Book Reviews from the Reading List: Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

I’m moving through a lot of reading material both online and off as part of my immersion class. There is a lot to try out and a lot to process but all of it is fascinating in its own right on some level. But up to this point I haven’t really found a book or video that broke the experience of yoga down and delivered it from a beginner’s perspective.  Most assume prior knowledge and can even be intimidating, showing fairly advance poses with little build up or advice on how to get there. Even more just cover the asanas, ignoring the breathing and meditation, which is fine, I guess, but not I think yoga is more like a recipe and why would you leave an ingredient out of a recipe and still expect the certain results?

Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillnesscame up on the reading list and I think the title had me expecting a little more philosophy and less practical application. But as it turns out, I think I found the textbook that should go with any yoga course. It breaks down the hows and whys and wherefores from the very beginning, answering some questions I didn’t even know I had. It is very quotable and an easy and engrossing read and very thorough in its approach.  If someone didn’t have access to a teacher, I think this book would be enough to get a student started on their own. A teacher is always preferable of course but the layout of the information in this book could easily lend itself to self-study.

He covers philosophy (without getting sappy) and breathing and “playing with the edge” in terms of how far you should push a pose. I think my favorite section so far is “How to Combine Breath and Movement”. Good, clear advice on how to coordinate movement and breath which gets a little tricky for me sometimes. My focus often locks on one or the other, the movement or the breath, and then I can’t remember if I was breathing in or out and then I’m falling over. It’s a learning process of course and an interesting part of the challenge.

The majority of the book is devoted to step by step instructions to the asanas, including what they work, what they are intended for, how to do the pose and the benefits of the pose. I like that the tone stays very casual and conversational. It could have become just another encyclopedia of poses but it stays friendly and approachable all the way through.

I still have a lot more books and other materials to move through so I not ready to award the “If You Buy One Book on Yoga” prize just yet but this one is a strong contender for that most coveted award. But I’m still reading.

A word of warning: Some of the reviews on Amazon mention that the pictures were kicked to the back of the Kindle version instead of the picture of each pose appearing next to its description. This will not work. The pictures need to go with the poses. I’m normally a fan of the Kindle versions but in this instance I would avoid it.