness starts manifesting as a physical disease.
"There is a popular misconception that yoga is only for those who have power of concentration. But all of us are not so endowed. A careful study of literature in yoga indicates that yoga can be practiced by anyone, whether he has a kshipta (wandering mind), mudha (forgetful mind), vikshipta (oscillating mind), ekagrata (one-pointed mind), or niruddha (restrained mind)."
- B.K.S. Iyengar
The recommended yogic diet is vegetarian, with some dairy, low on spice and oil, and eaten in moderate amount. However, as a beginner, the only thing you have to do is to do the yoga. As the body becomes more intelligent and sensitive, superfluous or harmful habits will be discarded along the way without undue effort.
“Human suffering is the same; afflictions of the body are the same; afflictions of the mind are the same. Diseases are common to all human beings, and yoga is given to cure those diseases. Nowhere in the ancient texts is it said that yoga is to be practiced only by the Hindus. On the contrary, Patanjali describes yoga as 'sarvabhauma’. ‘Bhauma’ means the world. ‘sarva’ means all. Yoga is a universal culture. Just as it works on the whole of the individual, so it is meant for the development of the whole of mankind on the physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual levels.”
B.K.S. Iyengar, Tree of Yoga
The practice of yoga as developed by Mr. Iyengar is acknowledged universally for its sophisticated therapeutic approach as well as its adaptability to various life conditions. At the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune, ailments from the simple to the most complex are addressed through special therapeutic classes. Many of the large Iyengar Yoga Centres worldwide also conduct special therapeutic classes. However, at the practice room, we do not yet have the resources to conduct therapeutic sessions. We are equipped to advise students on adaptations, contra-indications and beneficial actions for generic problems. However, this is done within a general class. If your physical condition is such that you wont be able to do most things in a general class, we cannot admit you right now.