Friday, April 20, 2007

Twenty Five Years of Yoga Tools

originally written on June 19, 2004


It is almost 25 years to the day since I sold my first yoga tool. I sold a Spinal Roller to a yoga teacher in Brookline, MA., who was surprised and delighted to find someone offering a tool very much like the one her teacher in France had been using and introducing to her students. Her French yoga teacher was herself a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most well-known hatha yoga teachers in the world. Iyengar employed a number of props and tools in his teachings and probably did more than anyone else in the world of yoga to legitimize such tool use in the practice of yoga.

I came to my tools by my own route. I had discovered yoga while still in my mid teens through an interesting little book I found in a drug store while visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn, NY. Here was a philosophy and a physical practice that I couldn't really understand well, but for some reason I seemed drawn to it-maybe because it was so different from what I knew to be traditional exercise and physical education. What we got back then in the early 1960s was baseball, soccer and basketball and not much else. I probably felt somewhere, deep in my bones and muscles, that there must be another way. Yoga looked like it could be that other way.
By the time I was 18 years old I was studying yoga with a teacher and finding that I had some ability and aptitude for it. Back then it was more about stretching and achieving some precision in the practice of the asanas (the yoga postures) and maybe a little about being competitive with others in my classes. It was an achievement, an ego boost for me, because I had found a physical practice and skill I was moderately good at. I still lifted weights and did the occasional push up and sit up, but by the time I was 24 or 25 years old it all started to change.

I had an awakening of sorts. It dawned on me that after 8 years of practicing yoga and meditation, I was still gripped by a great deal of tension and strain in my body. Where perhaps I had believed, up till then, that I was making real progress in my yoga practice, it had all really just led up to this moment where I could feel clearly, for the first time in my life, how tense, gripped, and strained I actually was. From that point on it all changed. With such a clear awareness of how broken and burdened I was, my practice took a radical new turn, inspired by this depth of feeling and awareness.

A few years after the dawning of this new awareness, I started studying to become a massage therapist. I also began to experiment more with how the floor itself can be a great aide in pressing and loosening the back. Then I experimented with how a rolling pin, cushioned with a small towel or two, can do an even better job. It was amazing to me how such a simple, homemade tool could get into all those areas of strain and misalignment I was feeling in my back and help open them up. My yoga practice was expanding to become a way to alleviate this burden, this sense of being strain, twisted, and distorted. The use of the Spinal Roller was became an integral part of my new practice.

A tool and die designer, showed me how to use a good grade of sponge rubber and a piece of plastic pipe to make a more permanent sort of Spinal Roller. By 1979 I was producing them in my own workshop and selling them through a few small ads in a yoga magazine. I have been selling them ever since-many hundreds of them to yoga teachers and students over the years. Now I often sell the Spinal Roller to people who are discovering this tool at their physical therapist's office or in their Pilates class. It is simple, comfortable, easy to use and very effective, judging by all the appreciative letters I have received over the years.

In the course of my own practice (still inspired by a deep awareness of the tension, strain and distortions in my body), I have designed a line of other tools including The Cervical Wedge and Cranial Adjustor, the Cervical Rocker, the Thoracic Press and the Zubo. All of these tools are sold through my web site and the occasional ad in a magazine. But mostly it is by word of mouth, now, or through yoga teachers, physical therapist, and Pilates instructors who are employing these tools in their classes or therapies. Over the years I have written 30 pamphlets and 3 books detailing my understanding of yoga and how we can all discover for ourselves what yoga really was meant to be and from where it came. My writings are also listed on my web site,, and can be purchased there.
Allan Saltzman, President, founder and owner of Yoga Tools

1 comment:

Diane King said...

I have used Allan's spinal roller for 30 years and can recommend its effectiveness. His pamphlets and books are also informative and useful. Allan is always thinking of creative ways to help us unwind our mind and our body! Thanks, Allan. Diane King, Yoga teacher