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Yoga for Everyone is split
into three parts, each by one of the three authors. The first, about 134 pages, is Iyengar Yoga; the second, about 28
pages, is on Meditation, and the third, about 83 pages, is on Yoga for
Children. It is fully illustrated with
color photographs. The authors do not
recommend learning yoga from the book alone, but instead suggest that it be
used in conjunction with learning from a teacher. While the second on meditation seems too short to be of much use
for anything beyond the most basic aspects, the other two sections could be
helpful for people who are starting to learn about yoga. The photographs are especially good, with
regular people and helpful hints about how to perform the yoga poses
Judy Smith explains Iyengar yoga
comes from Mr. B.K.S. Iyengar, who has systematized over 200 classical
poses. He is in his 80s now, and he has
a considerable following. Several pages
are devoted to explaining the basics of his approach, and the ideas behind
it. When it comes to the poses however
there is not much need to think about the philosophy, although the poses in
themselves do lend themselves to a greater sense of bodily awareness and sense
of occupying one's frame. The section
explains the standing postures, including the warrior poses, and forward
extensions. For each pose, the text explains
how far apart the feet need to be, how to progress through the pose from start
to finish, and what to focus on while doing it. There is also a box listing some modifications, for people who
find the pose difficult in some ways.
For each pose, there's a brief explanation of the benefits it
provides. Following parts set out sitting
poses, twists, inversions including shoulder stands and the Plough, the Dog,
the Locust, and the Camel. Strangely,
there is no help with doing headstands. Especially important are 27 sequences
of movements for those who want to use the poses as exercise.
At the end of this section several
poses are devoted to using yoga poses for therapy of minor ailments and common
problems. It is very plausible that
yoga can help for backache, fatigue and anxiety, and maybe also for
stress-headaches. It is more surprising
that yoga might help for insomnia and depression, and it is rather
counter-intuitive that yoga could help with indigestion and diarrhea. Whether
these actually work is hard to say, but given that doing the yoga is healthy,
it is worth trying them to see how effective they are.
Doriel Hall sets out some basic
information about meditation. The
section explains the benefits of meditation, some techniques, and some ideas
about how it works. This part seems
patchy and badly researched: the author claims, for example, that we use less
than 10% of our neo-cortex in the brain, but this is a myth. To what extent the explanation of Eastern
thought, with its discussion of energy channels, charkas and granthis, is
accurate, is hard to say, but the explanations are brief and simplistic. Certainly, the writing does not make the
Eastern thought at all plausible. The
practical parts of the section is done better, with its discussion of
breathing, posture, and visualizations.
However, if anyone wanted to seriously engage in meditation, this
section would be of virtually no help.
The final section by Bel Gibbs on
yoga for children is the most surprising and enjoyable. There are many delightful photographs of
children performing yoga, often having fun and grinning. Some parts are written for children,
explaining in very simple terms what yoga is and how to do it. Many of the pictures show the children in
pairs and groups, so the yoga practice does not seem like it has to be a
solitary activity. This section would
probably be attractive and helpful for some children who are open to doing some
yoga with their friends or with adults.
Yoga for Everyone is a
nicely produced book. It is quite
introductory and so anyone who wants to learn about yoga in detail would need
to move onto other books or ways of learning quickly. Before buying any yoga book, it would be best to compare several
different ones to compare which was the best fit for one's particular needs and
interests. This one certainly has
several strong aspects, and is worth considering as an option.
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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