I had the good fortune to attend a 5 session weekend workshop in Amsterdam with Senior Iyengar Teacher Patricia Walden. Along with Ms Sparrow she released a wonderful book, ‘The Womans book of Yoga and Health’, which i have used alot over the past 7 years to help me with specific sequences and, as a guide to women for more sensitive issues, as a supplement I direct them to this book. Most participants in classes are women, and I have found this text very useful. It also addresses mental illness, anxieties and the use of Yoga asana, pranayama to work with these issues as part of a wholistic practice for all age groups.  So I was very excited to attend!

As I had imagined : ) she’s a gentle yet commanding teacher, and gives clear instruction with lots of space to observe, apply, act, be, play, fall over learn…

As a mature Woman herself, and a large part of the Dutch group the same, she mentioned a few times that yoga is a life long practice, and what a shame it is when folk injure themselves and give up on it.  She spoke of how our teacher Mr BKS Iyengar, now 95 and still practicing daily, (i see him practice every morning whilst here at the Institute in Pune India) had to change his tact around the 80s when people were getting injuries from advanced dynamic flowing jump sequences, vinyasana, incorporating many asana and hand balances into a flow.  See footage on youtube of Mr Iyengar at 59 yrs old, in his prime, 1977.

And other footage from 1938

Bare with me here.  Why do we do yoga???  All Iyengar Senior teachers speak of the difference between mere movement and intelligent action in their own words from their own experience on the mat..  Patricia used the words, instead of going to the place of least resistance, like really long ham strings or soft shoulders or nice loose hips, find the most resistance…. Its a difficult concept to grasp.  As a rough example, imagine joggers in the park in the morning with one foot on a bench, and struggling to reach their ankle there to stretch their hamstring.  So instead of folding at the hips and extending the back of the leg on the bench with their front  torso long, chest open, they just take the head down. Hunching, the shoulders lift towards the hind skull and the chest is collapsed, the abdomen contracts.  But if they keep their front body long and shoulders back the resistance will be in the back body also, not just in the hamstrings and with the front body open, they can breathe and intelligently work to extend and make space…

So, we went back to basics, Tadasana.  Feet grounded, lift thighs, keep abdomen long, shoulders down the back, and introduce standing poses maintaining this basic work…

In the Q&A at the end of the last session a couple of questions referred to anxiety, depression and the affects of this on our life, like insomnia, self doubt, confused relationships.  Patricia said that with Yoga we inquire.  Thoughts slow down.  We do the work, intelligently.  How do we meet challenges in life?  If we just push through, eventually something will give.  Our practice will dry up. Or we can work intelligently. Observe and watch where our mind goes. Be open to learning something new. Be kind to yourself and make sure to never skip Savasana. Let your practice restore and refresh you. We have a choice.

She told a story how one day Mr Iyengar told a load of westerners how they hold onto stuff.  I let go and move on, you stew and get so attached.  I let go and move on, he said.  So, she continued with, ‘pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice…’

disclaimer   this is all from memory and in my own words…  please dont quote me.


  1. lovely reading for me this morning, thanks Tass, we miss you, but it is nice to know you are doing what you love.

Leave a Reply to Nathalie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s