Taking The Mystery Out Of Yoga: Books On Yoga

By Gretchen Karros

This is a very interesting subject, especially for a “bookophile” like me.  At the last count, there were at least 50 million people “doing” Yoga and there are probably many of them who are also interested in seeing the asanas (poses) on a printed page, sometimes executed by an “expert” Yogi or Yogini (a female person).  As you can see, there may be a need for the “printed page.”

Historically speaking, the first person to mention is Vanda Scaravelli.  She was Italian and taught only in Italy, but she was one of the first students outside India that the famous teacher B. K. S. Iyengar taught.  The book is called “Awakening the Spine” Labyrinth Publication, 1991.  It is beautifully done and I would like to quote the first few words of this book.  “This book is not really a yoga book nor a book on Yoga, for yoga has been written about so much in recent years.  . . .What we will try to do in this book is to create a much more serious approach towards our bodies, which have been neglected for so many years.”  It is not only about physiology but it is a beautiful classic that no one should be without.  She died at age 91 – still doing Yoga!  Her book and also a video are still available.

Of course, we all know about B. K. S. Iyengar, especially since he was one of the first Yogis to come to America to teach his famous style.  His two seminal books (“Light on Yoga” and “Light on Pranayama”) are probably read and enjoyed by many Yogis and it will not be necessary to give a summary here.  “Light on Yoga,” revised edition, 1977. Schocken Books, New York and “Light on Pranayama” 1999, The Crossroad Publishing Co., New York.

Eric Shiffmann has a very extensive book, full of photos and texts about how to go into and out of each pose plus the benefits.  His introduction starts with his very interesting path, and much of the first two chapters he expounds on peace, mindfulness and breathing. There are 45 detailed poses, as mentioned above.  Some of this may sound trite but there is nothing like that in this book that is commonplace or boring, I assure you.  “Yoga, The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness” Pocket Books, 1996,

There is a lovely lady from New Zealand who came to St. Louis some years ago to teach a class at Webster University.  Her name is Donna Farhi who wrote the book “Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit”.  Her book is big, (8” x 12” ) not only in size but also in depth (270 pages).  It is very inclusive and would appeal to a person just starting Yoga or a more advanced person.  A very interesting thing is that she often shows a photo of a “correct” pose along with the “incorrect” one, which is a good learning tool especially for beginners.  Intellectually speaking, she covers not only the full range of asanas (standing, sitting, twists, back bends, arm balances, upside down poses, restorative postures and breathing practices) but she then has a chapter called “ putting it all together.” or creating a balanced practice.  She also has footnotes and resources for learning where she got some of her information.  This book is so complete, so many useful photos, and so much of the philosophical principles of Yoga that anyone could benefit from this lovely tome as a resource or a workbook to always keep handy.  (She also has a companion book on breathing.)  “Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit” by Donna Farhi, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY, 2000

Going inside, you will discover a being

that has no You attached to it.

– Rumi