Sequencing By Physiological Quality

This mode of sequencing is the heart of therapeutic yoga. In the Iyengar tradition, this kind of knowledge is a jealously guarded secret, only open to teachers who have gained a particular level of certification.

There are different ways of approaching this kind of yoga, depending on the condition you are dealing with and the desired effect. The overall intention would be to support the body and promote healing without taxing the student. Thus, much of therapeutic work can be more restorative in nature.

There are three main areas where therapeutic yoga can be effective:

• Injuries and structural problems.
• Organic support.
• Amelioration of symptoms.

Injuries And Structural Problems

In this mode, therapeutic yoga enters the realm of body work. In this context, by doing the pose properly, you are doing it therapeutically. Additionally, you can merge yoga techniques with knowledge from other schools of body work, such as Structural Integration, Anatomy Trains, Alexander Technique or Body/Mind Centering. The effective yoga therapist will look not only at the injury or perceived problem, but on the body as a whole and will devise sequences and modifications that will protect the problem are, while addressing underlying structural imbalances.

Organic Support

It is a general rule of thumb that the cells of the body require a particular shape to function properly. If the organs are put under physical stress for extended periods of time, distorting their shape or immobilizing them, the cells cease to function effectively and the gelatinous ground substance in which they are suspended, crucial for the proper transmission of nutrients and disposal of waste products, congeals. This effect, coupled with the production of detrimental hormones as a result of prolonged physical stress can have seriously deleterious effects on the body's overall health. Under this approach, the yoga therapist will use restorative yoga to support and create space around the organs, reducing stress levels and helping them to return to normal function.

Amelioration Of Symptoms

The holistic effects of yoga can be harnessed to deal with the nervous system and the energetic body directly. The yoga therapist will combine attention to the underlying organic and/or structural causes of a condition with the energetic symptoms and will create sequences to either gently energize, calm or balance the body and mind as befits the condition.


Here is a short list of resources relating to therapeutic applications of yoga:

"Yoga as Medicine" by Timothy McCall, MD. This excellent book covers a basic overview of using yoga therapeutically and includes a multitude of sequences drawn from a number of different yoga traditions to support a variety of conditions.

"Anatomy Trains" by Tom Myers. A student of Ida Rolf and Moshe Feldenkrais, Myers' book outlines a system of twelve myofascial meridians in the body that can be used to assess and treat the physical body. A short overview of Mr. Myers' system can be downloaded from his website here.

"Rolfing" by Ida Rolf. Ms. Rolf's overview of her unique perspective on the body. It is remarkably compatible with yoga.

Sensing, Feeling, and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering" by Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen. An early collection of articles by the creator of Body-Mind Centering, a remarkably subtle and rich perspective on the body and its functioning. For more information about here work go here.

"Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health" by B. K. S. Iyengar. This wonderful book, now in a second edition with additional introductory chapters on Iyengar himself, contains a host of information about how to perform poses and the use of props. The most valuable part of the book, however, is the therapeutics section with illustrated sequences for many different conditions.

"Yoga for Healthy Knees" by Sandy Blaine. In the interest of disclosure I should say that Sandy is a dear friend, but even if she weren't I would highly recommend this book. I tell all my students with knee issues to get it.

"Yoga for Computer Users" by Sandy Blaine. Sandy's new book comes out at the end of April. She has been the in-house yoga instructor at Pixar Animation Studios for many years, so she knows the topic in great depth. I've seen some of the information that's going to be included in the book, and I think it will be another invaluable resource. Support this gifted teacher and pre-order a copy today.

"Back Care Basics: A Doctor's Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief" by Mary Pullig Schatz. An excellent program of yoga for the care of the back.

"The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health" by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden. An excellent compendium of information and sequences regarding women's issues.

"The Woman's Yoga Book: Asana and Pranayama for All Phases of the Menstrual Cycle" by Bobby Clennell. Though the focus of this book is on the menstrual cycle, it is also an excellent general how-to book with beautiful illustrations and lots of instruction.

"Yogadhara" this commemortive volume produced in India and only available through specialist outlets contains some interesting information on yoga therapeutics, with articles on yoga for men's health issues and cardiac conditions. It also contains a little bit of information on yoga for HIV, though I'm sorry to say that some of Mr. Iyengar's ideas about the root of the disease are a little offensive. Still, babies and bathwater, and all of that.

Karin Stephan is a wonderful Iyengar teacher based in Cambridge Mass. who is, herself, an invaluable resource. She has a regular teaching schedule, as well as leading workshops and retreats around the country.

Related Posts:
Modes of Sequencing
Sequencing For Balance Within A Practice
Sequencing By Category Of Poses
Sequencing By Progression Deeper Into The Body
Sequencing By Progression According To Pose And Counter-Pose
Sequencing By Energetic Quality