Book Review-Empowered Aging: Everyday Yoga Practices for Bone Health, Strength, and Balance

Extended Side Angle Pose or Parsvakonansa variation with a chair

1 Empowered Aging a new book by Ellen SaltonstallEllen Saltonstall’s latest offering, Empowered Aging: Everyday Yoga Practices for Bone Health, Strength, and Balance, is an invaluable resource for those seeking to cultivate strength, maintain balance, and enjoy overall well-being as they navigate the aging process. This comprehensive guide distills Ellen’s decades of experience and expertise into an accessible, easy-to-follow roadmap for harnessing the transformative power of yoga at any age. 

Empowered Aging is also a must-read for young yoga teachers looking to develop the skills and understanding to work effectively with aging students. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, the need for yoga practices tailored to the concerns of this demographic is great. Ellen’s book provides insight into physical limitations and unique needs, offering a window into bodies different from many young teachers. By gaining this empathetic understanding and working through Ellen’s practices, instructors can build the confidence and competence to guide their senior students safely and skillfully.

Empowered Aging is for Everyone

Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana variation with straight arms, also featured in Ellen's book

In a recent YogaUOnline interview, Ellen shared the inspiration behind her book, explaining that it arose from a desire to document her teaching methods to benefit her students, many of whom are in their 60s, 70s, and beyond. However, as the project evolved, she recognized an opportunity to share her insights with a broader audience seeking to age gracefully and maintain optimal physical and mental wellness.

Ellen’s approach to yoga originates from her studies of Iyengar and Anusara yoga, which focus on precise body alignment. According to Saltonstall, her style “provides a pathway to self-understanding through physical postures, breathing, and meditation.” Her approach is universal. She makes yoga practice accessible to all students and ability levels. The language, her instruction, the photos, and the lessons are valuable because they are simple and practical. The book is intended to be a companion on your path of learning.

Most importantly, she wants you to make yoga your own. Ellen is a generous teacher who wants you to be confident. She empowers her students by giving them good information. 

How Yoga Can Help Alleviate Aging Concerns

illustration of a healthy spine and osteoporosis spineEllen’s approach is straightforward, to the point, and instructive. She educates her students about aging concerns like bone density, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. She inspires us by explaining how exercise helps bones stay strong and how physical activity can slow the decline of proprioception and interoception, especially movement that encourages moment-to-moment awareness, like yoga. Ellen imparts knowledge of contraindications and risk factors so students have the understanding and the confidence to protect themselves as they skillfully challenge themselves. 

For example, in Chapter 4, “Before You Begin,” Ellen offers cautions for those with low bone density and guidelines about breathing, being curious, and prioritizing stability over flexibility. She has organized the poses like a menu: “appetizers, main dishes, desserts.” She encourages you to choose options from each menu to create a practice that works for you.

Her trust in the student is empowering. She suggests sequences for six weeks’ worth of practice and says, “After that, make your own sequences!” 

A Solid Foundation for Empowered Aging

Camel Pose or Ustrasana Pose variation shown with the extra support practiced with a chairThe Fundamentals chapter lays a foundation for safe and enduring practice, with instructions including knee tracking, core strength, and the four corners of the feet. A visual reference in the margin identifies the best practices for improving bone health, strength, and balance. These icons appear throughout the rest of the book, enabling students to focus on what matters to them that day. 

The photos are excellent in their simplicity and clarity. Each image shows Ellen demonstrating what she highlights in the clear instructions. She transliterates each asana’s Sanskrit name and defines its benefits and some of what she refers to as “finer points.” She names the props you might use for every pose (from Standing Warm-Ups through a Supine Series, Prone Series, Chair Series, Standing Series, and Cool-Down Series). She describes each posture, encouraging you to observe yourself, your body, breathing, stretch, or effort. 

Ellen emphasizes the importance of using props, such as chairs, walls, blocks, and blankets, throughout each series to facilitate proper alignment and support. Far from being a shortcut or sign of weakness, she explains that props “actually help you work more fully and accurately.” She says, “We learn from the support they give us. Each posture reveals several challenges, such as tight hips, a weak spine, or poor balance. With the right prop, you reduce one challenge to focus on another.”

Practicing for Balance 

Warrior lll Pose, also known as Virabhadrasana lll Pose, is a strengthening balance pose practiced here with the support of a c

Balance is another important consideration in the book, as well as in aging people’s lives. Ellen teaches that to avoid falling, “we need to practice balance” in various ways. She teaches students to be creative while encouraging dynamism and stability. 

Ellen says, “The practice reveals its benefits as we do it. It’s one thing to read about yoga, but it’s a whole other thing to do it regularly and authentically to explore how it can transform your life as you improve your bone health, strength, and balance.” 

**Empowered Aging is a testament to Ellen’s mastery as a teacher and her dedication to encouraging others to embrace the aging process as a journey of self-discovery. Whether you’re a seasoned practitioner or embarking on a new path, this book is a comprehensive and inspiring guide. It reminds students that the path to well-being is one you walk with every breath, movement, and intentional choice. It is an invitation to reclaim your agency, move with purpose and presence, and celebrate the wisdom of the aging experience.

**Receive a 20% discount for ten or more copies from the publisher’s site (Emerald Lake Books).

Sarah Bell

Sarah Bell (ERYT-500, YACEP) has been teaching yoga for more than twenty-five years. She was on the faculty of the Yoga Works Teacher Training Program for fifteen years, having trained hundreds of teachers in both the 200-hour Introductory Courses and the 300-hour Professional Programs throughout the country and abroad. She is the creator of Speaking of Yoga, a voice and communication course for yoga teachers, as well as Beyond the Postures, a  course that introduces yoga philosophy, anatomy, pranayama, and meditation to curious yoga practitioners. She mentors yoga teachers along the path as they find their voice and refine their skills. For more information on her upcoming retreats, courses, and classes, find her at www.sarahbellyoga.com

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