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Generation Yoga

American baby boomers fueled yoga's worldwide explosion—first, by embracing a number of Indian gurus like Integral Yoga's Swami Satchidananda; Siddha Yoga's Swami Muktananda; and the Beatles' Transcendental Meditation mentor, Swami Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Then they enthusiastically adopted vigorous athletic styles of asana practice (think Iyengar Yoga, Pattabhi Jois's Ashtanga Yoga, and Bikram Yoga).

By Todd Jones

confidentteacher

But now, as Beryl Bender Birch notes in Boomer Yoga: Energizing the Years Ahead for Men and Women, this generation is passing through middle age. Many find that the practices that have long provided them with strength, stamina, and equanimity now sometimes bring discomfort, injury, and disappointment. In addition, says Birch, many boomers may discover that their life focus and motivations for practicing yoga shift away from doing, getting, and achieving and move toward acceptance, contentment, and matters of the spirit. In Boomer Yoga, Birch sets out to provide a guidebook to this generation of yogis, from seasoned practitioners to complete beginners.

Given the popularity of vinyasa-based yoga, Birch's book may be a godsend to thousands who worry about not being able to continue to receive and deepen the physical benefits of a yoga practice as their strength, stamina, and flexibility fade with age. For such students, Birch's attitude—an often hard—won embrace of inevitable physical changes and losses—may be even more valuable than her practical advice on modifying asanas.

Four of the ten chapters outline a version of Power Yoga—the vinyasa-style practice (grounded in Ashtanga Yoga) that Birch has been teaching since 1980. It's all there—Ujjayi pPranayama (Victorious Breath), drishti (gaze), bandhas (locks), Sun Salutations, standing poses, seated poses, backbends, and simple inversions—albeit in a somewhat stripped-down practice that omits some of the more challenging poses.

Whether she's discussing asana, pranayama, meditation, ethics, or the interconnectedness of all things, Birch focuses on using yoga to quiet your mind and bring yourself into a direct experience of the present moment, rather than losing yourself in memories of the past or anticipation of the future. Only by having a deep awareness of what is truly in each moment, she writes, can you stop resisting reality and begin to act in harmony with it—and thus be happy.

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