Category Archives: Yoga – Therapeutic

From #YOGA to Self-realisation.

Self-Discipline for Westerners.

As an Iyengar Yoga teacher, I’m at odds with Western depictions of what yoga is and what it’s about. To start with, there’s a fundamental issue I want to explore and that is our skewed Western view of the purpose of humility and respect.

At RIMYI, the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, we hear the phrase, “You people” used to describe “us Westerners”, when one of us has behaved like an idiot in class. It’s true – when we arrive most of us just don’t get it, and the learning curve is very steep.

20161110_091700_resized_1Take the crazy traffic as an example. The rule seems to be: keep moving, don’t waver and pedestrians, never step backwards – someone could easily be squeezing through the gap behind you. No one stops at roundabouts with the “After you” attitude of the Western give way system. Anyone who wavers causes problems for everyone else and I’ve seen dogs, cattle, pigs, hand carts loaded with all sorts, street sweepers (women in lovely saris with a long wispy broom) wandering up and down the roads quite safely while lorries, cars, motor bikes and scooters, often with several people on them (including children and babies), are doing things you’d get arrested for in the West. It might seem undisciplined and dangerous but if anyone causes an accident he/she will gather an angry crowd in seconds for displaying such stupidity and endangering the lives of others.

The practice hall in the Institute is a sacred place where for over 40 years Iyengar Yoga teaching has been developed, practiced and freely given. All the yoga props you see around the world today – wall ropes, bricks, belts, the trestler etc– and their therapeutic use in yoga, originated here, from hours of experimentation and refinement carried out in this room and in the small library below by BKS Iyengar, his family and his team of senior teachers. Why? Because in the beginning, Yoga is about healing, and they wanted to “help people who could not do”.


Today, the city of Pune and it’s 2.5 million inhabitants (about the size of Greater Manchester) has five or six generations of Iyengar Yoga students and teachers. The daily classes in the two practice rooms are filled to capacity. The queues for registration in May each year are legendary. The rigour and discipline in class are eye-watering to soft Westerners, poses often performed completely without props, except for a sticky mat. (The Seniors use bolsters and belts to ‘help them do’, to sit straight, or to raise their arms.) The classes are strong, quick and detailed; every instruction is delivered from ‘a very straight bat’. The locals love it, and their love and respect for the Iyengars and their teachers is clearly evident. In the world-famous Medical classes, Iyengar Yoga and props come together and are used with years of skill and experience, providing relief and respite to those who need help.

But some of the Westerners don’t seem to get it. During general classes, if you make a mistake, the length of the tirade will depend on your ability to explain what you were doing and why: in other words, your level of stupidity in not acting on instructions. In taking it upon ourselves to do something different, are we suggesting we know better? We are teachers – we go back to our countries and pass these instructions and our attitude on to others. To bear the Iyengar name, our teaching must be of the highest quality to instruct our students safely and appropriately. And as a student, we must truly know ourselves, and as we develop, we need teachers to show us our blind spots. This isn’t always comfortable, but Geetaji’s lesson to me changed my lazy chatush padasana and I am grateful for it!

20161107_091241_resized_1Indian culture is rich with gods and rituals. Humility, homage, respect are naturally and unselfconsciously displayed by people here. Discipline doesn’t need to be rigorously applied – the Institute isn’t festooned with notices telling us what we can and cannot do – because if you behave with humility, pay attention and show respect, there’s not a lot of need for reminders. But Western stupidity knows no bounds, apparently. Last week a group of Westerners ate a picnic in the practice hall between classes. That’s as bad as bringing your shoes into the Institute. Self-discipline and appropriate behaviour grow naturally from humility and respect. ‘It’s a cultural thing,’ someone once said. If you haven’t grown up embedded within that culture, your understanding of it will only ever be sketchy.

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Filed under Iyengar, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic

Yoga Days with Lovegrove Essentials.

Lovegrove Essentials Yoga & Spa Days at Saddle Street Farm are ideal if you want to organise something special for a group of friends, or give as a gift to someone you love. If you have any special requirements please let us know – we’re very happy to work with you to provide a relaxing and nourishing experience for your group.

Your spa day can be tailored for you with combination of a yoga class, massage therapy, beauty treatments, a make-up lesson, hair styling and nails; plus a delicious, healthy lunch.

Hannah Lovegrove – Iyengar Yoga Teacher with many years’ experience offers high-quality yoga classes in a fully equipped studio. Hannah is also a qualified masseuse and beauty therapist offering tinting, waxing, pedicures etc.
Hayley de Beers – top London make-up and hair artist.
Daniel Stevens – gifted chef and food writer, and author of the River Cottage Bread Book.

The Lovegrove Essential Day Spa packages:
£85 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch and a Massage Treatment.
£90 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, and an hour with Hayley.
£125 – Yoga Class with Hannah, lunch, a Massage Treatment, and an hour with Hayley.

For accommodation we recommend local B&B – Mary at Chapel End, Liz at Fulwood House and Lucy at Oathill Farm – all about 10 minutes from Saddle Street Farm and very reasonably priced. Please ask for details.


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Filed under Beginners etc., Boost Your Immune System, Healthy Eating, Iyengar, Lifestyle Changes, Mindfulness, Relaxation, therapy treatments, Well-being, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic, Yoga Days, yoga weekends

Iyengar Yoga home practice sheets.

These yoga routines are designed to be simple and easy to use. You may need some equipment, but most can be substituted with things you have at home. The first six sheets are suitable for all levels. The last two are suitable for more experienced students.
If you have any questions or comments, please use the box below.
With best wishes, Hannah.


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Filed under Beginners etc., Boost Your Immune System, Iyengar, Lifestyle Changes, Well-being, Yoga - Beginners, Yoga - Intermediate, Yoga - Therapeutic, Yoga Routines

How does yoga help lower anxiety levels?

There is an interesting article at Psychology Today on yoga stating :”Evidence that yoga can enhance anxiety-killing neurotransmitters in the brain”:

01 Urdhva Pras PadWhy does yoga help and a flood of alcohol hurt? Well, the money is on GABA. Gamma-aminobutryic acid is a neurotransmitter I’ve made brief mention of before. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the mammalian nervous system. It cools things off and chills things out. People with depression and anxiety have been shown to have low amounts of GABA in their cerebrospinal fluid. MRI spectroscopy has been used to estimate the amount of GABA in people who are depressed, and the levels are low compared to controls.
In 2010 the same group at BU did a second, somewhat larger study comparing walkers and yoga practitioners. Again, healthy people were studied, not anyone with psychiatric illness. This time, 19 yoga practitioners and 15 walkers did yoga or walked for an hour three times a week for twelve weeks. The yoga practitioners reported improved mood and anxiety compared to the walking controls, and MRIs showed increased GABA in the thalamus (a part of the brain) of the yoga practitioners compared to the walkers. The increase in GABA correlated with the decrease in anxiety scores, which makes sense. Since there is a body of evidence that exercise is helpful in depression and anxiety, it is interesting to see that yoga could be even more helpful than regular exercise.
See HERE for the full article.

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Filed under Relaxation, Well-being, Yoga - Therapeutic

Spainish students talk about the many benefits of Iyengar Yoga.

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October 13, 2013 · 7:19 am

Iyengar Yoga – a video showing therapeutic and remedial work.

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October 11, 2013 · 2:24 pm

Yoga for Detoxification – Alcoholics, Drug Addicts and Aids patients.

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October 11, 2013 · 2:01 pm

Daily Practice Routine 1


Standing Marichyasana

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July 24, 2013 · 6:24 am

Thinking of starting or resuming yoga in middle age?

Where to begin and how to practice yoga as you get older including general points on ageing, some risk factors, osteoporosis, balance, back pain, sciatica, joint pain, metabolism and the efficacy of Pilates.

To download & print an illustrated pdf, click HERE.

ImageFrom the article by Dr Loren Fishman, New York Times – 8th May 2013. Loren Fishman, MD is Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City, author of seven books, author or editor of more than 70 academic articles, and a world-recognized pioneer in the treatment of piriformis syndrome and rotator cuff tear, for which he has developed non-surgical interventions. His ability to diagnose and cure all types of back pain has earned him wide acclaim. Dr. Fishman has applied yoga to the treatment of sciatica, scoliosis, rotator cuff syndrome, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and shoulder pain. He has studied in Pune with BKS Iyengar.

To find an Iyengar Yoga teacher, see and use the search box. If you have a particular problem that requires remedial treatment, find a Senior Teacher for advice before proceeding.

Q.  What is the best way to begin or to resume yoga when you are over 50?

A. First, find out what your limitations are. This depends on the individual and might require a medical visit. The next step is to find an experienced and well-trained yoga teacher for a one-to-one class and assessment. Group classes came about through urban economics: many yoga teachers cannot afford to teach small numbers. But because chronic conditions are cumulative, when you’re older you need the individual attention that yoga has traditionally offered.

There are many other types of yoga, but the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar are the most anatomically sophisticated and therapeutically oriented. (Iyengar Yoga Teachers trained to Intermediate Junior Level 3 are insured for one-to-one classes.) You will need a resourceful and sensitive teacher to assess your capabilities and to introduce you to an appropriate yoga practice that you can do every day. After six to eight weeks you should go back to your teacher for a re-assessment and suggestions about how to progress to the next stage. Your teacher will also be able to tell you when you are ready to join group classes, if you wish to do so.

Yoga, practiced consistently, does good things to your temperament and perceptions. You will find that after a period of six weeks’ regular practice, your views as well as your body will have changed. This is a good time to have another one-to-one session.

Q. Are there any aspects to yoga practice that the over-50 practitioner should give up if she/he is healthy and otherwise feeling well? How about after 70? What poses cause the most injuries, and which might help protect or rehabilitate common yoga-associated injuries?

A. Yes, there are things you may need to give up in your yoga practice as you get older. People age differently, and yet there are characteristic aspects to aging. Chronic conditions are cumulative. With osteoporosis you can do forward bends to as far as your hips will carry you without pushing, keeping your back slightly concave if possible, and preventing it from slouching forward no matter what. (See

Beware taking the avoidance of forward bends to phobic extremes, however: good posture and sensible bending and lifting is an antidote to osteoporotic fractures; flexibility, coordination, balance and strength are the best prevention of hip fractures. Standing poses like Vrksasana (the tree), Virabhadrasana I, II and III (the warrior poses), and Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose) promote these positive traits and are some of the last poses one should give up as one ages.

Arthritis will respond to yoga. Supta Padangusthasana is as safe and as good as a pose gets, and will help with safe forward bending, too, by lengthening the hamstrings and stretching the hips’ capsule. We will come to many more suggestions and caveats in the questions and answers that follow.

Q. Any age-related additional risk factors with respect to the vertebral artery during Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Halasana (plough pose)?

Q. I am 55 and began yoga two months ago. I go every other day, but I still have problems with the balance poses. I did not have these issues in my youth. Is it typical to have more balance issues as you get older?

A. Most arteries become more brittle and are more easily injured, just as the skin gets more delicate with age. Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and Halasana (plough pose), and poses like Parighasana (the gate) should be trimmed back from their extremes for safety after the age of 70. Ask your teacher for guidance.

The vertebral artery actually figures in nourishing a number of neurological structures critical to good balance and coordination, so it is worth taking great care of it. The three determinants of balance are the inner ears, proprioception (lowered awareness of position and relative location of parts of the body) and vision, and our sense of balance can also be degraded with age:

  • Decreased sensitivity in the semicircular canals (in the ears) to changes in direction and momentum.
  • Decreased proprioception  in the joints and in one’s feet.
  • Less acute vision.

Do the precarious poses against or very close to a wall. The wall is a wonderful, supportive teacher and use a chair on your mat, so it won’t move away from you!


Dr Loren Fishman and his colleagues discuss back pain more fully on their excellent web site See also the book he wrote with Carol Ardman, “Yoga for Back Pain”, showing many poses modified for those in pain or unable to do the full pose. There are chapters on herniated disc, spinal stenosis, and how to tell the difference between the two. Yoga with physical therapy is an excellent choice for someone with either a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. But first, get a proper diagnosis.

Q. I am 48, in good shape cardiovascular-wise (runner), and decided to try yoga recently. All went well initially but of late I have had considerable back pain both when sitting and lying flat. Could I have an injury? If it’s just sore muscles, will it eventually get better if I keep doing it?

A. First, much back pain is discovered in yoga class but really has its origins elsewhere. Second, yoga can cause back pain, and then, as always, the question is: what is the diagnosis? Pain is a symptom, not a disease. Without a diagnosis you’re left to guess about proper treatment, for the same pain can have causes so different that treatments are diametrically opposite.

One way to decide if it’s sore muscles or a neurological injury is if the pain goes down one or both legs, or radiates. Does anything tingle; is some part of your leg numb? If so, it’s nerve pain, indicating an injury that merits further inquiry. If not, it’s probably a muscle spasm or strain, and stretching should make it feel better – I say ‘probably’ because someone could also have a spinal fracture, facet arthritis, spondylolysis or other problem. The bottom line is that you need a diagnosis before yoga or anything else can be used to help treat the problem.

Q. I have sciatica and a herniated disc so bad I want to cry. I’m on prescription pain killers but I’d rather be better and not drugged up. Will yoga help sciatica?

A. Sciatica is nerve pain that goes down the leg along the course of the sciatic nerve. It can be helped with yoga, but it must be done with extreme care.

  • A herniated disc responds to extension, and may be worsened by flexion.
  • Spinal stenosis improves with flexion, and is exacerbated by extension.
  • Yet both can cause sciatica, and the same exact distribution of numbness, weakness and pain.
  • About 5 percent of the time, the treatments reverse: extension helps stenosis, flexion is good for herniated discs.
  • Start tentatively, be sensitive to the changes you feel, and progress slowly.

Q. At a healthy 61, I took up Iyengar yoga last year with an experienced teacher and felt better and limber than I had in my whole life. Six months later, I experienced low back pain and sciatica. I have a L4-5 and L5 – S1 disk bulge. I had physical therapy and two epidural steroid injections. The pain and numbness is only marginally better and has kept me from yoga, which I miss greatly. I don’t think I overdid yoga. My doctors think I will recover slowly. Is there remedial yoga for sciatica, and what is the best way to get back to yoga once I am better?

A. Back bends will very likely help in this case. Find one of the excellent Iyengar teachers in your area and you will likely benefit from Salabasana (the locust), Setubhanda (the bridge) and Ustrasana (the camel), among others. Again, progress slowly.

Q. I am 58 and a breast cancer survivor. I have been doing vinyasa yoga for about five years. In the last two years, I have had problems with my sacroliliac joint and I understand this may be the result of too much flexibility in the hip joint. In addition, I am interested in whether yoga can slow the metabolism. I would greatly appreciate advice on protecting the sacroiliac and whether the metabolism issue is a myth.

A. People often ask about sacroiliac joint pain. For those with this problem, I describe some unusual but easy versions of difficult poses, like the two-armed support in Pinca Mayurasana (the peacock), in the new edition of “Yoga for Back Pain,” which I wrote with Carol Ardman. Also helpful is Gharudasana (the eagle), Ghomukhasana (the cow), and “leaning” as described in my earlier book, “Low Back Pain.”

Several people have asked whether yoga slows metabolism. Yes, it does. It lowers blood pressure and reduces atrial fibrillation and in general calms things down. But that does not mean yoga cannot be used to trim your weight. Yoga does it differently, by stretching the organ, the stomach, which will then send turn-off signals to the appetite centres in the brain. Poses like Virabhadrasana III (the warrior III), Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (the twisted janu sirsasana), and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, done 10 to 20 minutes before a meal, will probably work. This requires a small amount of self-discipline, but then again, so does just about anything that succeeds.

Q. I had disk surgery in the 1990s and sciatica has returned. I have tried interventions to avoid additional surgery. I was told, however, to stop yoga and continue with Pilates on the reformer. I stretch my hamstrings and do a few poses daily after a hot shower. I walk a lot but want to maintain my upper body strength. What are your thoughts?

A. If sciatica has returned after an initial surgery, I would not confine myself to Pilates on the reformer. Pilates is good for the healthy, and there are people who describe themselves as Pilates therapists, applying and modifying Pilates practices to form a healing regimen. Still, I have not encountered the type of rigorous scientific work, nor the careful study of therapeutic benefit that you find in yoga. Instead of Pilates, I would do gentle yoga, restorative yoga, lift weights while lying down on your back (taking all weight off the discs) and continue walking a lot.

Q. Can yoga help in dealing with sciatic pain? Are there particular poses that can relieve sciatica?

A. First find the cause of your sciatica, then consider the suggestions given in the answer above.

Q. I have sciatica and also a herniated disc. I used to practice yoga years ago on a daily basis until my back started to bother me. I cannot do any forward or backward bends at all. I miss the yoga postures and how limber it made me feel. Are there any yoga postures that people with back problems can do?

In cases of sciatica with a herniated disk:

  • Avoid either forward or backward bends.
  • However, you can do sideways poses like Vasisthasana (side plank – LOY p.309-3011), which we have shown with M.R.I.s to reduce stenosis and herniated discs.
  • Also, beware of pushing too hard; consider trying the poses that used to make you feel good — but only 10 percent of the way — until you feel stronger.
  • Start back bends very slowly. Self-pacing is a critical part of any self-discipline, and applies to all parts of yoga, from beginning to end.

For Iyengar Yoga classes in Dorset and Somerset, Yoga Holidays in the UK and abroad, please contact Hannah Lovegrove.

Telephone: 07971 434336 Email:

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The 10 DONT’S of Yoga!

When Mumbai’s former demolition man and ex-deputy municipal commissioner G R Khairnar was rushed to hospital after a marathon yoga session, reports blamed his condition on his monstrous obsession with yoga: He would practise for 12 hours a day.

‘If someone has practiced something the wrong way, it doesn`t mean you can blame yoga. It`s like saying, `Is too much dancing going to kill you` or `Is too much cricket going to kill you,’ says Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh, an Iyengar yoga teacher in Mumbai for the last 15 years.

Zarthoshtimanesh lays down a list of 10 don’ts, which should propel seekers towards practising this unique art, science, philosophy and a way of life in the proper way.

1) Do not attempt yogic asanas or so-called breathing practices without expert guidance. Beware of `three-day or one-week certified courses`, which promise quick cures for complex problems.

2) A good book is better than a bad teacher, but no book can ever hope to replace a guru/teacher (The Light On Yoga by B K S Iyengar is considered the definitive guide and is called the Bible of Yoga).

3) Do not attempt pranayama or meditative techniques (like mind-control) without refining or culturing the body first through asana practice. To access the content within us (that is the tissues, mind, breath, consciousness etc), one has to move from the gross (the body) towards the subtle, and not the other way round.

4) Do not do asanas on a full stomach. Wait for at least four hours after a meal to perform asanas. Similarly, eat half an hour after the practice session.

5) Do not hold or control your breath during the initial days. When you pour water on a half-baked vessel, the pot cracks and shatters. Similarly if you load the half-baked body with breath (control) it will damage the nerves and internal organs.

6) Do not assume that yoga demands fasting, and excessively regimented food habits and lifestyle. In fact, the proper practice of yoga will effectively guide you to choosing the best food and a healthy lifestyle.

7) Do not practise jal neti, dhauti and nauli for the simple reason that these practices have been superseded by more evolved and safer yogic techniques.

8) Do not practise asanas in random or in isolation. The correct asana practice is usually a group of postures, which help you to not only target your problem, but also deal with it holistically.

9) Do not do sirsasana (head balance) without a teacher`s help. And if done, sirsasana always has to be followed by cooling postures like sarvangasana and the forward extensions.


The Practice Hall at RIMYI in Pune.

10) Do not experiment on others. Learn to be a student before becoming a teacher. An art cannot be mastered in a day, or a week or a month

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