Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Previews

It's been quite a while since I've reviewed a book.  I find my yogic reading really slows down in the summer time.  I think that's because I'm so active with hiking, biking, gardening, and just soaking in the warm golden sun.  Winter is when I really like to curl up and study. 

Today Linda-sama just posted a great review of a book which explores the connection between Buddhism and Yoga over on Linda's Yoga Journey, which got me thinking about my growing "to read" pile for this winter.   So today, instead of a traditional book "review", I'd like to do a book "preview" of several books that  I intend to read when the wind and snow are swirling outside and darkness has wrapped around everything like a thick cold blanket.  MMmm, I can smell the hot chai already....

(Synopsis from Barnes &

The first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to viniyoga—yoga adapted to the needs of the individual.
• A contemporary classic by a world-renowned teacher.
• This new edition adds thirty-two poems by Krishnamacharya that capture the essence of his teachings.

Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who lived to be over 100 years old, was one of the greatest yogis of the modern era. Elements of Krishnamacharya's teaching have become well known around the world through the work of B. K. S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, who all studied with Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya's son T. K. V. Desikachar lived and studied with his father all his life and now teaches the full spectrum of Krishnamacharya's yoga. Desikachar has based his method on Krishnamacharya's fundamental concept of viniyoga, which maintains that practices must be continually adapted to the individual's changing needs to achieve the maximum therapeutic value.

In The Heart of Yoga Desikachar offers a distillation of his father's system as well as his own practical approach, which he describes as "a program for the spine at every level—physical, mental, and spiritual." This is the first yoga text to outline a step-by-step sequence for developing a complete practice according to the age-old principles of yoga. Desikachar discusses all the elements of yoga—poses and counterposes, conscious breathing, meditation, and philosophy—and shows how the yoga student may develop a practice tailored to his or her current state of health, age, occupation, and lifestyle.

This is a revised edition of The Heartof Yoga.

A structural engineer by training, T. K. V. Desikachar lived and studied with his father until Krishnamacharya's death in 1989. He has devoted his life to yoga instruction for people of all backgrounds and all levels of ability and currently teaches at the school founded in his father's memory in Madras, as well as in Europe, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Dhammapada as translated by Eknath Eswaran

(Synopsis from Barnes &
Dhammapada means “the path of dharma,” the path of truth, harmony, and righteousness. Eknath Easwaran’s translation of this essential Buddhist text, based on the oldest version, consists of 423 short verses gathered by the Buddha’s direct disciples after his death and organized by theme: anger, thought, joy, pleasure, and others. The Buddha’s timeless teachings take the form of vivid metaphors from everyday life and are well served by Easwaran’s lucid translation. An authoritative introduction and chapter notes offer helpful context for modern readers
(Synopsis from Barnes &
Buddhism and yoga share a common history that goes back centuries. But because yoga and Buddhism came to North America from Asia as two separate traditions, their commonalities in the West often seem invisible. Most people choose to study either yoga or Buddhism and generally don’t combine the practices. Michael Stone brings together a collection of intriguing voices to show how Buddhism and yoga really do share the same values and spiritual goals. The contributors’ themes are rich and varied, yet they all focus on the common threads among the traditions that offer guidance toward spiritual freedom and genuine realization.

Topics include the Zen view of enlightenment through the body; cultivating life-force energy; concepts of emptiness; foundations of mindfulness; Tibetan yoga; and experiencing emotions through the body. Contributors include: Frank Jude Boccio, Ajahn Amaro, Chip Hartranft, Sarah Powers, Christopher Key Chapple, Eido Shimano Roshi, Mu Soeng, and Jill Satterfield.

Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali by Chip Hartranft  (I think this is the copy I own)

(Synopsis from Barnes &
In just 196 short aphorisms, this classic work of Indian philosophy spells out succinctly how the mind works, and how it is possible to use the mind to attain liberation. Compiled in the second or third century CE, the Yoga-Sutra is a road map of human consciousness—and a particularly helpful guide to the mind states one encounters in meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practices. It expresses the truths of the human condition with great eloquence: how we know what we know, why we suffer, and how we can discover the way out of suffering. Chip Hartranft's fresh translation and extensive, lucid commentary bring the text beautifully to life. He also provides useful auxiliary materials, including an afterword on the legacy of the Yoga-Sutra and its relevance for us today.

There are other books too, such as The Upannishads trans. by Eknath Esawaran, re-reading the Yama's and Niyamas by Deborah Adele, but I tend to get overly ambitious.  Yogic/Buddhist texts are not always the most gripping reads and I find myself dozing off.  Sorry, it's true!  I do.

So, to toss the question out into blogland, what's on your reading list?  Any recommendations? 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cultivate 'Me' Time

This is a lovely video titled How to Be Alone from YouTube as I found it on Yoga,Dogs and Chocolate:

I just loved this video/poem/message to cultivate some alone time - down time if you prefer to think of it that way.  It hit on several things I like to do when I need to just chill or mentally check out for a while - go hang out at the coffee shop, go out for dinner by yourself, sit on a park bench and watch the world go by, pick up your art, go work out.   But what I really like about this was the message of sitting in silence as the world moves around you, of just being without demands or demanding.  It's like opening yourself up without attachment.