Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the Individual

Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the Individual

by Mukunda Stiles


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Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the Individual by Mukunda Stiles

Structural Yoga Therapy has been written for teachers and serious practitioners who want to use yoga to bring complete balance to the body. Mukunda Stiles begins by providing a comprehensive overview of the spiritual philosophy of yoga, and its many branches. He discusses everything that a beginning student needs to consider when choosing a practice, including how to find a yoga teacher. He also shares his solid understanding of anatomy and kinesiology (how specific muscles and bones react during movement) so that you can understand how each asana affects your body. Structural Yoga Therapy "TM" involves a series of 24 asanas. You'll learn "bodyreading" to determine what your posture reveals about muscular imbalances. You'll find out about joint mobility and muscle strength and learn how to work with a series of jointfreeing exercises to strengthen muscles. Once you are fully acquainted with your individual needs, Stiles teaches you how to synthesize a personalized program from the 24 Structural Yoga asanas to optimize health and healing. This valuable textbook is also useful for anyone working in physical therapy, myofascial release techniques, or other forms of massage.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781578631773
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 01/01/2010
Pages: 344
Sales rank: 468,016
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.11(d)

About the Author

Mukunda Stiles has been a student of yoga since 1969 and living and teaching in ashrams in both India and America. He has been on the board of directors of several international yoga organizations and has directed residential yoga centers in California, Massachusetts, and most recently the Yoga Therapy Center near Boulder, Colorado. Stiles is the author of Structural Yoga Therapy.

Read an Excerpt

structural YOGA therapy

Adapting to the Individual

By Mukunda Stiles

Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC

Copyright © 2000 Mukunda Stiles
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60925-234-2



Everything has two fundamental aspects: the superficial—which is obvious, clear, and revealed—and the unknown—which is secret, unclear, and hidden. For example, a tree has a trunk, branches, and leaves above the ground. These draw nourishment from the light, while unseen roots draw strength in the darkness from the soil and water. In yogic philosophy, the obvious, that which is in constant motion, is called Shakti. The opposite pole of the unrevealed, that which is eternal and unchanging, is called Siva. In Chinese philosophy, the latent, dark, unexposed aspect is called yin, while yang is the patent, the bright, the exposed. The Shakti, or yang, aspect is the public part, generally called the exoteric aspect. The Siva, or yin, aspect—the inner, hidden part—is called the esoteric. Similarly, in describing human nature on the superficial psychological level, psychologist C. G. Jung noted that we have a public side that we reveal, and a private side that we keep hidden. On the transpersonal psychological level, we share common traits in our personalities. We also share transcendental traits, in that we have limited qualities of the Eternal One, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

C. G. Jung said, "There is good reason for yoga to have many adherents. It offers not only the much-sought way, but also a philosophy of unrivalled profundity. Yoga practice is unthinkable, and would also be ineffectual, without the ideas on which it is based. It works the physical and the spiritual into one another in an extraordinarily complete way."

The word yoga literally means "yoking," in the sense of the coming together of a harmonious relationship between our separate aspects. Different aspects of our perception make yoga either exoteric or esoteric. The yoga teachings regarding bringing the body, mind, and emotions into harmony, such as Hatha Yoga, are exoteric. Those teachings focused upon the outer self in harmony with the Inner Self, such as Classical Yoga, are esoteric. In exoteric-based Hatha Yoga, the practices focus on developing health to optimal physiological and psychological levels. In esoteric-based Classical Yoga, the practices focus on developing insight to know the hidden truth about one's nature.

In the yogic view of human anatomy, there are five bodies. Exoteric yoga practices strengthen the physical body (the first body), while at the same time purifying the hidden bodies. The second body is the subtle body, which makes up the emotional sense of vitality and energy. The third body is the mind, the embodied perception of thoughts and feelings. The fourth body is called the body of wisdom, the higher mind. The fifth body is composed of great joy that arises from "dispassionate nonattachment" to the experiences of the other bodies. (For more details see chapter 6.)

In the story of Matsyendra, Matsya, the fish, traveled through the five bodies as he grasped the teachings of Siva. The result was absolute one-pointedness that transformed him from a fish into a human. This allegory points to the hidden transformation available to yoga students through devoted practice. The lower nature, the fish, refers to that consciousness concerned with moving in a school, following the lead of others, as one who is held by water (emotions) and living a life based upon avoiding pain while pursuing pleasure.

Classical Yoga

Classical Yoga was first described as a systematic approach to Self-realization by Maharishi Patanjali about 200 B.C. His classical text, the Yoga Sutras, describes the nature of the mind and ways to control its restlessness. Unlike the five other classical Indian philosophical systems, Yoga is based on a process of physical and mental training culminating in the direct experience of realizing the universal Self within everyone.

Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah tada drastuh svarupe auasthanam Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception. When this happens, then the Seer is revealed resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the true Self.

Patanjali defines guideposts to keep the student of yoga progressing along the path. While there are numerous paths to yoga, they have a common thread that has been delineated in the Yoga Sutras. In fact, the Sutras can be taken as a guide for anyone undergoing any discipline of body, breath, emotions, mind, and spirit. The goal of yoga is to merge the mind into the True Self, and thus to be true to your Self in all thoughts, words, and deeds. Anyone proceeding any distance along this path cannot help but experience more joy and health.

Yoga is not a religion. People of all faiths practice yoga. From a yogi's point of view, everyone is doing yoga—everyone is seeking the joy found in the experience of the Self as our innate spirituality. Yet, most of the time, we do not realize that the joy we seek is experienced within, in the discovery of the Self. We erroneously believe our joy comes from objects of sensual pleasure. In completing activities, there is a momentary experience of stilling the mind, and thus we feel peace. This state of fulfillment is what the yoga practitioner seeks to gain more consistently, more permanently.

Yoga, then, is a continuous process. For serious students, it is a life's work. Yoga—as the stilling of the mind—occurs momentarily in many people without training. Often, following periods of concentration, people will report that they were performing a task (such as reading) and became perfectly still. Their breathing became nearly unnoticeable and they lost all sense of time. During these periods of active meditation, access to intuitive insights is available. We will intuitively understand how to manage ourselves in situations that formerly produced difficulties. This natural process is what Patanjali defined as yoga. It is through the study of yoga, in the context of the guidelines laid out in the Yoga Sutras, that these momentary experiences become part of daily living.

Patanjali's practical means of knowing the inner Self is known as Ashtanga Yoga, the yoga of "eight limbs." It is also called Raja, "royal," Yoga, the yoga of the royal path to self-realization. Raja, which also means "to radiate," is the practice of radiating the royal light of the true Self. The mysticism of Raja Yoga, simply put, means to be radiantly happy and share that compassionate affection for all creation. The eight component limbs, found in his Yoga Sutras II, 29–III, 3, are:

1. Yama—external attitudes for guiding conduct within society

• Nonviolence (ahimsa): when mastered, one creates an atmosphere in which violence ceases;

• Truthfulness (satya): when perfected, one's words and deeds exist in service to that Truth;

• Abstaining from stealing (asteya): when mastered, that which you consider precious is drawn to you;

• Behavior that moves one toward the Truth (brahmacharya): when perfected, vitality is gained;

• Noncoveting (aparigraha): when mastered, knowledge of the hidden lessons of the repetitive cycle of birth and death is gained.

2. Niyama—internal attitudes for personal discipline

• Purity (sauca): when established, one desires to protect the physical body and has no interest in contact with others of an adverse nature;

• Contentment (santosa): when perfected, one gains supreme happiness;

• Perseverance in selfless service (tapas): when mastered, leads to a dwindling of all impurities and a perfection of the body, mind, and sense organs;

• Study of the Self (svadhaya): when mastered, leads to communion with your personal chosen ideals or deity;

• Devotion to God (Ishvara pranidhana): when mastered, leads to absolute absorption into the Divine Presence.

3. Asana—yoga posture. When regularly practiced, all movements end in a "steady and comfortable" pose that is performed by relaxation of effort and results in no longer being disturbed by duality, praise, and/or criticism.

4. Pranayama—regulation of the in- and out-flow of breath/prana. When perfected, one feels the life-force (prana) permeating everywhere, transcending the attention given to either external or internal objects.

5. Pratyahara—withdrawal of the senses from their objects. When the senses become detached from external objects of the mind's desire, the mind sees its source as pure consciousness.

6. Dharana—contemplation of one's true nature. When mastered, the mind is confined to one place of attention.

7. Dhyana—meditation. When mastered, a continuous flow of awareness to a single point of attention is maintained.

8. Samadhi—absorption in the Self. When achieved, it is the meditation that results in only the essential light of the object remaining. The object loses its concrete form. The Spiritual Light prevails and is experienced as the essence of all of creation.

This eightfold process is exactly what happened in the transformation of the fish Matsya into the yogi Matsyendra. Through a strong interest in the subject (yama and niyama), his body became still. In losing all awareness of his body, those sensations common to willful movement ceased (asana). His breath became subtle and steady (pranayama). Then his prana and senses withdrew their awareness of the distinction between outside and inside (pratyahara). Next, his mind focused upon listening intently to the teachings (dharana and dhyana). Finally, he lost the sense of himself and was left with only the awareness of himself as Pure Consciousness without an object to pull it (samadhi).



The word "yoga" is usually preceded by a descriptive adjective that connotes a particular method. In general, most yogas in America today are variations of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the physical discipline of Classical Yoga, comprising stages three and four of the eight stages (Ashtanga Yoga) of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Hence most yoga methods—the exceptions being Classical and Kriya Yoga—delete training about yoga life-style, ethics, philosophy, preparation for spirituality, and meditation. Hatha Yoga emphasizes methods of doing yoga poses (asanas) and energetic breathing exercises (pranayamas) for physical health and well-being. Proponents of Classical Yoga utilize these techniques for the purpose of preliminary training in meditation, then proceed to give instruction in meditation and yoga life-style.

There are many types of yoga available for study today. New methods are brought out each year. Yoga is extremely popular these days, with an estimated ten to twelve million practitioners in America alone. For more information, see Yoga International magazine's Yoga Teacher Directory published in the January-February issue each year. This features a comprehensive description of the major methods of yoga. For information about yoga organizations on the Internet, go to

Methods of Hatha Yoga

There are a number of major styles of Hatha Yoga in America. The following are summaries of methodologies of the most common lineages of yoga.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is the name applied by Indian master Pattabhi Jois, now in his 80s, to his system of yoga poses. Pattabhi Jois developed the system while being mentored by Prof. T. Krishnamacharya of Madras, South India. There are three levels, the first challenging enough to meet the requirements of even the most athletic student for several years. It is a system that was given to him in his youth to meet the high energy level of his developing body. In America, it is presented in modified formats, sometimes milder in form, as hot yoga, or power yoga. While the series does end with a pranayama series, it deletes the practices of meditation. Ashtanga Yoga, while named for the "eight limbs" of Patanjali's Classical Yoga, rarely presents the eight limbs or Patanjali's text.

The benefits of this method are its tremendous challenge to physical strength and flexibility. It is enjoying a period of popularity and so it is easy to find a teacher of this method.

Classical Yoga

Classical Yoga appears in two major forms, as the Ashtanga Yoga of Baba Hari Das, or as Viniyoga, originating from the teachings of Prof. Krishnamacharya and his son/successor, T. K. V Desikachar. This yoga is presented in the context of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and hence incorporates study of the text, the source of the teachings, and adapts to the individual with many varieties of practices beyond the commonplace asanas. These may include pranayamas, kriyas, mudras, and bandhas.

Its benefits include thoroughness and well-rounded study of yoga as a life-style and the ability to receive individually tailored practices for your situation.

Integral Yoga

The Integral Yoga of Swami Satchidananda of Yogaville, Virginia is also a gentler spiritual-based yoga that is clearly leading to devotion and meditation practice. Swamiji, a disciple of the renowned Dr. Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, came to America in the 1960s and is responsible for converting many hippies from a life-style of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll to family life, yoga, and chanting. His appearance is one often associated with yoga. He is a tall mild-mannered man, soft-spoken, who wears long white robes and has long flowing white hair and beard. His brand of yoga emphasizes poses taken to the extremes of flexibility as a way to awaken the kundalini spiritual energy, numerous traditional pranayama breathing exercises, chanting, candle-gazing, and meditating on the chakra energy centers. (For details see his book Integral Yoga Hatha.) This yoga is not to be confused with the integral yoga of Sri Aurobindo, a spiritual yet practical meditation technique.

The benefits of this method are that it is a well-rounded program supervised by an Indian adept who has lived in America for over thirty years.

The Sivananda Hatha Yoga method of Swami Vishnu-Devananda is essentially the same as Integral Yoga, as the same master trained both teachers. Swami Vishnu-Devananda also has a valuable book referencing all the aspects of yoga practice, the Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. The benefits of this method are a thorough practice in all the aspects of yoga to meditation. This method is popular, with over 7,000 teachers trained in a style that focused on twelve principal asanas.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar Yoga is named for its creator B. K. S. Iyengar of Poona, Maharasthra (West-central) India. Iyengar, also a student of Prof. Krishnamacharya, has become the trademark of popular yoga in the West. His book, Light on Yoga, has become an authoritative standard for thoroughness in asana. America's most popular yoga magazine, Yoga Journal, was founded by his students and remains a format of his teachings more than any other line of yoga. His yoga focuses on asanas done with precision, maintaining anatomical alignment, often with the use of props that he designed. The practice is physically challenging, and is often disrupted by the teacher giving adjustments and explaining the corrections to the students. Some teachers are known for giving only 3 or 4 poses in a 90-minute class.

Excerpted from structural YOGA therapy by Mukunda Stiles. Copyright © 2000 Mukunda Stiles. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


List of Figures          

List of Tables          


Introduction: The Evolution of Structural Yoga Therapy          

Part One Origins and Theory of Yoga Practice          


Chapter 1: What is Yoga?          

Chapter 2: What is Hatha Yoga?          

Chapter 3: Signs of Progress in Yoga Practices          

Part Two Preparation for Practice          


Chapter 4: Guidelines for Practice          

Chapter 5: How Do I Find a Yoga Teacher?          

Chapter 6: Remembering the Big Picture          

Chapter 7: Yoga Breathing          

Chapter 8: Sun Salutation: Surya Namaskar          

Part Three The Benefits of Yoga Practice          


Chapter 9: Physical Transformation          

Chapter 10: Clarifying Intentions and Setting Goals          

Chapter 11: Body Reading          

Chapter 12: Common Postural Misalignments          

Part Four Anatomy and Yoga          


Chapter 13: What Is Joint Freedom?          

Chapter 14: How Is Movement Created?          

Chapter 15: The Joint-Freeing Series: Pavanmuktasana          

Chapter 16: Anatomy and Mobility Assessment          

Chapter 17: Optimizing Mobility and Strength          

Chapter 18: Muscle Strengthening Using the Joint-Freeing Series          

Chapter 19: Personalizing Structural Yoga          

Part Five The Practice of Yoga Asanas          


Chapter 20: Structural Yoga Asanas          

Chapter 21: Asana Kinesiology          

Part Six Yoga for Specific Goals          


Chapter 22: Improving Posture          

Chapter 23: Enhancing Body Awareness          

Chapter 24: Increasing Strength          

Chapter 25: Increasing Joint Freedom and Flexibility          

Chapter 26: Cardiovascular Fitness          

Chapter 27: Digestive Health          

Chapter 28: Relief from Pain          

Chapter 29: Managing Stress          

Chapter 30: Strengthening the Immune System          

Chapter 31: Meditation Training to Develop a Spiritual Practice          

Chapter 32: Yoga Therapy Secrets          

Chapter 33: A Complete Classical Yoga Practice          


Recommended Reading          


About the Author          

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Structural Yoga Therapy: Adapting to the Individual 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a professional bodyworker, or just a beginner who is exploring their own body for the first time, this book is a must-have for your own practice, or library. Terms are simple, basic and to the point with great references.
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